Find a Person in
Travis County Jail

How might we make it easier for people to find the latest information about an incarcerated person in a Travis County jail?

About
The "Find a Person in Travis County Jail" application is a public-facing tool with over 2 million annual users, providing up-to-date information about individuals currently incarcerated in Travis County jails.

Initially developed in 2007 by the Application Services team in Travis County without UX involvement, the app was outdated and in need of a redesign.

In September 2019, as the servers required replacement, I seized the opportunity to improve the user experience comprehensively.

Role
User Experience Designer
UX Researcher

Category
App Design

Audience

  • Concerned citizens, family members, and friends seeking information about incarcerated individuals.
  • Attorneys

Time Period
September 2019 - November 2019

Problem Statement

SIPS-before

The old version of the app was buggy, not mobile-friendly, and poorly maintained.

Residents struggled to check the booking status of their friends or loved ones in the Travis County jail system, leading to a high volume of calls and complaints to the Sheriff’s Office due to the confusing and non-responsive app.

Goals

  • How might we make it easier for people to find the latest information about an incarcerated person in a Travis County jail?
  • How might we design an app experience that is mobile-first, accessible, human-centered, and has a seamless search experience?
  • How might we decrease the volume of calls from individuals checking on their loved ones' booking status within the Travis County jail system?

Discovery

My design approach prioritized empathy and sensitivity, recognizing the emotional nature of the search process for family members and friends seeking information about their incarcerated loved ones.

Desk Research:

Analyzing the app's analytics revealed key insights:

  • 70% of users accessed the app via mobile devices.
  • The app received 1,056,564 page views annually, underscoring its importance to the community.
    • It is one of the top 10 pages across our website!

Key Takeaways:

The redesigned app needed to be:

  • Mobile-first: Prioritize mobile usability for the majority of users.
  • Easy to use
  • Accessible
  • Understandable by Spanish speakers
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SIPS-Devices-analytics

Research

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SIPS-Research-Finding-2-2

User Interviews

I conducted user interviews to gather firsthand insights and expectations. Conversations focused on the information people needed when looking for an incarcerated person in Travis County.

Insights & Findings:

  • Relevant Information: Users primarily wanted details such as booking date and time, location of incarceration, nature of charges, and bond availability.

  • Person-First Language: Users preferred "Incarcerated Person" over "Inmate," emphasizing the need for respectful and sensitive terminology.

Design

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FindAPerson_SearchResults
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Usability Testing

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With wireframes and prototypes, we conducted several rounds of usability testing. Users were asked to complete specific tasks while we observed and recorded their interactions. This allowed us to identify and address usability issues early in the design process.

Findings:

  • Usability and Ease of Use: The new version of the app was praised for its simplicity and straightforward design.
  • Search Field Order: Participants found the previous version’s field order (last name, first name, middle name) confusing and counterintuitive. 
    • Suggestions included reordering to first name, middle name, and last name for better alignment with user expectations.
  • Application Title Preference: "Inmate" was seen as negative and judgmental; participants preferred a more neutral title such as “Find a Person in Travis County Jail.”

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

The redesigned application brought noticeable improvements in usability, accessibility, and user satisfaction. Here are the key results and lessons learned:

Achievements

  • Higher Page Views: Annual page views jumped from 700,000 to 2 million, showing more user engagement and a wider reach for our online services.
  • Fewer Calls to the Sheriff’s Office: There has been a drop in calls to the sheriff’s office due to the revamped application. This means users can successfully find the information they need online without having to call.
  • Positive Feedback: Constituents have given great feedback, praising the new design for its clarity, ease of navigation, and improved user experience.

Lessons Learned:

  • Investing in user-centered design and UX research significantly boosts engagement and reach.
  • Improving public facing apps can reduce the demand for support services.
  • Continuous user feedback is essential for refining and validating design choices.
  • Iterative design processes and usability testing are critical for meeting user expectations.
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Positive-feedback

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