Safehere is a mobile app that allows communication between businesses and Safety Ambassadors along Main Street, Santa Monica. This was an academic project.
The problem we were challenged with was that visitors to Main Street, Santa Monica feel unsafe in regards to COVID-19 safety regulations. This project took place between September - December 2020 before vaccines were released to the public. The pandemic was impacting businesses on Main Street. Employees were having to deal with many complaints and unhappy customers.
Businesses only had one communication channel to report COVID-19 safety concerns issues along Main Street which was calling the police. This is costly and takes up valuable time that the police would otherwise have for more emergency related incidences. People making reports need to be held accountable for the type of reports they are making. There needs to be transparency and non-discriminatory practices when reporting incidents to Safety Ambassadors.
SafeHere enables direct and discreet two-way communication between businesses and local safety ambassadors on Main Street, Santa Monica. Businesses recognize that visitors feel unsafe due to COVID-19 related issues. Through a smartphone app, business owners and their employees can capture essential information using video and pictures in real-time as incidents occur. Our highly trained safety ambassadors are here to respond to these reports as friendly first-responders. Their role is to educate the public and promote safe expectations while serving as a resource for the cities' policies.
My role in this project was in UX/UI design and design research. My teammates P.J and David Pope also helped out in the research phase, videography, UI design, presentations, storyboarding, and competitive analysis.
Working in teams, we had to create an interactive system that solves transportation and mobility issues within a city center. It had to be based on research, where we found an example of a system that suffers from a severe design issue that our team will help solve.
This project took 13 weeks to complete starting at primary and secondary research, prototyping, testing, and weekly presentations to our class about our findings.
The clients for this project were the city of Santa Monica, businesses along Main Street, and Safety Ambassadors.
When visiting Main Street there were many empty or boarded up storefronts. There was also no signage along the sidewalks about COVID-19 guidelines or signage explaining the El Fresco dining on the roads.
We sent out an online survey we built on Airtable to visitors of Main Street. The survey was posted on Reddit pages, Nextdoor, Facebook groups, and Ring. In total we received 23 responses.
Through our online survey we found that 65% of the people we interviewed felt unsafe while visiting Main Street, Santa Monica.
“Stronger mask and social distancing enforcement, safe distance for pedestrians, more room for people with walking aids/difficulty or wheelchairs.” – Liv Young
“Lack of enforcement of laws...Hire Mobility Compliance Officers to use the sidewalks on a regular basis ...” – Liz Victoria
While researching online we found that many cities have safety ambassador programs that help mitigate non-emergency incidents. Safety ambassadors help lower police posts and in general keep the city safe, clean, and welcoming to visitors.
“...the danger with these apps is it puts the power in the hands of the individual to decide who does and doesn’t belong in a community... “ - Steven Renderos (Senior Campaigns Director at the Center for Media Justice) Link to the article.
At first, we decided to implement a mobile application that would allow two-way communication between safety ambassadors and visitors along Main Street. However, after receiving feedback that this app could become a tattle-tailing platform we decided to change our target audience to business owners and their employees instead. Businesses have some form of accountability when creating incident reports for safety ambassadors which will help reduce discriminatory or false incident reports.
We started with a persona, Stephanie who is an employee at Starbucks. I created the journey map of a scenario where Stephanie uses Safehere to report an incident to a Safety Ambassador.
After creating a persona and scenario, we started planning out our app and determining the necessary screens we needed to design in order to showcase our concept.
We used Adobe’s XD to wireframe and ultimately design our Hi-Fi prototype. The prototyping phase took about 5 weeks from wireframing, receiving feedback, creating a style guide, and designing the Hi-Fi prototype.
Once the Hi-Fi prototype was ready to be tested, we set up an account on UseBerry to test our prototype with others. We chose UseBerry because we wanted in-depth data results to understand how people were interacting with the prototype.
Additionally, since we were all working remotely due to COVID-19, we wanted to be able to send out our prototype to people to test and for them to do it on their own without us watching them via Zoom.
With SafeHere there is an opportunity to...
Some of the feedback we got from testing was that on the home screen there was too much going on and was confusing to users, the icons were not intuitive in what they meant, and after someone creates a report they wanted to be able to view how far the safety ambassadors is in a map view. We made the necessary design changes to our prototype and tested it some more.
We needed to show more quantifiable data in our research when presenting to the class and special guests. Presenting our concept to actual stakeholders such as the city of Santa Monica, business owners along Main Street, or Block by Block would have been beneficial to understand their needs better.