• Contact Aupair

    • Client

      Contact Aupair
    • Job Role

      UX/UI Designer
    • Agency

    • URL


    A Family Problem

    Jon and Debbie had been through the process of finding an au pair (nanny) for their own children several times. The existing online agencies made this process painful; it was almost impossible to sift through the thousands of profiles to find the right person. Even when they found someone who looked promising, hiring them was still a gamble. They wanted to create a new type of service that would make it easier to match au pairs to families without the pain.

    Workflow is Everything

    At the heart of the issue was making sure that the process for finding an au pair through the site mimicked the workflow that parents actually followed when searching for an au pair. The stages identified were:

    • Finding candidates – parents wanted to see a large number of potentially suitable candidates and be able to quickly sort them into a “Yes” pile and a “No” pile. Some wanted to be able to highlight the most promising candidates even at this stage.
    • Reviewing candidates – once parents had a “long list” in place, they wanted to be able to review the list, read profiles in detail, and choose what to do next.
    • Contacting the most promising candidates – parents wanted to be able to contact the candidates they liked most and then track the progress of their conversations.

    This led to an interface consisting of four main functional areas – a Dashboard (where families and au pairs would see an overview of their activity), Search, Lists, and Messaging.

    Smarter Search

    While every existing site asked members (whether families or au pairs) to create profiles, none of this information was cross-applied to search. If the system knows a particular family is looking for someone to do the housework, live with the family, speaks fluent English and doesn’t smoke, it should list candidates matching those preferences first.¬†It was also possible to adjust filters within the search window, creating “saved searches” that would subsequently integrate with the user’s dashboard.


    To aid a quick initial sort, the concept of a “mini profile” was developed – candidates would always be displayed in a standard way across the site, with icons where necessary to indicate the attributes most important to the person looking at the mini profile. In the search view, this was complemented by a button bar allowing candidates to be quickly added to a Yes or No pile.


    Of course, deciding who to actually invite into your home or which family to choose to live with is a subjective and more involved decision; the best candidate might not check every single box on the wish list.

    Not only was “what they’re looking for” broken out as a separate profile category, individual fields were matched against the user’s own profile and colour coded so that, for example, an au pair who was a smoker could see at a glance that the family had requested a non-smoker and take that into account when deciding whether to contact them or not.


    The Yes Pile and the No Pile

    Once an initial search was completed, candidates would be moved into one of several lists. These were represented to the user as physical stacks of paper Рmimicking the way a user might physically sort a pile of profiles had they been printed onto paper.


    To further aid the narrowing down process, “smart” stacks were automatically generated to show where there was a mutual interest. Particularly favoured candidates could be moved to the “favourites” list, and rejected candidates could be reviewed in case they had been removed too hastily.


    Another frustrating element of existing solutions was their haphazard approach to putting au pairs and families in contact with one another. Existing services would often simply allow the exchange of email addresses and telephone numbers for a fee, with any subsequent communications occurring haphazardly over email and requiring particularly families to keep notes on each candidate separately.

    Instead, the Contact Aupair solution was to allow this messaging – longer email-style messages or shorter chat sessions – to occur within the service, where everything could be associated with candidate profiles directly and kept in sequence.


    This integrated model, which does not separate out messages and chat, was later notably adopted by Facebook for their intra-service messaging.

    Warmth and Approachability

    Trust is a huge factor when choosing an au pair or deciding to become one. First time families and au pairs are looking for reassurance. The design of the front pages of the site (currently configured as a holding site) has been carefully chosen to achieve this aim.


    Personal items are scattered over a wooden desk bathed in warm lamp light. The setting is familiar, real world, and has a reassuring intimacy. Much of the artwork was created especially for the client. Even where pre-existing photography was used it was appropriately lit and shadowed to sit correctly within the lamp glow on the desk.

    The Bear

    Contact Aupair wanted branding elements that matched their personal, familiar image. Though it would not be a part of the primary logo, it was decided that an illustrated mascot would be an appropriate complement that could be used within the site (particularly to denote help / tutorial information) and on collateral. A teddy bear would resonate with both sides – to represent a friend for the family’s children, and the security of a childhood memory for the au pair.