National Justice Project mobile app

Summary

In August 2017, one of my Atlassian developer coworkers from the Sydney office posted the following volunteer opportunity brief. I waited for several weeks to see if any Australia-based designers had volunteered, and then followed up with the developer to see if he had found a design partner. He hadn’t and so I offered to help where I could.

Brief from the National Justice Project:

It’s a shocking fact that in 2017, Indigenous Australians are 13 times more likely to end up in prison and 20 times more likely to be arrested than non-Indigenous Australians. Over-policing, and police targeting and harassment of Indigenous Australians are major contributing factors to these terrible statistics.

Finding ways for Aboriginal people to document police interactions and use this evidence to call for justice and change is an important component of building a lasting peace within these communities and a foundation step for genuine reconciliation.

Consequently, over the next few months, the National Justice Project (NJP) is rolling out a Community Education Training program called ‘Copwatch’. This training will empower Aboriginal youth to use their smartphones to document police and community interactions. We aim to channel community frustration into positive responses to abuses of authority by empowering people to lawfully and responsibly use video evidence to seek justice and accountability.

The NJP is a not-for-profit human rights legal service. We work with some of Australia’s most vulnerable people and communities, providing legal support to people who struggle to access justice. George Newhouse, Principal Lawyer at the NJP explains more about Copwatch:

"Overseas experience shows both police and community members behave better when they're under scrutiny, full stop. We think there will be better behaviour all round, and that the relationship between police and communities will improve. That will ultimately end up with lower incarceration rates."

This community education strategy will help improve engagement, trust and accountability, especially between police and Aboriginal people. We would be delighted if you could help us work towards this goal.

We are seeking your help to develop an app that will help users find out their legal rights and obligations when it comes to recording incidents. We envisage that the app will also enable users to trigger alerts to emergency contacts when an incident is initiated, and automatically load a recording to a personal cloud service when the recording ends. Similar apps have been developed in the United States that provide a live streaming option, however there are some risks with this approach.

My role

I designed and prototyped app flows for an MVP of Copwatch that included the ability to record video, set contacts to be alerted, and upload videos to Google Drive or Dropbox.

Process

Setting objectives

I met over video conference with project owners from the National Justice Project, a developer, and Web site design volunteer to discuss project goals and scope. They shared some background on the problems they were seeking to solve and we discussed potential ideas for an MVP. They mentioned that they were particularly inspired by the ACLU Mobile Justice app. I downloaded it and started to learn more about how it worked.

I was tasked with sketching out an initial flow and finding a volunteer to create a logo.

Gathering information

I mentioned to my partner that I had started working on this project and, coincidentally, he knew someone who used to work on coordinating action on videos submitted through the ACLU Mobile Justice app, his friend Hope. Hope was also active herself as a legal aid witness at protests, so she had a lot of experience taking phone videos for similar purposes. I asked if my partner could get me an introduction, which he did. I invited my new friend Hope out to dinner to learn more about what, in her experience, worked with these apps and what did not.

I shared what I learned with the team and incorporated into the flows two key insights from our dinner conversation:

  1. It has to be as quick as possible to get to recording from the home screen since a lot can be going on in an intense moment. It should also be clear when recording is on and when it is not.

  2. Lots of problems arise from users not owning their video content. The ACLU app uploaded videos automatically to their own database and didn’t give access to the people who filmed them afterwards. This created problems for the ACLU—running out of data storage space, and not having enough staff to review all the footage to decide which to act upon. Additionally, sometimes users decided they would rather not take action on their footage, but they now had no ownership or access over it. It would be better to allow the user themselves to keep the videos (perhaps add an easy way to upload to cloud storage in case their phone was taken) and then follow up for legal assistance when they were ready.

Getting a logo

I’ve never created a logo, and while I’d like to think I’m clever enough to come up with something, I’d rather get help from someone who knows what they’re doing. I asked around in my friend circles and was connected with Jared Marie, a wonderful design school student eager to help. He iterated with me quickly through 3 rounds of ideas and came up with a logo the whole team was happy with.

 Logo — looks like an abstract representation of a camera shutter, eye, and siren light
 


Design

With a logo, brief, and some investigation in hand, I defined the typography styles from free Google fonts, and a color palette inspired by, at the team’s suggestion, aboriginal flag colors.

See a prototype of key flows in action.

Afterword

  • From my designs, the team spun off the supporting Web site and created an MVP version they released in the Apple and Google app stores.

  • Unfortunately, since it was an Australia release which I wasn’t able to access in the app stores, I had a hard time participating fully in reviews and testing of the app, but am happy to say the team has rolled out a release that they have already iterated on twice with feedback in the field from aboriginal teens who have been testing it out. See news coverage from the BBC and the Guardian.

  • Since they were on a tight timeline and using volunteer developer time, the design in the app itself isn’t perfect — there’s a lot to align yet, but they stuck with the logo, fonts, and colors, and it’s functional and not too offensive :) I’m hoping in their next version I can get re-involved to get the visuals cleaned up and better matching the mockups as well as work through some revised flows to see if there’s any usability friction or unnecessary steps in the flows we can remove, as well as help design any new features.



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