The mobile app that empowers victims of violent crimes by providing life-saving, real-time updates on their offender’s status.
Semifinalist in the UpPrize, BNY Mellon Social Innovation Challenge
CLIENT: Center for Victims
ROLE: Project Manager/Research Lead
DURATION: 4 Months
TEAMMATES: Prasannavenkatesh Chandrasekar, Swati Jarial, Frances Tso, Mingrui Zhang
FACULTY ADVISOR: Jenna Date
- Affinity Diagram
- Card Sorting
- Competitive Analysis
- Contextual Inquiry
- Literature Review
- Paper Prototyping
- Role Playing
- Think-Aloud Protocol
- User Interviews
Design + Prototyping Tools
- Adobe Illustrator
- Adobe InDesign
- Adobe Photoshop
Victims are anxious about their safety and the whereabouts of their offenders. Some victims constantly check on their offender’s status by calling Center for Victim, which leads to a high volume of non-emergency-calls.
Additionally, all victim and offender data are stored in an Access file on a local drive. Process paperwork and updates are all paper-based and are faxed between branches. This tedious process causes additional burden for CV staff and is susceptible to error.
Snowdrop, a mobile app that keeps victims updated on which step of the arrest process their offender is in, as well as if their offender tries to post bail, is released, or escapes.
Jail Notification Online Management System (JNOMS) is the online interface synced to the CV’s Jail Notification Program database where the hotline staff can easily access and manage the necessary victim and offender information.
RESEARCH + SYNTHESIS
To identify our users' unmet needs, we interviewed and observed over15 victims and CV staff members, and pinpointed 3 main findings to focus on.
Victims experience intense anxiety and fear for their safety.
Due to the possibility of defendants committing violent crimes while they are out on bail, victims struggle with sleep and are anxious to know their offender’s whereabouts and status. Furthermore, they need reassurance that the information they are getting is accurate.
Victims need up-to-date information after their offender has been arrested so that they can be prepared for worst-case scenarios, such as their offender making bail and returning to attack them.
The hotline staff deals with a high volume of “non-emergency” calls.
Victims sometimes call repeatedly because they want to know if there has been any changes in their offender’s status since the last time they called. On the other hand, some victims expressed hesitation in calling CV for status updates because they did not want to be a bother.
Inundating the CV staff with calls or becoming overwhelmed by not calling are both not ideal. We identified this as an opportunity to empower victims by creating analternative way to get the information they need without being completely reliant on calling CV.
Managing victim and offender data is a complex process.
The usual training time for a new employee at CV is approximately 6 months long because of the complexity of the file management process. At the end of every day, the daytime hotline staff faxes over the active case files to the McKeesport Women’s Shelter where the overnight staff works. Every morning, the overnight staff faxes the files back to the Center for Victims.
The CV hotline staff could benefit from a streamlined, intuitive, and secure online application to manage the cases so that the files can be securely accessed by staff from any location.
IDEATION + VISIONING
Keeping our research findings in mind, we brainstormed numerous ideas and selected the most promising to storyboard and present to our client and stakeholders for feedback.
Conveying ideas through pictures and stories
To explore the different ideas and visions we had for the mobile and web application, we drew out multiple storyboards using the personas we created for each one. Storyboards were created to visually represent our mobile and web application concepts to the client. The storyboards communicate the intended sequence of events while using the mobile app and the web app.
Narrowing down ideas and prioritizing information
Based on user feedback, we narrowed down our ideas and began the process of organizing information in both the app and the website. We did card sorting with our users to first see what information is important to them, and then to gain insight into how our users categorize the information.
PROTOTYPING + ITERATIVE DESIGN
Once we decided on a single vision, we created three major iterations each for both the mobile app and the online management system. Usability testing was done on each iteration and the feedback gathered was used to improve the following iteration.
Paper prototypes are hand-drawn interfaces on paper. For usability testing, we acted as the computer and simulated how the app and website will function as users interact with it.
Main Goal: Test if our concepts make sense to our users and figure out what functionalities and layouts will work for the final products.
We created the prototypes pictured on the left using Balsamiq—a software that creates prototypes users can click through. Essentially it is a computerized version of the paper prototype where a person is no longer needed to simulate the computer; this gives users a more accurate picture of how the app and website is supposed to work.
Main Goal: Test the interaction styles and navigation, as well as refine the functionality of the products.
High Fidelity Prototype (Axure + HTML/CSS)
High fidelity prototypes closely resemblethe look and feel of the final product. The backend is simulated, which allows users toexperience how the final product will work. We used Axure for the mobile app prototype, and HTML/CSS for the website.
Main Goal: Provide a functional representation of our final designs to hand-off—along with the design spec—to a developer who will build the products.
Multiple Rounds of Usability Testing
After designing the app and website, we built the different prototypes and test it on our users. We tested the mobile app with people who have been victims of violent crimes in the past, and we had CV’s hotline staff test our website prototype. User feedback, what they struggled with, and what worked well were noted down and used to improve the following iteration. We did a total of 6 rounds of user testing across all of our prototypes.
WHAT MAKES SNOWDROP DIFFERENT?
Victims need emotional support from another human being in times of distress.
People don't want a text message or an automated voice to tell them that their perpetrator is being set free. Snowdrop is great because it is backed by the Center for Victim's crisis hotline service.
Snowdrop fills the typically empty gap of information during the arrest process.
Other apps in the market does not provide information during the arrest process. Snowdrop is able to keep victims safe by alerting them if their offender is released on bail or no longer in custody.
The mobile app delivers critical, time-sensitive information in real-time.
Center for Victim's partnership with the Allegheny County Jail allows real-time information about critical points (bails, releases, or escapes) be made accessible to victims through Snowdrop.