My Buddy

Promoting safe surroundings through a social collaborative platform

Project Brief

my role

User Research, UI & UX Architecture Design, Prototyping & User Testing

type & TIMELINE

Product Design, UI/UX and  Visual Design

TEAM

Abhinav Sikharam (me), Barsa Tandukar and David Debon

tools used

Sketch, Invision, Adobe Premiere Pro & After Effects

October - December 2019

1. Understanding the human Problem 

- Exploring an Opportunity to design.

Crime and violence experienced by individuals living in a community is an important public health issue.[1] Exposure to violence in a community can be experienced at various levels, including victimization, directly witnessing acts of violence, or hearing about events from other community members.[2]  Addressing exposure to crime and violence by social collaboration may help prevent and reduce the harm to individual and community health and well-being. 

Violence & Abuse can come in many different forms. Physical, sexual, emotional, economic, psychological, dating-related, and stalking. In 2018, there were 28,400 reported criminal incidents that occurred on college campuses in the United States of which 35% of these incidents were forcible sex offenses.[3]  Not just on college campuses, but these kinds of acts of violence are seen all over the world when a man/woman is alone and not surrounded by many people around.

Design Challange

How might we design a CMC application where we can create a network of trusted persons so that they can help each other when required, that promotes safety and avoids emergency situations through a social/collaborative platform?

Design Solution

We present “ MyBuddy App", a mobile application that promotes safety through a social/collaborative platform. Through this application, we create trust circles for users so that they can help each other while commuting alone from one place to another

My buddy is a mobile application, which comes in handy to a person when they need to walk alone, but look for a known person accompany

A user can seek help by adding known people into their trust circles at different locations, so friends can walk together, rather than traveling alone

User can request by broadcasting their geo-location through the application to near-by friends who appear in the user's trust circle

Users can also responsibly contribute to the community  by reporting suspicious activity or person at a particular location, to alert their friends

My Responsibilites

User Research, Ideation, and prototyping phases were done together in a group. I was responsible for the product design and UI/UX of the app. We gathered once a week to keep track of our work and provide feedback to each other as we developed the product.

Research Phase

User Interviews, Expert Interviews, Field Observations to understand user behaviors

Ideation Phase

Brainstorming ideas, Storyboarding, Affinity Diagramming to ideate and prioritize features for the design

Prototyping Phase

Product sketching, Low fidelity Mockups, High Fidelity Mockups

User Testing Phase

Usability Testing with users and experts, Heuristic Evaluations, Cognitive walkthroughs

Initial Research

The primary goal of conducting the research was to identify the pain points of the user as well as acknowledge the existing methods and tools.

Interviews

We conducted 6 interviews, among which 2 were Graduate students and few were Undergraduate students, job holders to understand their personal experiences and their use of safety apps. This helped us delve deeper into the problems faced by the varied users and their expectations.

Secondary Review

We conducted research on the existing tools and methods used. One of the major problems with these methods that we identified includes limitations in operation hours, limited personnel, and limitation in locations. We also found that the overall crime rate has been increasing in the last 5 years.

Key Findings

Existing services lack off-campus service or service 24/7.

The overall crime rate has been rising in the last 5 years.

Individuals felt unsafe when traveling alone at night.

All the participants were willing to help their friends.

Ideation - App

We brainstormed ideas individually and as a group that would address the problems that we identified from our primary and secondary research. We filtered all the ideas based on technological feasibility. After refining our ideas, we came up with two distinct solutions: a mobile application and a wearable device.

Key Requirements of the mobile app

  • Ability to create “Trust Circles” – letting users add people in their close groups to seek help when they feel unsafe.

  • The mobile application is able to track the geo-location of a person on a real-time basis and share it to Trust Circles upon request.

  • An instant message sharing mechanism – letting users share safety-related information to friends who live nearby.

  • A reporting mechanism - letting users report suspicious or dangerous events occurring at a particular location.

  • Technical Requirements: Smartphone, mobile application, GPS sensor (switched on), user signup, adding trust circles, sharing alerts responsibly.

Key Requirements of the wearable jacket

  • Wearable jacket safeguards the person when attacked by the assailant only upon activated before-hand.

  • Upon sensing the external touch, the jacket sends an alert to mobile and to the trust circles only when synced up wirelessly with the mobile application.

  • It should be a more convenient and approachable way to send the SOS alerts when the mobile phone is out of reach.

  • The jacket should be designed to be worn in all climatic conditions and should be activated when the person is alone and deactivated as soon as the person reaches their destination.

Prototyping - App

Based on the requirement of designing a social computing system, we decided to move ahead with the mobile application as our primary solution for a couple of reasons. Firstly, most users own personal mobile phones and are accustomed to using it. Secondly, users are familiar with social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. This makes it easier for them to understand the idea of our solution, which is a collaborative platform, that requires individual participation to function effectively.

Sketching & Internal Walkthrough

We made several sketches to figure out the process of creating trust circles and how we envision the app will work. Once we all agreed on a specific direction about how the app would function we then made our prototypes for each of the core features and performed our cognitive walkthroughs. We further reviewed each other’s notes and made some cosmetic adjustments. We found four key findings that need to be addressed prior to working on the dynamic prototype:

  • On the request screen, we have the same space dedicated for directions (map view) and request form (to send a request for an accompany) so that users just see one or the other.

  • The ability of the requester, who sent a request for an accompany, to receive a confirmation that the escort request was accepted.

  • The need to educate new users that adding multiple trust circles to various geolocations can be beneficial.

  • The process of how a user, who uses the app, sends a request to someone who does not have the app installed.

Paper Prototypes

Cognitive Walkthrough 

 

After conducting the cognitive walkthrough, we found a few issues that need to be addressed for the high fidelity prototypes:

  • We are not sure how we will handle the map view (with written map directions) and the request form view (for an accompany) since they both occupy the same space on the mobile screen.

  • There is a lack of a confirmation message to the acceptors (who accepts to accompany the requestor). Users may not be sure if their acceptance has been processed unless they receive some form of confirmation.

  • It is not clear in the prototype about how a user will send an invitation to a new user, who hasn’t installed the application yet.

Visual Design

TYPOGRAPHY

PALETTE COLORS

Final Product

We started out with paper sketches to generate ideas about how we wanted the app to look and function. Once we settled on a design decision, we created a high-fidelity prototype of myBuddy using Sketch and then added the interactive elements using InVision.

Request a Buddy scenario

Report a Problem Scenario

Introducing the MyBuddy Mobile app

Evaluation

User Think-aloud

We had four participants conduct a think-aloud using three scenarios that were the main features of myBuddy. The first scenario was to request a Buddy, the second to report a suspicious person, and the third was to add a contact to their trust circle.

The participants did encounter a few errors using my buddy and commented about several user interface elements such as:

  • The text button was too small, and it was unclear what it was.

  • The color dots and squares representing users and locations were too similar.

  • The report screen included a map where the user had to scroll to see the submit button.

  • The incident icon on the map was too small.

  • Add a friend to the trust circle had as confusing checkmark.

 

Our group met and discussed these issues and we made the appropriate changes such as making icons bigger, changing colors, removing some elements, and making sure done of the screens scrolled.

Expert Evaluation

Once we were satisfied with the updates we made, we prepared our evaluation packets which contained information about who we are, the purpose of the evaluation, and instructions for completing the evaluation. We emailed the packets to ten experts and we received six replies. We recruited four UX Professionals and two second-year HCI graduate students to evaluate the myBuddy application. Among the UX Professionals, two are MS-HCI Graduates of IUPUI working at Unity and Leo force. We asked each expert to perform 3 tasks: Request a Buddy, Report a suspicious person, Add a friend to Trust Circle. Some of the issues that we identified are given below.

Expert Questionnaire

Their impression of my buddy was divided. Three experts had a very positive view of myBuddy, while two had a very negative view. This split was also reflected in how they rated the overall concept of myBuddy, three positive and two negatives. On the plus side, all the experts thought myBuddy was easy to use and rated the “look and feel” of the app in a positive way. When asked if they would recommend my buddy to a friend the answers were across the board from not likely to likely.

Expert Interview

Each expert cited ethical concerns when users are reporting problems. Every user will have their individual perception about another person and their safety. Race can play a major role in the way people judge each other as well as the homeless or panhandlers, or those who may have a mental illness. With that in mind, our experts also raised concerns about false or fake reporting.

Other feedback that we received spoke about including university officials and student association into the app. Also, the evaluators mentioned that people would use existing social media and communication applications, like Facebook and WhatsApp, for contacting their friends. From our research about existing apps and escorting programs, we found that there are a limited number of personnel for escorting for a limited amount of time. Facebook includes the feature of adding close friends, but the purpose of this feature is to notify users when their close friends are nearby. Our goal remains on creating a social group where users can send a “Request for a Buddy” to their close friends nearby without disrupting their privacy.

Reflection

Keeping the comments provided by experts in mind, our next step would be to conduct a survey and interview about whether users would prefer to use my buddy app or use existing social media apps like Facebook that integrates the feature of myBuddy app.

A safer surrounding is a basic necessity to everyone and is one of the sensitive issues which needs attention in any part of the world, though we choose a problem which exists all over the globe, we explored various ways to prevent those situations. We identified how and where the existing solutions fail and tried to uncover these areas to create a speculative design concept that has the potential to be realized.

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Get Connected .  asikhar@iu.edu

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© ABHINAV SIKHARAM 2020