A resource designed for public transportation safety
DATE: Jan - March 2018
ROLE & CONTRIBUTION: UX Designer
Research, Storyboard, Information Architecture, Interaction & Visual Design, Prototyping & Usability Testing
Designed in a group of two for Design Thinking (INFO 360) at the University of Washington.
PROJECT: Design a safety application for public transportation
TEAM: Asikur Rahman, Samira Mashayekh
According to a SuM4AII report, “53 percent of women in developed countries feel ‘unsafe’ or ‘very unsafe’ waiting on a railway platform after dark” (Paddison 2017).
Some causes of women feeling unsafe are due to the lack of security on public transportation with the fear of being victimized, and the threat of past experiences of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault.
My team’s goal was figuring out a way to make women feel more safe using public transportation.
Once we finished our interviews, we were able to better grasp who our potential users were and what their specific pain points are. We decided to make safety our primary focus since this was a common concern expressed during interviews and as a result, we wanted to answer the questions below in our design.
How can we make sure that our users feel safe traveling during the night?
How do we create something that can potentially decrease the chance of our users being sexually harassed?
How can we create something that is convenient for college students to use and easily accessible?
We conducted 6 user interviews with women that all went to the University of Washington. Our participant criteria were students were women aged 18-24 in college, preferably students who frequently used public transportation. In the interview, we were able to better understand some of the pain points women have experienced while using public transportation. Here are the common things that were mentioned across all of our participants:
“When it gets late around 9, I feel more comfortable using uber instead of public transportation”
“It feels unsafe standing at the light rail late at night and there usually isn’t a lot of security officers”
“I get sexually harassed by a random person at the bus stop or on the bus at least once every one to two weeks”
“If it gets too late, I sometimes cancel plans because I don’t feel safe using public transportation and I don't want to pay for Uber.
“ I wish there was a panic button on my phone if I ever was at the bus stop late night to feel more safe.“
IDEATION & SKETCHING
We explored current transportation services that users were familiar with using and wanted to see if there was a way to build a new transportation service product that they can accustom to quickly and would make the users feel safe. We wanted to build something that users felt comfortable using instead of learning a new system. Our key focus was to prioritize safety. Below are my sketches of potential solutions. We decided to go with a mobile application because most users used their phones when using familiar transportation services like Uber.
Considering safety as the forefront of our focus, we sketched and ideated app features that would be most applicable for our users in situations where they may feel unsafe. The interviews helped us identify specific situations when women felt unsafe using public transportation which helped us create our storyboard. Our storyboard helped us consider how users may navigate using the application and what those interactions would look like.
We developed the information architecture to make sure that all of the applications interactions were laid out logically and included alternate decisions to eliminate any confusion. We wanted to build a interaction flow similar to Uber’s mobile application. We had 9 main pages:
Sign Up Pages
Starting/Ending Location Page
Searching Buddy Pages
Message/Video Chat page
Emergency Contact Page
Final Interaction Rating Page
PAPER PROTOTYPE & USABILITY TESTING
Based on our information architecture, we built low-fidelity paper prototypes and conducted user testing to gain feedback on our prototype. We created three tasks for the users to complete in order to have them think out loud and gain valuable insight on how intuitive our application is.
The three tasks we asked our testers to complete were:
1. Input current location information and intended travel destination
2. Connect with a buddy and meet at starting location
3. Message the buddy you are connected with to maintain communication
Interactive Marvel Prototype
USABILITY TESTING FINDINGS
In order to understand the effectiveness of our design, we conducted usability tests with four college students who were all women within the age 18-22. These were all new participants and they offered a fresh new perspective on what they thought about our design. Conducting these usability tests helped us understand what worked, didn't worked and what improvements could be made with our design. Through our feedback, we were able to identify many improvements, the most prominent being:
1. Participants were confused with what the difference was between the "current location" and "stop" button
Once users input their name and gender, the following step takes the user to the main screen where users are required to input their current location or a nearby bus stop they can meet, and the destination they would like to travel to. Users got confused with the “Stop” search bar and didn’t understand the difference between the “Stop” and “Destination” search bar. In order to avoid confusion, we plan to take out the “Stop” button and only keep the “Current Location” and “Destination” search bars.
2. Participants did not feel safe with current method of connecting with a buddy
After users input their current location and the destination they would like to travel to, they are ready to find a buddy that can drop them off to their destination. The user has to click on the “Find Buddy” button until they find the nearest buddy. Once a buddy is found, the participant is given the option to meet their buddy at their starting location or the bus stop they inputted they are at. Participants found no trouble meeting their buddy at their starting location but mentioned that this process did not feel very safe to them. Most participants mentioned they wanted a feature to make them feel more safe by being able to further identify the buddy they will be picked up by. Through this finding, we believe adding a option for video chat would be helpful for improving safety and further identifying drivers who will pick up users.
3. Having messaging option available before you connect with a buddy did not make sense
After users finish signing up, they are able to message their buddy two ways: they can message them on the main screen where the user inputs the information for where they would like to travel and after they find a buddy to connect with. Users mentioned that it did not make sense to have the message option available before you got connected with your buddy. In order to improve the flow of the application, we plan to take out the messaging feature from the main screen and include it only after the user has connected with a buddy.
This interactive high-fidelity mockup was created based off of feedback gained through user testing. The biggest challenge we found was figuring out ways to make the application more safe to use since safety was our biggest priority. We wanted to help create a safe experience for our users by incorporating a video chat option to further identify the driver after being connected and also including a emergency button on each screen in any event our users feel unsafe while using the app.
Interactive High-Fidelity Prototype
1. Buddy Status - During the initial sign up process, users are required to choose “find a buddy” or “be a buddy”. A “buddy” is defined as someone willing to wait with a user at a bus stop to help them feel safer. I designed the second option “be a buddy” with the hopes of people being incentivized to make an impact on someone's life by helping them feel safe.
2. Gender Pairing Option - Safety was my biggest priority when designing this application. Through user research, I found that most sexual harassment and/or assault cases are committed by men. As a result, I included an option that allows women to be paired with a gender they feel most comfortable and safe with.
3. Video Chat Verification - During usability tests, all participants expressed concerns for our lack of a method for user verification. To ensure the user’s safety, I decided to make the buddy be required to video chat immediately after getting paired with a user. This was done to prevent possible misuse of the application and provide assurance to the user that their buddy is the correct person.
4. Panic Button - Based on my interview findings, multiple participants requested a "panic button" to feel safer when using public transportation at night. I decided to include a panic button on the top right corner of every screen so this feature is easily accessible in case the user feels unsafe at any point while using the application.
The user would have to double-tap the panic button to use the following options: calling 911 or alerting their buddy. Requiring user’s to double-tap the button was designed as an error prevention feature to prevent accidental single tapping activations.
TITLE OF THE CALLOUT BLOCK
I found working on a topic such as women's public transportation safety challenging yet rewarding. It was challenging because this is a topic I was not too familiar with or have much experience with. Working on a topic I did not have much experience in felt intimidating at first, but I saw this as an opportunity to learn more about the challenges women may face while using public transportation. Although this project was only a prototype, I found it extremely rewarding to have created a solution that many women in our usability tests and interviews mentioned they would use if this became a real product.
I was also able to learn how difficult it can be to build a solution that revolves around many ethical issues. I realized that people may misuse the app, such as choosing a gender they do not identify with or using the app to lure someone into an unsafe situation. I designed safety features for people to use in this case, such as the emergency button and the initial video chat after the app finds the user a Buddy. However, they are not fool-proof. People may still misuse the app, so we had to design it on the basis of trust and integrity.
This app was mainly designed for women. I recognized that women are more susceptible to sexual harassment and sexual assault than men and wanted to provide a solution for this specific problem. If I had more time, I would interview more men to see what the problems they typically face concerning public transportation and safety. Then, I would have attempted a design to integrate more male users to our app.