This project was my most notable assignment during my time at OCV, LLC, an app development company that specializes in the law enforcement and public safety sectors. To reach clients in these sectors that often have low technology funding, OCV has developed adaptable templates with customizable styles and features. I was the primary designer in charge of redesigning and restructuring the features offered to sheriff's offices, the company's largest client. On top of the general redesign, I was tasked with researching and implemented ADA compliancy and accessibility standards.
No one could argue that the sheriff app template was visually outdated, but it wasn't as easy as mocking up a new design and slacking it to the developers. Other designers, developers, management, and even the sales team themselves wanted a say in the design of the product they had become so attached to. I would have to balance the expectations of these various stakeholders, the sheriffs, and most importantly, the users.
What made this balance so precarious was the contrast of what each party wanted:
Another aspect of the project that was difficult to manage was the visual style. In general, the sheriffs had a very outdated sense of design while their users (everyday citizens) are more exposed to modern design trends and tastes. Because it was the sheriffs buying the app, not the users, I would have to find a happy medium; I had to ditch the antiquated image overlays but not go entirely to iOS style minimalism. I had to take a holistic approach to the product and develop a design system that would make everyone happy.
After consolidating a definitive list of which features we were going to offer, I began the process of redesigning each feature (and designing a few new ones that had been requested). Because the developers already had a standardized architecture built out and management didn't want to devote too much time to the project, I chose to work reductively from what was already there for the most part. Some of the simpler features just required a fresh coat of paint, but others needed some restructuring.
Through my research, I learned a lot about what makes a mobile app accessible to all users. Checking text contrast, clearly showing which elements are clickable, and structuring information with a screen reader in mind were all tasks that became second nature as I was design.
As I went through the design process, I periodically checked in with the developers to make sure everything I was changing was an easy adjustment in their preexisting framework. For the new features, I made sure I understood exactly how they were going to work technically to make sure that the experience I designed would match the actual functionality. As I designed, I made sure to maintain a consistent design system for two reasons:
By reusing consistent elements, colors, and styles, I put less design decisions onto the developers and guaranteed a cleaner final product that would meet our newly raised design standards.
Once all of the features had been redesigned through high-fidelity mockups and I'd gone over feedback with the creative-director, we handed over the Adobe XD development document. Over the next several weeks, I worked back and forth with developers for quality checks and feedback as they built out the new features.
Looking back, there are definitely some things I would do differently. Making a documented design system before designing every feature would have saved me a lot of headache. Going through the features at the end of the project and consolidating type into as few distinct styles as possible was a nightmare, and doing so before hand would have made life much easier for myself and the developers. I also should have attempted to break my design more aggressively; testing layouts with long names, using varied image crops, and testing the accessibility with any colors the client might request. This would have saved the future effort of figuring out how to display names like Sheriff Nathaniel Constantine Jefferson III in what I may have designed as confined spaces.
I learned a lot throughout this project. Working directly with developers taught me how to communicate design concepts on a technical level and gave me a greater understanding about what is/isn't worth coding. Through extensive research, I gained a greater understanding of how to design for users with disabilities. Mobile app accessibility is still somewhat undefined, but pursuing it can really make a difference for a significant amount of users. I became better at managing different expectations and goals from different parties while still prioritizing the user.