Project Scope - Design a solution that provides the victims real time update on their offender's whereabouts and solves the call conjestion problem at the Center for Victims' end.

Offender release notification is a very important service for a victim. This program enables victims of violent crimes and witnesses to be notified about their offender's whereabouts after their arrest and till they are convicted and sentenced. This information is crucial for a victim especially as studies have shown that 75% of the victims who stay with their offender are likely to be killed by them (The advocates for human rights 2003). The Center for Victims works with the Allegheny county jail (ACJ) to provide this service.

Project Details

Client: Center for Victims, Pittsburgh

Duration: 4 months

Role: UX Lead


Cindy Saroha
Swati Jarial
Mingrui Zhang


Through user interviews and card sorting we identified the most immediate need for a victim after the offender has been arrested. They get really anxious and they want to know the current location of the offender and if they will be able to get out on a bail. Most of them feel threatened and fear for their safety. They usually have no idea about the judicial process and feeling anxious, they call the Center for Victims numerous times.

The Center for Victims has limited number of staff for the hotline and they cannot handle a huge volume of calls. The notification process is paper based and the use of color coded forms makes the whole process complex. The case details are sent back and forth between the Center for Victims and the shelter at Mckeesport, and the employees need to keep track of all the updates manually. They usually note down the updates on the forms using a pen, but sometimes it gets really hard to read what is written. New employees find the system too hard to understand and the training period is usually between 45 and 60 days.

Data synthesis &  Ideation

To make sense of the huge volume of data we gathered through the interviews and contextual inquiries, we made an affinity diagram and identified the breakdowns. We then came up with a lot of ideas to tackle the breakdowns. With the project scope and our research findings in mind, we narrowed down the ideas to a few, created personas and storyboards and speed dated them with the users.

Prototyping and Design

Once we identified the best solution - a mobile app for the victims and a web based data management system for the employees of th Center or Victims, we began to prototype them. The design process was highly iterative and we did a round of user testing after each round of prototyping. We started with low fidelity prototypes, and then moved on to the medium fidelity and high fidelity prototypes.

Project outcome

Snowdrop - A system that keeps victims safe by providing them with almost real time location of their offenders.

Once the jail authorities change the status of an offender in the judicial process, they inform the Center for Victims. When the Center for Victims updates this status change in the web application at their end, the victims recieve a notification in their app, providing them with an instantaneous update and ample time to make safety arrangements.

Snowdrop also enables the Center for Victims to send notifications like reminders for counselling sessions or court dates. They can also get updates on whether a notification has been read by the victim. The victims can use the app to update their emergency contact or update their details.

Snowdrop also makes it easy for the victims to understand the judicial process by defining the judicial terms.

The notifications on the lock screen and top banner don't provide a preview of the message. The app is protected by a passcode that will be provided by the Center for Victims when victims register themselves for the notification service.

Victims can also swipe left to exit the app, making it completely discrete to use in sensitive situations.

Going Forward

After the design and user testing phase, we gave a presentation on Snowdrop and the process we followed to achieve the final product to Center for Victims and our participants. The product was well recieved and a beta version was developed. A fully functional version will be launched in a couple of months.

We also presented the Center for Victims with a booklet that comprises the whole process, design assets and our plans / visions for the future.

This project was completed for the course "Small group study" under the guidance of Prof. Jenna Date

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