Solutions to Urban Safety

Design Research - XYX LAB Collaborative Project

Urban safety takes a significant role in the spirit of a city and is also the symbol of a civilised city. As a citizen of society, a sense of safety impacts hugely on individual sense of happiness.

This project aimed to discover the relationships between space, crowd-mapping and gender, our group was attempting to find suitable solutions for urban safety. With using various design and research methods, processes and technologies to investigate target users, discover the real needs, we were trying to visualise and present innovative design solutions that impact actively on society.


Xiangyu Shi (me)

Jinyan Feng

Yubo Yang

Yao Huang

Yingling Yang

Xiangdong Fang

My Role

In this group project, most of the work were cooperated together. I mainly contributed to precedent research, ideation, designing questionnaires, analyse surveys, prototype design, and app functionality design.

Precedent Research

Precedents Comparison

We researched 18 precedents that relate to urban safety, and extracted the key features of each precedent and made comparisons.

Mapping Complexity

After some research, we discovered the importance of safety attaching to our project. We decided to use the mapping complexity to build this map based on two axes, the X-axis scales from the app property danger prevention to first-aid or rescue, the Y-axis shows the range that the apps affect the society, from family members or friends, stretching to the public. The location of different projects shows their level affected by X, Y axes.

The map shows the importance of applying crowd mapping technique while helping others’ security. The most majority of the project was focusing on prevention than rescue because sometimes rescue is too late, people need to check erroneous ideas at the outset. However, from another aspect, once people are tracked into dangerous situations and need rescue, the speed rate and efficiency of information transmitting are most considered by designers when creating a rescue app. In terms of the range that affecting social impact, some people like contacting their friends or family members, some people think it is a better way to spread out the information to the society and ask others for help. The project we did need consider all these aspects and increase people’s awareness of safety.

Precedent Analysis



“Citizen” is an app of preventing from dangerous situations. Specifically, users can know what is happening near by by viewing the live videos. Moreover, they can see the overall accidents on the map, the incidents are marked in the map with red dots, the system can also send you alert when you near places dangerous. (sp0n, Inc., 2018)​

App Analysis

Critical Analysis

This app is about prevention, and it has some aspects useful to our project. Firstly, this app is related to my project because it is crowd-mapping based, users can share the incidents they saw on the map real-time. This helped us get a better understanding of what crowd mapping is, and also gave us some inspiration for designing our own project.

In addition, this app is also about space, people can see where the accidents happening. This is another aspect that related to our project.

However, this app is not so gender oriented. Because the dangerous incidents people reported are some public issues, for instance, some places are on fire, or bank robbery and so on. So in designing our own project, we should avoid this kind of issue, we should make it more relevant to gender.



Besafe integrates the prevention and rescue function. As for prevention, users can ask their friends as guardians to track them until they got home safely, this is much like the “Circle of 6” friends function, which means both of the apps can add their friends to protect them. But the difference is that Bsafe can track users through GPS, “Circle of 6” only support send messages to users’ friends. As for rescue, it has an SOS button to notify friends when you are in danger.

App Analysis

Critical Analysis

This app not only provides rescue function but also prevention. It is also gender oriented since it is more appropriate for a female to use. Similar to “Circle of 6”, this app is not closely relevant to our project as it is not about crowd mapping, even it has map and GPS function.

In addition, the app requires friends of the users to install this app to track them, if their friends don’t have this app or they delete the app, they can not track the users and get emergency messages in time. Moreover, when users encounter danger, their friends may not come to help since they are maybe far away from the users.

Another drawback is that the app stickiness is not enough. In Melbourne, the crime rate is not high, the number of users of this app might be limited, so they are not likely to use it so often. Also, it lacks interaction with the crowd, the only interaction in this app is when users go home and feel unsafe, or when they encounter danger. However, “Citizen” provides a lot of interaction with the crowd, people can comment and chat with the incidents witness. So we need to consider adding this kind of interaction into our design project

Idea 1, 2 & Failure

Based on the precedent research we did, we came up with two concepts, however, the feedback shows both of the ideas are not working.

Idea 1

The first idea was to create an APP which can share the nearby location of the policeman to users and they can call for help by simply clicking one button. However, after some deeper consideration, a problem has been found: criminal may use this APP to avoid policeman and do something illegal. In conclusion, this idea does not seem working.

Idea 2

Initially, we did some interviews, according to our interviews, we found that people tend to talk with their friends on the phone to increase their sense of security. So our second idea is to make an APP which can match a stranger to accompany users by chatting or messaging. Moreover, when the users in trouble, they can tap an SOS button to ask for help from the strangers or policemen.

However, when we test this idea in class, most feedbacks are negative. People said this APP might make them feel scared because they think the strangers are unpredictable and hard to be trusted. Thus, this idea was eliminated eventually.

Idea 3 + Research Methods

Idea 3

After the failure of the first two ideas, we started to draft a new idea. This idea was about helping users to know what are the safe roads in the city. Specifically, the map in this app highlights streets with bright lighting condition by using a brighter color, and some other elements which can make users feel safe are also marked in the map, such as the location of CCTV, open shops, and police stations.

However, this idea was a direction at first, based on the direction, we started conducting some research methods to verify the feasibility of this idea.

Research Methods


With the help of XYX lab, we attended the activity organised by the lab and crowdspot company, we used the crowd-mapping skills to find a suitable solution for urban safety. The whole activity was involved in Melbourne Design Week, which shared the design skill and spirit, impacting on social influence.

During the activity, we have met people with a various background, but all concerning Melbourne safety. We were using design thinking methods through the whole process, making our ideal and safe city in paper mode. A lot of new ideas were created and we had prepared many questions and topics that trigger our theme. We also obtained much valuable information about what people really need for urban safety, which drives our survey and interview questions, even the detailed functions as described in the following part of our work. Beyond that, after the activity, we were really touched by the people’s stories about safety, and we realised that what we were doing hugely impact on social influence, which makes us more enthusiastic for our project.


In order to get a better understanding of our users, we made a questionnaire and sent to 75 people to get some feedback. There were about 40 questionnaires targeted to international students, and 35 are from local students. We asked them 10 questions about safety, such as how is their safety awareness, how would they react when they feel unsafe, what factors make them feel safe or unsafe, and so on. We extracted some key questions which provide us some good insights.

Key charts extracted from survey results

Percentage of local and international student feel safe in Melbourne

An interesting difference between the two groups of study objects was that the local students think Melbourne is safer than what the international students think. About half of the local students think Melbourne is a safe city to live, but only about 34% of the international students believe that it is a secure place.

Survey Analysis

In conclusion, we distilled three main points. Firstly, we know the elements that can make people feel safe: Lighting condition, open shops, CCTV, police station, and people around. Secondly, compared with local students, we found that international students feel less safe at night. So we defined our target users as international students. Lastly, we found that a lot of people lack safety awareness. So these are some of the key points that could be helpful to form our idea.


After having quantitative research, we conducted some qualitative interview to discover deeper information from people from different regions and backgrounds.

1. Interviewers have different cultural background.

2. Basic age scope is from 20 to 40 years old.

3. Typically, the period of residence and sense of security are the positive correlation.

4. Interviewees live in Melbourne for a short time haven’t suffered from dangers, but they are affected negatively by the bad experience of their friends and news from TV.                        

5. Local interviewees give a neutral assessment about urban safety. They think Melbourne is not safe than before even they are familiar with the surrounding environment.

Empathy Map & Persona

We build the empathy map to gain a deeper insight into our customers. Much like a user persona, an empathy map can represent a group of users, such as a customer segment. We also create the persona to represent the attributes of a group of a product’s users. When deciding on a product’s features, functionality or visual design, these two design thinking tools allow our team to easily identify with a fictional version of the product’s end users.

Features about a virtual character:
1. Mika Pika is a 25-year-old girl from China, she has been in Melbourne for 5 years to finish her university study.
2. She often stays up to do tasks at school, she normally gets home by trains, but the path from the train station to her house has not enough light and she is worried about her personal safety.
3. She heard one of her friends was robbed in this area, also she doesn’t see many policemen around her house.
4. The dark path makes her extremely scared but she has no ability to change the situation
5. Most of the time, she has to go outside alone, so she is eager to get a company from others.

Empathy Map



After building the empathy map and persona, we decided to visualize our virtual character’s experience to get specific information. Then we produce the customer journey map and role play test. These two powerful tools are representative of a typical experience. 

We simulate one virtual travel for our character from home to her friend’s house at night. All the process was divided into 5 parts, and we provided our tester the question list at each stage. Her mission is to observe the surrounding area and get emotional feedback from self-assessment and we are glad to see these two methods work well together.

Our tester was scared in the dark zone, what makes her relax is the CCTV set on the train station and enough light from the main street. This customer experience supports our initial ideas and ensures the project move in the right direction.

Experience Journey Map

Role Play

Idea 3 plus

Main issue of idea3

In terms of adding red dot to present dangerous elements in the map, the professors in XYX LAB pointed out some main issues:

1. red dots in the map will increase panic. 

2. this may offend homeless people and the refugee. 

 3. red dots may prevent people from buying things at the red dots area, bad for their business.  

4. some people may adding red pins near their competitors’ stores. 

Improvement of idea 3

Based on the research we did, we confirmed our target users are international students. We discovered that the international students lack sense of safety is because they are in the country that they are not familiar with. So in this version of idea 3, we provide navigation function to help users find their way around when they get into a new place at night. Moreover, we considered adding one more safe element-“People” into our idea 3, which means users can share their story or mood on the map, which is shown as dots. Other users can also like or comment on people’s stories. The more comments users have, the bigger the dots will be. From another point of view, we used the social funciton to increase the stickiness of the app.

More Feedback from Test

According to our original idea, we did some surveys and selected records from several of those interviewees. We found that interviewees were satisfied with our idea. They think that adding safe elements to our ideas can increase their sense of security, and the social function can efficiently attract them. Besides, they also gave some suggestions for improving our app. Some of the interviewees are international students, they wanted our app more suitable for the international students because they are in an environment they are not familiar with, their needs for security is higher than that of the local. At the same time, the interviewees who are international students also agree with that. In daily life, they prefer staying with people who come from the same country, and it can reduce their fear of the unfamiliar environment. So they hope to have an app that can provide a platform which can efficiently gather students who have the same cultural background.

Final Version of Idea 3

Based on the interviewees’ suggestions, we made some improvements to our app and made it more friendly to international students. First of all, we added a language selection function to the sign in page. The purpose is to help students find partners with the same cultural background and nationality, and let them quickly familiar with the strange environment and reduce the sense of insecurity in the foreign country. After the user selects their language on the login page, the app will display comments written by people who come from the same country preferentially, and it will highlight on the map. If the user is interested in the comments written by the people from other countries, the user also can view it, and the system will provide translation function. In addition, on the comment page, there will be different countries’ national flags to distinguish them; This can efficiently prevent the people who speak the same language from mixing their nationality.

How does Our Project Differ from Other Existing Apps?

There are some exclusive points in our project. Firstly, we visualised the safe elements like lighting condition, the location of CCTV, open shops, and police station on the map to help users build a sense of security. In addition, we provided social function based on crowd-mapping technology, unlike other crowd-mapping-based apps. We not only want to build an information platform but also we hope to engage users with social network and increase user stickiness. Lastly, most apps about safety that existed in the market are not focused on the international students, so we customised some functions for the international students because we found they are more likely feel unsafe when they get into a new environment they are not familiar with.

Concept / UX Design