self-protection feature in Whatsapp
In this Design Challenge, the goal was to select my favorite app and to “Add a feature”. For this challenge, I have chosen to propose a feature for the Android mobile version of the WhatsApp application.
Team: Individual Design Challenge
My role: UX/UI Designer
Duration: 2 weeks
The problem: How Might we help women feel safer and with more confidence when going back home alone?
Goal: Propose a new feature on one favorite mobile app that could be the solution to an existing problem.
Target Users: Young women that use WhatsApp mobile app
Deliverables: Hi-Fi Prototype of WhatsApp mobile app feature
Tools: Figma, Balsamiq
Unfortunately, although we are living in a “modern” world, for every woman, and especially for those living in a big city, returning home alone can be challenging. I have always remembered me and my friends after a night out, promising that we would text each other as soon as we get home. Regardless of their age or city most women have to be on alert while walking alone at night. Having their mobile device at hand is necessary as this is the fastest way to ask for help if needed.
I decided to work on WhatsApp as it is one of the most favorite apps of the Millennials and Gen Z people. Since it is widely used it could also be a very handy tool for every woman that finds herself in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation when she would need protection or even just confidence to overcome it. That is why I decided to create for WhatsApp the “Guardian Mode”: a feature that, when activated, will help a woman to ask for help.
Initially, I needed to do market research to see if this feature already exists in a chatting app. Surprisingly there is nothing similar, however, there are some apps that are dedicated to this exact cause, to protect women in danger. Apps like zich app and bsafe app can send alerts, can share your location, are activated by voice, and are tools that a woman can use when she feels she needs to ask for help.
I did the Feature Comparison with these two direct competitors (zich app and bsafe app) and one indirect like the Messenger app (which is another famous chatting app).
It was obvious that the two most used protection apps had the advantage of multiple features that a woman could use when in need, but lacked the feature of the chat (individual or group).
By conducting the Marketing positioning map it was more obvious to me there is a gap in the market, as there is no free protection app or any chatting app offering protection features for free.
Following that, I wanted to learn more about the WhatsApp brand so I did Brand research.
WhatsApp is a free, multi-platform messaging app whose main goal is to promote the efficient communication of its users. It is an app whose design is based on simplicity (Whatsapp Design System) that is what the users love about it:
“What I love most about WhatsApp is how simple it is to use” Isaias G. in Getapp.com
“..it is free and private, easy to use and very accessible.” Ramon M. in Getapp.com
With these insights, I was ready to conduct the Guerilla Interview to collect more info about the Proto Persona. I interviewed two women and I categorized their feedback on an affinity map.
/Also after research, I collected the reviews of the WhatsApp users that have submitted their feedback online. With the Interviews and the Review insights, I built the Proto Persona, Anna:
Anna is a young woman living in a big city, who needs to communicate with her friends easily, but she wishes this communication would be fast and cheap. That is why she gets frustrated when on her way back home she might have no internet. She needs to feel that there is someone with her while returning home, an action that might also prevent someone from disturbing her. To avoid internet connection issues she has to call her friends by using her phone credit. After all, she only wants to go home in the safest way, and talking to a familiar voice while walking at night makes her calmer. Most of the times Anna and her friends agree to text each other as soon as they have arrived at home, just to be sure that everyone got home safe and sound.
Having understood Anna’s needs helped me to create her User Journey to detect any frustrations or challenges she might face every time she wants to get back home after a night out with her friends.
Anna gets off the bus and starts walking towards her house, which is 1km away from home. While walking she notices that someone is following her from the bus station, so she tries to call a friend just to feel safer. Her friend doesn’t pick up so speeds her walking pace and gets her keys on hand to open her house door faster. As soon she gets home she takes a breath and texts her friend that she has arrived home.
This journey revealed the opportunities we have to design some solutions that would make Anna feel safer while returning home. Like most of the young people of her generation, she communicates with friends and family with WhatsApp and that can be a tool she could use when in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
- There could be a feature in WhatsApp, which we can call “Guardian Mode”, that Anna could activate from the moment she gets off the bus. When “Guardian Mode” is activated, some additional features could appear on the app: a dedicated Contact or Group called “ Guardians” with whom she could share her location when feeling uneasy, by clicking one button in the group chat.
- Like most of the times that she walks home, now that Anna is feeling she might need help, she wants to call a friend, hoping she can help her or that at least this will make any attacker think twice before getting closer to her. A button at the Home page that would make fake calls could be the solution, as it would be automated and would not even need an internet connection or phone credit.
- As Anna’s friend is not picking up, Anna needs to inform her about her situation, but texting could take much time. It would be helpful if in the Guardians’ group she could press a button that would rapidly start taking snapshots and another button to start making a recording using all of the device’s cameras. The snapshots would be sent to the Guardians group chat and to their phone as SMS messages (charged on the receiver, making sure Anna can notify them even if she has no SMS credit). The recording could be directly shared with the group chat.
Problem and Hypothesis Statements
It was clear that the main problem I had to solve, was that young women need to feel safe when returning home alone because they usually are on alert until they arrive at their destination.
The Guardian Mode would be designed to achieve protection for women. I observed that the messaging apps do not allow easy access to contacts and the internet can let you down, which is causing less trust and usage of our app.
I believe adding an alert/guardian mode for users will help them feel safe. We will know we are right with more downloads and reviews of the app.
Out of this User Journey, I could identify the features that the Guardian Mode should have and I also prioritized the must-have ones:
- Guardian Mode switch
- Call Me button, for fake incoming calls
- Panic button calling the police or Anna’s building security
- Location Sharing button
- Automated snapshots button (taken from all the cameras)
- Recording through the main front camera
Before proceeding to the design of the feature, I created the user flow of Anna, to follow her steps from the moment she would open the app and activate the “Guardian Mode”, while she is using its options and until she deactivates the mode and exits the app.
My whole design would be based on Android OS, as I am also more familiar as a user with WhatsApp on android and I could better understand its functionality.
After creating the Concept Sketch of the feature I moved on to the Lo-Fi Prototype.
To confirm that my feature idea would be useful and viable, I tested the Lo-Fi prototype with 3 users.
I designed the Mid-Fidelity prototype, based on the principles of Material Design and following the top value of WhatsApp: Simplicity.
- I put the Guardian mode Switch button at the top of the Home page so that it can be easily found.
- As the Guardian mode is activated the fixed Chat button is replaced by the “Call Me” button that makes Fake Incoming Call. This function can work without credit or an internet connection, and Anna doesn’t need to worry if she has enough credit or a weak network.
- On the Guardians Group Chat page, I have added the Share Location button, this time at the beginning of the icons row. As in the Lo-Fi Prototype, I decided to follow the Serial Position Effect: “ Users have a propensity to best remember the first and last items in a series.” That is why at the beginning, I had put the Share location button at the end of the icons. According to the users that tested the Lo-Fi, it was hard for them to detect the button at the end, so this time I decided to move it to the beginning of the row.
- I added the Panic button below the first bar, centered and on its own so that it can be visible and accessible if Anna is upset and wants to click on it fast.
- On the Message field, the emojis button has been removed and the placeholder has been moved to the left. That way there is more space for two new buttons.
The Recording button: Starts recording from the main front camera. The recording is saved on the cloud and is always accessible by all Guardians and Anna.
The Snapshots button: Sends to the group automated snapshots from all the device’s cameras. The snapshots are also sent to the Guardians as SMS/MMS in case they are not connected to the app.
Before moving on to the final prototype, I conducted usability testing with 3 users. The goal was to discover whether the users would intuitively find the feature and use its functionalities. The users were asked to imagine themselves walking back home at night and activating the Guardian mode at the beginning of their journey. They were assigned 6 tasks which they all completed successfully.
- Turn on the “Guard Mode”
- Make a fake incoming call.
- Share your location with your Guardians
- Start camera recording
- Send multiple snapshots with your cameras
- Call your Panic contact.
According to the users, they felt the Panic and the Share location buttons were a bit small and due to that, they needed some extra seconds to detect them. Also for some of them, the name of the Panic button didn’t make the action of the button very clear and they were not sure what would happen if clicked. With this feedback, I was ready to improve the Guardian Mode feature and reflect the users’ feedback to the High Fidelity Prototype. I would make the Share location button bigger and rename the Panic button to “Panic Call”.
Visual Design Documentation-Atomic Design
It was necessary to first organize the components that I would use for the High fidelity prototype. Following the Atomic Design methodology, I categorized the components into atoms, molecules, organisms, and pages.
The Hi-Fi prototype was ready and I couldn’t wait to share it with more users and especially with more women and to verify that it would be a relevant solution to the common issue of getting home most safely.
The prototype’s goals are to allow Anna to:
- Make Fake Incoming Call
- Share location info with Guardians
- Call police if in panic
Until now the users that have tested the feature have been able to succeed in all of these goals, but more feedback is always helpful. Please feel free to try it too here!
The main reason that I wanted to work as a UX Designer, is that I love solving problems and especially social ones. Whenever I have the opportunity to make the world better through a project, I get very passionate. Due to this passion, this was one of my favorite projects, as I had the opportunity to not only select the problem I should work on but also focus on a global problem that is relevant to most of the women in almost every society.
During this project, I had the opportunity to better understand the psychology of a woman when in an uncomfortable situation and her habits when she needs to protect herself. To have a clearer picture, I also included some men users during the User Research, and it was surprising to find out that women would feel safer with a protection app while men prefer to trust the physical strength more than an app or a tech device. This makes the need for such a protection feature more imperative until women feel safe and confident.
It was also interesting to see that while users were hesitant to trust a mobile app as much as a phone call for emergencies, they were willing to try it. The success of the project is reflected in the fact that all the women users that tested it, not only said that they would like to use the Guardian Mode in WhatsApp but they were very excited about the idea of such a protection feature.
What I would like to do in the future is to find and test more Android women users, as it was hard to detect many of them in my network, and I would want to have even more insights from users that are familiar with the Android WhatsApp app. As my proposed feature is a feature for a global cause, I would also like to make it more inclusive and also design it for IOS users.
I would be so happy to see this feature be added to WhatsApp and feel that some women can be helped by it, but what I would love is to live in a society where such a feature would not be useful because women would never feel unsafe to return home alone.