Domestic and family violence is one of the most under-reported crimes around the world for reasons such as fear of leaving and psychological abuse. The issue has become even more complex and severe as the impact of COVID and social isolation exacerbates acts of violence when victims are restricted to their homes.
A lack of new funding and spike in demand for counselling services and crisis support hotlines has created a surge in demand for support online.
Guided by an iterative process and informed problem statement, a new-to-world concept was designed, Confidante - a digital community platform where victim survivors are empowered to support each other in their journey towards independence.
The platform is a ‘one-stop-shop’ for users to engage with like-minded individuals, while also having access to resources such as job listings and accommodation. Confidante has been designed to meet the motivations and alleviate the frustrations of our key users, represented by two key personas.
To kick off our project, we performed exploratory research of secondary sources and online ethnographies to understand the topic of domestic violence and key stakeholders involved. In this phase, we learned how we could break down the problem space into different phases from ‘Realising a victim is in a relationship’ to ‘A victim’s experience after leaving the relationship’.
After consolidating our research, we chose to tackle one of the central phases of the DV timeline, ‘Leaving the relationship’ as the key focus of our problem space. We chose this because we believed there was potential for additional support and intervention in what we believed was a highly critical part of the phase.
Based on this problem space, we began to generate ideas to address our findings. From almost ten potential concepts, we iterated and combined some to create three key concepts addressing different facets of the problem area.
Stage 1: Concept Validation
After generating multiple concepts, we had the opportunity to interview a victim survivor, members of support networks and several experts working in the DV sector. These sessions were valuable as they allowed us to validate existing knowledge and explore missed perspectives, as well as seek early feedback on our approach to tackling the problem space.
Contrary to our understanding from background research, experts advised us to avoid using casual support networks (friends, family, community members) as a form of aid in the ‘leaving’ stage due to the high risk associated in such situations.
Based on this feedback, through critique, sought to focus more on the ‘after leaving’ phase. We realised that combining Confidante and SafeShare Community to bring about a new Confidante could become a useful tool to foster meaningful engagement and support post-relationship.
Stage 2: Wireframing
With a concept in mind, we started to bring our idea to life and created wireframes and user journey map, with potential users' online security being one of our priority.
Stage 3: Security Testing
Security was heavily mentioned in stage 2. Thus, we wanted to further improve and validate our approach to safety. Here, we used think-aloud method to analyse the safety features that we have implemented into our wireframe. Together with the experts' suggestion, we implemented a referral system to prevent risks of perpetrators accessing the platform and vulnerable victim-survivors who may not be ready to engage and talk about domestic violence.
Stage 4: Usability Testing
Here we move on from low-fidelity to mid-fidelity, fine-tuning the user interface and spacing, as well as replacing some placeholders with content. With this, we are ready to test its usability and features with real users.
Stage 5: Heuristic Evaluation
Lastly, we asked several design experts to perform heuristic evaluation on our mid-fidelity prototype. The feedback from this round was mainly positive in visuals and interactions with relatively minor issues, from which we were sure to make refinements in the next stage of high-fidelity.
Before developing the functional prototype, we created elaborate brand guidelines to define Confidante’s personality. A simple design system was formed to keep user interface elements consistent and scalable for the coding team to easily build out the platform. These styles were then applied to high-fidelity mockups.
High Fidelity Code Prototype
We adopted an iterative mindset in the implementation of the code prototype. This means that we started by working on functionality and key structural components, moving from base functionality to more niche features. Afterwards, we gradually applied styling from the ground up to achieve as close a look and feel as the high-fidelity mockups.
Our promotional video shows the main functionality of our prototype, focusing on our target market, and how we intend our target users to use our platform from the beginning to the end.
Final UI Design
Below, we will explore Confidante's functionality. The final design is created according to Confidante's brand guideline linked at the bottom and various iteration that led to the high-fidelity mockups.
When users arrive on the landing page, they will have to read through a disclaimer section to ensure that they are aware and ready of what the platform's content.
Next, users will be redirected to the sign up page. The sign up process has been broken up into steps. As security is one of our biggest concern, users have to input a referral code before registering. Furthermore, we do not collect any person-specific identifiable information and collect only key information.
Once user has registered, the chatbot will ask questions in a conversational manner to discover a user's intention with the platform while also encouraging users to take further action to improve their online safety.
Discover will be the first page that users see when they sign up/log in. This page serves as the users' homepage where they can view most of the feature that the platform offers.
One of the platform's feature is the social page, the core to community interaction. Users will be able to join communities and post, and discuss various topic of their choice, share their experience, or receive and give advice.
Events are listed are organised by DFV organisations for users who are interested in external community events.
Stories allow users to listen and read stories by victim survivors advocates and experts in the DFV community.
Users who are looking for assistance can browse a list of services. Services range from counselling to legal advice and everything in between.
Job & Housing Opportunities
To aid victim survivors' long term recovery, the Apply page provides a list of exclusive job opportunities and housing services to help alleviate financial stresses after leaving a relationship.
Confidante is a project that started off with the idea to help victims of domestic violence ease their escape. However, as we held more interviews, we learnt about the struggles that victim survivors go through even after leaving.
The iterations made and conversations had during the interview process was definitely the most rewarding aspect of this project. Furthermore, focusing on security as our main feature was a unique experience rather than focusing purely on aesthetic and features. I would definitely utilise these safety features and small details more consistently on my future projects.
After we were done with Confidante, we had the opportunity to compete in University of Sydney's Accelerator Program and got into the top 20. We were not able to advance as our idea were too young and have yet to have any customers. We were also fortunate enough to have our project be featured on Dezeen.