Creating a safe online community for victim survivors of domestic violence

User Research, UI Design & Prototype, Coding, Usability Testing, User Interview
Figma, HTML/CSS/Javascript
Project Duration
4 Months
As my last project in University of Sydney, we were challenged to design smarter and accessible engagement. Using digital technology to engage with a specific demographic, focusing on a certain issue that affects them, empowering individual users that uses the platform.
The Problem
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.
The Goal
We want to foster a safe community through a digital platform that helps female victim survivors regain their independence emotionally, socially and financially.

Overall, Confidante's purpose is to be an online community that address victim survivors' short and long term issues through various features that is available such as resources for professional services, job opportunities and accommodation.
"How might we empower victims of domestic violence with the knowledge, resources and support to regain independence and confidence after leaving their relationship?"
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.
Market Analysis
From the market research we discovered existing technical solutions were developed and offered as free platforms by not-for-profits or government bodies. Their main purpose was in either providing advice and information, evidence recording or helping with exit planning.
Gasps & Opportunity
The market analysis above allowed us to identify key gaps and opportunities and along with research findings, formed a distinct set of concept criteria.

With these goals set in mind, we went on to develop solutions which bridges the gap between victims and their community, who can provide support and encourage a safe exit from an abusive relationship.
This criteria aligned with the needs of our four personas in representation of our target user group. Due to the complex nature of domestic violence cases, it was important to consider their varying motivations and frustrations, so that there was potential to address the needs of not only victims, but also support networks and victim survivors.
Product Ideation
Based on personas and research, we developed 8 concepts through ideation sessions.  As a result of design critique amongst the team, these final three concepts were chosen for best Desirability, Feasibility and Viability concerns, as well as Novelty and Impact.
the first solution is Confidante, made for DV victims. It is a platform that makes victims feel supported and understood by allowing victim to connect to victim survivors anonymously online.
Specific Problem Space
Victims of domestic violence often seek support from those who have had similar experiences to them. This allows them to feel supported and understood - something that third party organisations and immediate friends and family may not be able to do.
Concept Description
Victims can log on anonymously, and speak with victim survivors online through  1:1 calls or message. Victims are encouraged to share as little, or as much as they want, with the confidence that victim survivors can provide reliable advice.
Safe Table
the second solution is Safe Table, made for DV Victims and Support network. It is a platform that helps victims speak about their experience by using prompts within the platform to facilitate conversations.
Specific Problem Space
Victims find it difficult to articulate their experiences to immediate friends and family due to misunderstanding and victim blaming. It is easy to assume that conversation comes naturally - however, it is often the opposite. Victims are fearful of feeling judged by those they hold dearest to them.
Concept Description
Safe Table creates a safe space for victims to speak about their experiences and seek help from those closest to them. Prompts are used both ways to facilitate conversation. Individuals who are a part of the support network are given question prompts, the language of which is designed to initiate clear communication and understanding.
Safe Share Community
the last solution is Safe Share Community, a platform that provides victim with support network by creating an online community with two main features, where victims can seek refuge and eventually a job.
Specific Problem Space
Common barriers for women leaving an abusive relationship are resource and finance related. This is particularly if women lack a support network and are afraid to reach out for professional help.
Concept Description
An online community where victims can seek employment within the local area, or in a violent situation, be able to seek refuge from a trusted neighbour. Connecting these individuals to protect each other can strengthen a victim’s support network.
With the challenges of recruiting and our limited time with these participants led us to combine the interview with concept testing into a single session. We believed it would be critical to learn from different standpoints, and fortunately we were able to speak with
  • Experts in the field
  • Case workers who run these events with victims
  • Those a part of the victim’s immediate support network
  • Victim survivors
The interviews we performed were semi-structured in nature, meaning when the interviewee provided an interesting insight, we laddered to understand further perspectives. Also, noting that our participants were coming from different standpoints, we tailored our (loosely structured) set of interview questions accordingly.

From our interviews, we gathered a total of 184 statement cards which we organized into 18 themes and finally grouped into 3 key insights.
Interview Insights
The key insights that we are focusing on includes support networks, barriers to leaving and support for after leaving. There were insights that validated our background research, but participants also disproved some of our underlying assumptions.
Concept Testing
Within the same sessions, we performed concept testing with storyboards to depict the scenario of how each solution would impact the different users and stakeholders. We also requested participants to think aloud while being walked through.

The main issue found through these testing sessions was the safety and validity of users was a huge concern as shown below.
Final Concept
Our final concept is the result of a combination of Concept 1 (Confidante) and Concept 3 (Safe Share community) However, we have reframed it to target victim survivors.
In the end, we decided on the name "Confidante". Confidante is a safe online community that enables victim survivors to empower each other. Recovered victim survivors can utilise their experience and understanding to support those who have recently left, ensuring they regain their independence.
Further Considerations
Despite having a concept to proceed with, we must continue to consider the implications of how it might address our problem space and impact the key stakeholders we mentioned beforehand.

In particular, ensuring the safety of our participants through safety guidelines, considering any ethical challenges, as well as concerns surrounding accessibility.
Final Design
Through multiple user testing and refinement, we were able to create a brand guideline, high fidelity wireframe and high fidelity code prototype coded with HTML, CSS and Javascript.
Brand Guideline
In this brand guideline, we focus on things such as brand value, vision and mission. Furthermore, we explore the colours, illustrations and typography used.
High Fidelity Prototype
Below, we have our high fidelity prototype, a digital platform called Confidante, a safe online community for domestic violence victim-survivors to regain their independence financially, emotionally and socially.

We are offering a victim to victim interaction where people with similar lived experiences can empower each other emotionally and mentally. A one-stop shop for social support from online communities, job opportunities, accomodation and other professional services such as counselling.
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.
Protoype can be accessed here.
Brand guideline can be found here.