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Redesigning a scalable and user friendly search for police dispatchers and officers

Overview

As a product designer intern in a public security tech firm, and was part of the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) team, designing software tools for police dispatchers. I was given the task to redesign its search functionality so it has a great user experience, scalable, and aligns with the other products of the platform.

Prototypes have been slightly altered due to NDA

Role

Product design intern

With who?

1 product manager
2 senior product designers
1 UX researcher
2 engineers

What did I do?

Wireframes
Final prototypes
User research and testing plan

Process
W1
Problem identification
*Heuristics analysis

Problem scope

W2
Research (Interviews)
*Research plan
*User interviews
Affinity map
W3
Ideation
*Ideation workshop
W4
Designing
*Wireframes
*High fidelity prototypes for testing
W5
Testing
*Unmoderated testing
Not interested in process? Click here to view final designs
Context

Search functionality provides police officers critical information about criminal history, playing a huge role in police safety.

For police officers, dispatchers and call takers, the search functionality is used in every shift. They are a life-or-death matter too, as it gives them critical information about criminals and their criminal history.

This all boils down to police safety, ensuring they have the information better prepared for the crime scene.

Where does search fit in the journey?
What's the problem?

For police call takers and dispatchers who need to search for the right information quickly on their everyday shifts, the existing search interface was clunky and inefficient.

In a fast paced environment, the bad UX decreases the efficiency of their workflow, potentially costing lives. 💀

Upon conducting heuristics analysis of the page, I have concluded two main points could be improved in the new designs

Too many search fields present on one page

Users typically wear a headset and look at multiple desktop screens on their shifts while searching for information, this adds to their cognitive load.

Unable to refine search filters

If they make a mistake, they would have to go back to the previous page and redo the search, adding even more clicks to the flow.

Research - Interviews

Nothing is more useful than gathering feedback first hand! So together with the design researcher of the team, we mapped out a research plan to uncover user pain points and behavior. We have chosen to use interviews as a research method, as most of our users are in the US.

Some key points we wanted to find out from our interview:

How they used search
What they search for

and in what situation would they use search

What were their pain points
What they liked about the current search

We connected with 6 users, synthesised results using affinity mapping, and here were four key insights that informed our final solution:

Not every field is often used

Some don’t even understand what each field is for.

Most users were keyboard based

They found it difficult to reach the field they want to look for as some are down below the page

Dispatchers used the search functionality the most, mainly searching for people and locations

whether or not they have previous criminal records, to ensure the safety of police officers when they arrive to the crime scene.

'Save search' was used frequently

They would save a search they consider important and come back to it later to see whether there are new results or not.

This landed us to generating a How Might We statement of...
How Might We...

Enhance search for dispatchers so it is more accessible and scalable, and users are able to search for what they need efficiently without disturbing their workflow?

Not only should the user experience be improved, but it should also be consistent along with other products of the platform. Ultimately, our users use all products across the platform. It should feel familiar, without the effort to re-learning.

Ideation time!

Structure:

1. Context

Presenting everyone with project context, personas, interview findings and UX best practices. Because not everyone in the team is a designer, it was important for them to know our research findings and what are some typical search patterns.

2. Jamming

Presented our “HMW” question and have each member of the team brainstorm ideas. Quantity over quality. As shown in the picture, we have used the "Adapt, modify, combine, substitute, reverse, eliminate, put to other use” method to brainstorm new ideas.

3. Refining

After each member share their ideas, they were to refine only one idea - from other or themselves, through sketches or writing.

4. Voting

Voting for the best ideas to test :)

Testing

From the ideation session, we generated 5 concepts for unmoderated testing, with prioritisation to technical feasibility, user needs and aligning with other products of the software.

On Sprig, we have presented a prototype with 5 concepts, asking one question per concept. In each question, we have provided context into our designs, and asked them how well does it fit into their workflow.

The result was that we decided to combine 2 concepts together.

Solution

What's next?

Infoming other designers in the organisation

We have synced up with other design teams in the organisation to ensure what we are designing is consistent with the rest of the product.

Documentation!

The previous designers working on the search functionality left the company without documenting ideas, making it difficult to understand design decisions. After the project, our team made sure we document everything on Figma and Confluence such as research and testing files, with design decisions justified.

Learnings

Don’t design everything users say they want, but rather understand what they want through lots of iteration, observation and feedback.

During our interview, we have asked them what their “ideal search” interface looks like. Most users say they wanted global search - ‘Something like Google’. However when presented to them, it wasn’t the search that they preferred the most.

Design research and ideation

This was my first time being involved so much design research and responsible for ideation session. This was a huge stepping stone to me and have learnt a lot from others in our team!

Scalability

and consider the bigger picture when designing - One of the challenges was to design a scalable solution, with consideration with another product our company offered. So while I was designing, I had to keep in mind so design patterns were also consistent with the other product, and that what we were building also fits into their design system.

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