Student Project:
Incident Aware App

UX / RESESRCH

2016

Three Person Team: Myself, Alexandra Christensen, Zachary Hueser

01. the problem

Problem Question: How can design be utilized to make a safer navigation opportunity for young women walking alone that feel unsafe with their current navigation systems?

For my second semester in an Interactive course at UCD, I was placed in a group and we have tasked with designing an app, that solved a real-world problem, throughout the entire semester. This problem could be as big as reducing crime rates in certain parts of the country, or as small as coming up with an app that helps with recycling.

We used the entirety of the semester to break down parts of the app design, thus creating a formal process for us to use as designers. These broken down parts of the overall process were:

1. Identify the problem
2. Identify Key elements
3. Conduct research via the users, problems and  similar solutions to the problem
4. Begin prototyping the app
5. Conduct user testing
6. Draw conclusions from data
7. Revise and reiterate prototype
8. Present the app and the data


We began with finding a problem that could be solved with a phone application. Two members of our group were females and we wanted to focus on safety, when one member brought up the problem that women fear walking alone at night or could use some way to find a safe route home or make a report of suspicious activity without calling 911 directly. Our problem is in that, people are not, and do not feel safe walking, driving, or using public transportation in downtown or other urban areas at night. Women especially feel this way.  

According to our initial research, through a survey conducted by Stanford University, 48% of women (nationwide) felt unsafe walking alone at night. While on 21% of men felt unsafe walking alone at night. We also found through a survey conducted by the Federal Bureau of Justice, walking alone at night was statistically reported as the number 1 fear in 2015, ranking even higher than mass shootings, which ranked at number 4, despite the amount of mass shootings and police brutality in 2014-2015. Through our initial research we were able to conduct that walking alone at night was a major problem, and needed to be solved in some fashion.

Target Audience: Targeting mainly females due to research
 

Our target demographic is females ages 15-45 of all races. We targeted towards the female population as the need for this app was higher in this demographic as researched, however we did not want to exclude the male population of our users and decided to keep the app neutral.

​For more information, you can read our Design Research and Brief document below

48%

Of women nationwide feel unsafe walking home at night.

21%

Of men nationwide felt unsafe walking home at night.

02. DESIGN TESTING

Initial Prototyping: The first design iterations with UI and UX needs.

We began our prototyping phase immediately after acquiring our research and determining what user tasks were necessary, and what users need from our app. Overall we went through about 3-4 different prototypes, differing in the design, color palette, and UX/UI interface patterns. From our prototyping, we began to establish a style guide to follow. This way we could have a clear and distinguished color palette and voice to the app.

We wanted the app to remain neutral and calm, as this problem is already a high-stress level within users and we want to calm our users rather than further elevate our stress.

Our voice included:

 

Tone:

Be calm and friendly and do not sound threatening

       Do: “Alert”

       Do not: “EMERGENCY!”

Be inviting, it’s their choice

       Do: “avoid this area?”

       Do not: “Don’t go in this area”

Be realistic, but not negative

       Do: “Alert: a crime was reported in your area...”

       Do not: “you’re screwed.”


Language

Speak to users as “you” unless calling for an action

       Do: “Your location”

       Do not: “My location”

Concise and to the point

       Do: “enter destination”

       Do not: “enter your destination”

Use common terms (not police specific)

       Do: “Assault with a deadly weapon”

       Do not: “ADW”


Grammar & Punctuation

Capitalization: don’t capitalize unless it is a street name or violence category (this helps to keep it informal, and clean not threatening like all caps)

       Do: “Lawrence Street”

       Do not: “Enter Location”

Keep punctuation minimal

       Do: “then continue 0.4 mi”

       Do not: “then continue 0.4 mi.”

Incomplete sentences are okay in the interest of brevity

       Do: “change location?”

       Do not: “Would you like to change your location?”

Only ask simple questions directly when actions are being called for

       Do: “avoid this area?”

       Do not: “go right?”

User testing: 3 In-person  |  3 Skype  |  3 Solitude Online

Once we had come to about our third or fourth iteration and revision of the Incident Aware App, we began our user testing and user research phasing. During this we conducted three different types of user testing:


1. In person user testing, where one of the members of the group observed the participant and directly asked them to perform tasks, ask questions with the participant directly next to them.
2. Online user testing, where a link to the prototype was sent to participants, along with a word document containing questions about their process using the app and list of tasks the participant was required to do. The participant would type up their responses and send the document back to the group members.
3. Two-way skype testing, where one member of the group would skype participants and record the screen of the participants in order to see what the participant was doing. Here the group member would verbally tell the participant instructions and ask questions.


Through these three different types of user testing, we had the users perform tasks that were necessary within the app, to judge the success of the app. We also asked the users questions on their opinions on the design, layout, interactive pattern and overall feel for the app.

Afterwards, we analyzed the data and results in the form of quantitative and qualitative data, in order to come to a conclusion about the success of our app. Our quantitative data was often how many users would come across the same success or problem within our app or how many times a part of the app was problematic. Our qualitative data measured the more emotional aspect of the user testing, such as emotional expressions, frustrations, patterns with how they sat or looked, rather than looking at the numbers of the testing.

Overall, the app was concluded to be a success and every female that was tested agreed they would use this app should it exist. However, there were numerous tweaks that needed to occur before the final revision of the semester, including the redesign the UX and UI layout of iPhone IOS patterns in our app.

For more information on the user testing, you can read our user testing document below

Revising: Based on user testing feedback

Throughout our user testing phase, we were making constant revisions to the designs and mechanics of the app. We went through three different types of user testing about three times. One type of testing was an in-person testing, where one of the designers would ask the user to perform a series of tasks and record their expressions, thoughts, voice, and emotions about the process. Another type of testing was through an online Skype interview where a designer would record a shared screen of the user attempting to perform a series of tasks with little instructions. The final type of testing was to do remote online testing where designers simply sent out a link to users and a questionnaire to fill out when performing tasks, and these users had no instructions personally from any designer.

 

Several times many of our screens went to extreme changes in order to improve the quality of the user experience through the design and way that app works. Our biggest flaws in our first designs were that there weren't any concrete UI patterns at all. Rather, we simply redesigned everything in the app, when Apple or Android already had common UI patterns that users were already used to. In our first designs, we were mainly designing aesthetically rather than thinking about the user experience. This explained why our first designs were such low quality and why users had a hard time navigating the app or figuring how to do certain tasks. In fact, 10/11 of our first user testers were overwhelmed by the display and information on each screen.

 

When we started on our second round of revisions, we tried to focus in creating more effective UI patterns that help people to understand where buttons where, or how to identify a push notification and trying to declutter the overall screen display. A big change from our first design to our eventual final design was to get rid of any maximum and minimum buttons since most people are used to pinching to zoom in and out on a map.

 

We also decluttered our screens by only have the location icon to represent where your current location is, rather than where crimes reported were since this is how Google maps or Mapquest's UI works. We also made the list of crimes to look like a numbered notification when the user is on the home screen, in order to remove excess and unnecessary colors that would distract the user and to de-clutter the amount of information presented at once. As a UI kit, we began to start designing towards the common Apple UI patterns in order to make it easier for the user to navigate and to bring some familiarity into the app so that it looks like an app.

 

However, even our second round of revisions still had a lot of errors and problems that needed to be fixed. Mainly the UI patterns still. There were times where people didn't know where a button was, such as when getting an alert about a recent crime with the option to avoid the area when routing you home. Several users didn't know if it was a button, or rather telling the user that you were going to avoid this area. This led our group to dig into an Apple UI kit, in order to see how they have their push notifications set up, or how a list of information is presented, along with switches and button designs that people are already used to.

 

Our app was improving over all in design, UI and UX, however, there were still many more improvements that needed to be made before we could present the idea of our app. We still needed to figure how to display even less information on a screen, without overwhelming the user, but providing enough information that a user can still feel safe.

My Tasks: Reports/Data Visuals  |  Settings/Filters  |  Push Notifications/Alerts

Our group divided up the different types of tasks that our app needed to accomplish amongst each other with a set style guide and branding to use. This guide and branding were designed by us as a whole team and established by the previous tones and visualization.

My portion of UX/UI design for our app was to create a flow of data visualization and mapping of crimes, while also creating large chunks of text and information presented to the users. The task I needed to design, test and revise were to: create a system that flows around maps and data points of crime, create a settings and filters option for the user to use the app, design push notifications of crime alerts for the users to have displayed if they desire.

 

The above screens displayed are my UI designs for each task that needed to be completed. Throughout our user testing, we were in constant revisions from one design to another in order to improve the quality of user experience with our app.

 

For more information on individual UI designs on the previous design and where changes were made to the final design, please view the UI design Doc below.

03. NEXT STEPS

Future Plans: Further Research and UI re-design.

As a school project, this project became a successful research project and introductory to UI and UX patterns for this app. It was successful in our product and user research, along with validating the need for a solution like this in the world. However, looking back on the project, there are still several flaws that need to be fixed such as continuing to re-design the UI patterns of the app, to match those already existing that users are currently used to. There are also several more components to our app, other than what we currently had designed as a team and in the future, I would want to explore all of these user tasks and components to get the full potential of the app's functionality.

 

For now, this project serves as a good base for a research project onto creating a solution for women that walk alone at night, but further testing and research will be needed before this idea could ever potentially become proposed.