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August 2017
laptop video of CrimeScape web application digital design for predictive policing startup in chicago

Case Study

August 2017

CivicScape is a completely transparent predictive policing startup. The webapp was designed to service the many positions of people within city police departments—everything between chiefs of police, command centers, and patrol. Risk for future crime events to occur is displayed on the map using a system of color. Users have the ability to filter between jurisdictions, crime types, and number of hours by a control panel. The control panel also offers tabs for Reports and Historical events. In Reports, users can print physical reports based on their input to easily give information to others. With the Historical tab, users can take a look back at analytics for the previous year compared to the current.

From the beginning of the project, we worked directly with the lead engineer and data scientist to understand the product, the users, and the future of the application. The frontend, at the time, was a minimum viable product that gave us an idea of the functionality within the app and the needs of the users. We started there with our whiteboarding; connecting the different states of the app with what users were wanting to do. Whiteboarding the app out enabled us to step back and think about what the most important aspects of the user experience were and provide some structure to that flow.


One of those important aspects is the map. We display crime event risk directly onto the map; it’s the primary vehicle for our most important information. If you think about the space the user is given, the map takes up the majority of it so some of the questions became, ‘What percentage of the space should the map be using? How are we layering our information on it? What details in a city are our users looking for to gain situational awareness?’ This presented us a significant design opportunity to convey information natively in the user’s experience without interrupting any of the controls. We had our questions answered and designed a map for CrimeScape that gives its many tiers of users information they want at different zoom intervals. 


The control panel design was informed by the fluid nature of the application. Users may leave it open constantly or pull it up on their phones on patrol. The panel acts as a filter for the map. Options are quick and easy to change but also remain informational to what is being layered on the map. We identified three primary uses of the panel throughout our initial iterations. Three tabs present those: crime predictions, reports, and historical analysis. Remaining consistent in digital design has provided the minimal and clean look for day and nighttime views.   


After understanding the functionality and developing a moodboard, we pressed on to iterate on the current minimum viable product quickly. Getting it in front of users was key to its success. We went live with a newly designed interface and experience within a few weeks to get feedback as soon as we could. Through the many iterations and user interviews, we were able to get answers to questions that came up while designing. Those questions were kept high level while in interviews so as to not guide them into any answers, which proved to be super valuable.

Ask, make, test (iterate)

Prototypes made for CrimeScape proved theories, uncovered questions, exposed problems about underlying functionality quicker than any workflow in development. Through many iterations and testing with users, we found ways users wanted to interact with information and how best to display it.

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