"Everyone deserves to feel safe"
A common challenge for people in marginalized groups is the ability to find safe and welcoming venues and services while they're traveling or visiting a particular location. With the variances in bathroom laws from state to state and even social attitudes from county to county, it can be hard to just exist. The goal for my capstone project (which was an extension of a previous project two years in the planning) was to create a mobile app aimed at helping people from these groups locate not only things like gender neutral bathrooms, but also to find stores, living arrangements, and event venues that are safe and welcoming. The basic funtionality of the app was to serve as a real-time database using an algorithm to show users relevant services nearby, as well as allowing them to both leave feedback as well as view feedback from previous visitors.
UI & UX Designer
April 2015 - October 2017
January 2017 - June 2017 (Finalization & Delivery)
- Allow marginalized groups to find safe places while traveling
- Create a lightweight, easy to use app with a companion web component
- Allow users a way to verify that spaces are safe and welcoming
- How can information be kept up to date and relevant?
- How can information on locations be verified?
- How can users and their details be kept safe?
- Is there a use for an app like this?
How can this be created to the original project scope (a fully functioning app created for multiple platforms by one person) in 4 months? What mechanisms can be in place to make sure that people with malicious intent can't use the information given in the app for harmful purposes? What are the most important features to have in the app from launch? How will the information be sourced and kept up to date? Are there any API restrictions?
Brainstorm & Research
The intial stage of the project began with firming up the concept, the basic scope, and basic UI and functionality. The immediate step after this was a survey of people from the intended audiences to determine whether or not this was something necessary and useful.
My target audience is primarily marginalized groups - LGBT+, Racial minorities, and religious minorities. Oftentimes if you belong to one or more of these groups that are targeted with hostility, you won't find out about an environment until you've actually been in it. The concept was to give people a way to not only find out information before they arrived to a location, but to also quickly be able to find somewhere on demand without having to spend a lot of time searching eitther app itself, or searching to find this specific information on other apps (such as Yelp or Google reviews). Initially the scope was to create a fully fleshed out app, but taking in time constraints, the scope was adjusted to just be an interactive prototype.
Early Drafts and Sketches
The early milestones were to create personas, complete qualitative and quantitative research and start mapping out wireframes and flows for the app itself (with the web component to come later and be informed by the findings).
Original Screen Direction
Research and selected raw data
Surveys conducted were basically around the priorities when looking for both moving to a new area (long term) and visiting an area or establishment. It also compared features that were lacking in current applications that target long term residents (like Nextdoor.com). Research included surveys, focus groups, observation of activity in existing groups, apps and forums. Research was conducted with individuals, groups, families, and specialized groups such as law enforcement, judges, business owners, and other organizations.
Usability testing was conducted via survey after giving select participants a private link to test the look and feel of the app before the interactive prototype was made. It was also conducted via the showcase where our projects were presented to the general public, and visitors were encouraged to test and give feedback on it. Some comments prior to the showcase were:
- The purpose and value was clearly stated
- The screens were easy to follow
- Users were concerned about the integrity of the app and the handling of sensitive information
The users found the app easy to use and comfortable, and clearly understood the "what" and the "why".
Some comments made after the showcase were:
- The app's value was clearly visible
- The layout could use some color changes
- Testers were excited to see the app come to market and connected to social profiles and email lists in order to be notified of launch and progress
The final prototype has remained as yet unchanged since the showcase. The immediate plans are to change the UI to be more clean and polished.
Although the original scope of the app had to change due to time constraints, the value and feedback on the concept was priceless. Between raw data and talking directly to potential users from the intended audience, it was clear that this is space where a resource is needed. Intimate feedback and personal stories from hundreds (approx 150 people responded to the first survey, and about 76 to the second) of people who took part in my survey rounds - including very honest comments - indicated that should this come to market, it would be very successful and helpful to various groups.
This project was certainly my most ambitious one, as when I conceived of the project I came immediately out of the gate wanting to create a full fledged app, for several mobile platforms, and I was determined to spend this time not only designing the look, feel and functionality of the app, but also attempt to learn the languages required to program the apps myself. I realized this later in the process that I'd have liked, but this taught me to spend more time up front defining my project scope, and also being realistic about my abilities.
I'd like to bring this project to light at some point in the future and this time I'd like to spend my time more efficiently working on the design aspect, while working with other professionals on the areas that I'm either not skilled in, or am not efficient in.
Some shots from the showcase where this project was demonstrated.