A mobile app that documents discriminatory acts to raise awareness and provide support for targeted communities.
Pen & paper
Interactive Hi-Fi Prototype
I came together with a team of two other designers tasked with creating an entirely new product from scratch that could support individuals who face discrimination for aspects of their identity. Our goal is to become a pathway to building community and providing support for these individuals while also tracking and documenting these incidents to create consolidated data to be utilized for accountability and actionable systemic change.
Currently, there is no standard system to ensure the safety and support of people who face discrimination for their identity. Someone may experience something traumatic that gains widespread attention because it goes viral on social media. Yet, there is no guarantee they will receive services or even have the incident documented as a hate crime by law enforcement. Additionally, there is no central database that makes visible the severity of these issues, thus inhibiting the progress to making actionable change.
We believe that by providing a digital service that offers support for people who’ve faced discrimination and that promotes visibility of such incidents, we can empower targeted communities and raise awareness of these incidents so that we can take action to mitigate such issues.
Access to Resources
Immediately after reporting an incident, people can access the resources screen to find services that relate to their specific concerns. A user can also access this screen without documenting an incident in the case that they need it for a friend or are not ready to report their experience.
Promoting Visibility and Awareness
The map feature serving as the landing page allows users to assess the safety in an area as well as have an awareness of what incidents occur in any given location. Zipcodes organize the map. Different shades of orange indicate how many incidents have happened in each zip code in the past month.
No Direct Competitors, Several Comparators
We first looked into whether or not there was an already existing product whose purpose was the same as ours. Although we found many similarities, no other product was doing precisely what we were aiming to do. Some notable contenders we analyzed were Raheem, Citizen, Nextdoor, and Voice Out.
Raheem is our closest comparator. The most significant difference is that Raheem focuses on documenting police misconduct while we wish to document discrimination across all levels. Our largest takeaway from Raheem was their clear, thorough, and easy to use reporting flow. We wanted to emulate the ease of this flow to provide our user with a pleasant experience when filling out a report, especially considering they may still be flustered and upset recounting the experience they faced.
Citizen and Nextdoor are two very interactive and engaging apps. Citizen allows users to comment live on live broadcasts of incidents that are happening in real-time, and Nextdoor’s entire product relies on users posting whatever comes to mind or piques their interest. We considered having similar features like Citizens ability to comment in real-time but realized there were too many potential issues that could arise from such a feature. Nextdoor’s highly social platform with its interest focus groups was appealing, but further ideation led us to steer away from prioritizing social functions due to not wanting to compete with massive monoliths such as Facebook.
Voice Out is an app that calls out discrimination against LGBTQ folx in Hong Kong. Despite highlighting such a terrible issue, their UI was enjoyable and welcoming, and the text copy conveyed messages of hope and change. That was a huge takeaway for us. We wanted to ensure that although we were dealing with issues of hate and bigotry, we built a culture around the product that promoted feelings of comfort and hope.
People want accountability, support, and community! (without police involvement)
We created a survey that garnered nearly 100 responses (98 to be exact) and conducted 12 interviews. From the user research, we gathered that the largest asks from potential users were for support, community, resources, and accountability that wasn't enforced by police. People want a place where they can share their experiences and feel validated. They want access to resources that educate them on what to do throughout the lifecycle of an incident. There's a need for education on how to de-escalate a situation happening in real-time, as well as what legal, financial, and mental-emotional resources are available to them post-incident. An obstacle that came up during our research was people's general distrust in law enforcement and data collection intentions. People were very concerned with who might end up with their information and what they might do with it.
We gathered that many people might choose to avoid a space if they know beforehand that it's not safe for them. So how could we possibly create a product that could inform users of the safety in an area?
We also discovered that incidents where people feel unsafe due to their identity often happen in public. So how might we provide safety in public spaces?
A surprising find we came up to was that most people rarely ever witness acts of aggression targeting someone due to their identity. Further research through interviews led us to discover that the reason why is due to the fact that most incidents of discrimination can be subtle microaggressions instead of overtly violent acts.
We went through iteration after iteration of user flows, scenarios, and journey maps to get deep into the story of how someone might interact with our product as well as what their mental-emotional state might be at that time. It was important for us to explore all the possibilities of what might unfold so that we could pinpoint all opportunities for our product to be able to support the individual throughout the lifecycle of such traumatic experiences. After multiple explorations, this is the journey map we arrived at.
Refocusing Our Purpose
Partway through the project, we presented several strategy ideas of how to approach the design to our clients, and it became apparent there that we may not be able to design for the entire lifecycle of an incident after all. We realized in that meeting that there were too many liabilities and legal complications with creating a product for the moment of crisis and that instead, we should focus solely on pre and post-incident awareness and support. With this revised angle of approach, we went back to the drawing board and iterated on our design with new ideation sketches.
Initial Sketches & Wireframes
Mapping Incidents Nearby
To raise awareness of how prevalent the issue of discrimination is, we designed a map screen that separated areas by zip code. Each zip code is colour-coded depending on the number of incidents that have occurred in the past month.
Reporting an Incident
The reporting flow documents incidents with a human touch. We understand it can be challenging to recount traumatic experiences, so we took care to make the appearance and pacing of the questionnaire inviting and comfortable. We also understand that not all acts of discrimination are overtly aggressive, so we made sure to include descriptor buttons for incidents that could be considered microaggressions.
The stories screen is where users can upload and post about their personal experiences with facing discrimination. Here, users can feel heard and validated and connect with others who go through similar experiences.
Resources, Services, and Support
The resources screen displays the different types of resources a user can access. Clicking into a resource group will display both a map view and list view of nearby resources. The user can filter and sort their results depending on their needs. And once they select a resource, the user can call them directly through the app or visit their website.
From usability tests, we were able to confirm that the colour choice was pleasant for users. The reporting flow was easy on the mental load, and the overall feel of the app was inviting.
Points of Friction
Points of friction for users were the stories screen as it felt inconsistent with the purpose of the rest of the app. They also wished there to be a better filtering function on the services and resources screen.
Results & Reflections
Nearly a full app! I want to build it out even further.
Considering that this started as an idea floating around in our clients’ minds, and we were only able to work on it part-time, I’m very proud of the work we did! Of course, with design, the work is never done, and I do believe this can be an even better product with further user research and more iterations. For starters, I’d revisit the purpose of the stories screen and better define precisely what kind of stories are shared. Are they stories any user can upload? Or should they be specific to reports users have documented? I’d also like to go back in and implement a better filter and sort function throughout the screens so that users can have an easier time getting to what they need. And finally, I’d like to develop an onboarding flow so that first-time users can understand how to interact with the app the moment they start it.
Get clear from the beginning
An obstacle that was persistent throughout the project was the redirecting of our design approach. We initially began designing for the entire lifecycle of an incident, so we placed a lot of importance on being able to assist someone during the moment of crisis where they may be attacked or harassed. However, as meetings went on, it became clear to us that the clients preferred to shy away from creating a product that guided users on actions steps to take when they’re in the moment of an incident due to the legal liabilities that may arise from such a product. Thus, we had to switch up our approach and design about halfway into the project, which set us back quite a bit for time. In the future, I’d like to get entirely clear on all perspectives before getting into the design so that we don’t waste precious time and possibly design the wrong thing! Someday I’d like to explore how I maybe could design to assist someone in a moment of crisis, perhaps that is something I can explore and research on my own.