Court COnnect

 
 

Objective 

Design a visual or communication design system to improve the Family Court experience.

Solution

Court Connect: A mobile notification system that empowers individuals to understand their wait time and take control of their wait time from the pre-court to post-court experience. 

 

Client: Allegheny Court Family Division and Allegheny Human Services

Project: 2017, Environment Design, Service Design, Interaction Design, Communication Design

Duration: 5 weeks

Tools: Adobe XD, BotMock, After Effects, Illustrator

Team: Josh LeFevre & Carlie Guifoile

My role: User/design researcher, service designer, information architect, prototyper, usability tester

 
 

Solution

Digital

Court Connect is a digital notification system that provides greater transparency between visitors and Allegheny Family Court. Upon first court notice, clients and visitors will be sent text-message reminders that provide the time, date, and location of their hearing. Through automated reminders and simple response options, clients and visitors can have more flexibly check-in, manage their activities during the wait, and navigate the court experience. The Court Connect notification system is designed to increase the number of meaningful touch points between Allegheny Family Court and visitors in order to reduce trauma triggers.   

Physical

Building a strong community is important for preventing and easing the effects of trauma. Co-creation with users of the Allegheny Court,  developed recommendations for waiting room updates—including seating, activities, paint, flooring and more—and developing a clear and unified wayfinding signage. We recommended naming the waiting rooms and courtrooms with the names of Pittsburgh sports teams and landmarks. This would help the Allegheny Family Court staff capitalize on the local community’s history, assets, and culture. 

By integrating Court Connect’s digital and physical systems, Allegheny Family Court can create a space that promotes satisfaction, health, and well-being.

 

PROCESS

The Allegheny Family Court and Department of Human Services (DHS) partnered with the Carnegie Mellon Design School to develop a visual communication system intended to improve the Family Court experience, with special consideration given to reducing trauma for individuals and families at the court.  

Allegheny Family Court serves more than 120,000 Pittsburgh residents each year; a majority of those individuals have experienced trauma. Trauma manifests through emotion and can be re-triggered by smells, sounds or visual cues that elicit upsetting feelings or problematic behavior. The current Allegheny Family Court processes and services do not recognize and respond to the effects trauma, creating a potentially harmful environment for families.  

 

 

Phase 0: Understanding the teritory

We took a research-centered approach to improving the Family Court experience. Below are the key fndings that guided our trauma-informed solution:

ACE Definition

A study by the Center for Disease Control defines Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) as potentially traumatic events that can have negative, lasting efects on health and well-being. These experiences range from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse to parental divorce or the incarceration of a parent or guardian.

Effects: A person’s cumulative ACEs have a strong, graded relationship to numerous health, social, and behavioral problems throughout his or her lifespan, including substance use disorders. 

Trauma-Informed Care: Six principles are recommended to serve people with trauma: safety; trustworthiness and transparency; peer support; collaboration and mutuality; empowerment; and sensitivity to cultural, historical, and gender issues.   

Phase 1: Ethnographic user research

 Pyramid of trauma triggers.

Pyramid of trauma triggers.

To set the tone, the court and Department of Human Services (DHS) arranged a series of interviews to help us to better understand the court’s workflow. Our first group of exploratory interviews was held on site with court staff, including scheduling clerks, juvenile scheduling personnel, and other court support staff. We held our next set of interviews with various individuals at the Department of Human Services who work with clints throughout the court process. 

Based on what we learned, we began to consider how the court system could better communicate with visitors without having to reorganize their entire internal organizational structure or processes.

During this stage of our research, we also went to court to observe a trial, interviewed Judge Jennifer McCrady, and spoke to representatives from KidsVoice, an organization who represents children at court.

Phase 2: Making connections

After completing the first stage of user research, we returned to our design brief document and reviewed the purpose of our assignment. We realized there are many aspects of the Family Court experience that needed improvement, but we wanted to focus on developing a solution that purposefully addressed the effects of trauma and the stressors of trauma, because 75-100% of clients had experienced at least one of the factors of trauma.

 One of Allegheny Family court waiting rooms after a day of observations and interviews

One of Allegheny Family court waiting rooms after a day of observations and interviews

Phase 3: research Insights

Trauma-Informed Waiting Room Design: First, we wanted to update the physical waiting room space where clients and visitors are required to wait for their hearings, with average wait times of four to six hours. (They are not allowed to leave the building during this time.) During our user interviews, visitors told us the space is dirty, loud, chaotic, and had no spaces where private conversations could be held. It is also very boring, since there are no leisure actives or plug outlets for mobile devices. 

To address these concerns, we sketched alternate floor plans for the second- and third- floor waiting rooms that would provide clients and visitors more privacy for intimate conversations, give them more seating options, and supply opportunities to engage in activities.

Thematic Placemaking: During our research, we learned that building a strong community is important to both prevent and ease the effects of trauma. Knowing we were unable to accomplish that in the time we had, we began to ask if there were other ways to create a sense of belonging while at Family Court.

Universal Signage: In direct response to our research, we identified a clear need for a universally designed signage system that uses words, arrows, and logos to guide visitors through the Allegheny Family Court building. We used a design guide to airport signage as a best practice, and prototyped signs for the first floor lobby, check-in area, courtyard, kids room, and waiting rooms. We integrated the themed rooms (discussed below) into our signage in order to create a cohesive system.

Court Connect Messaging Service and System: Finally, we wanted to increase the level of transparency between the court and its clients and visitors by providing direct-to-user information about what to expect at court. 

 

 affinity mapping

affinity mapping

 

 

 

Phase 4: Synthesis and audience

52% of Allegheny Family Court visitors are youth under the age of 18 years. With this data, we decided to target teenagers and adults visiting Allegheny Family Court who had experienced at least one ACE in their lifetime—which was most of them. So, we returned and did more interviews with the day-to-day users of the space. We worked with them to generate ideas, build user journey maps, and service design blueprints.

Phase 5: Concept creation

Since 85% of a client’s time is spent in the waiting room without being able to leave (because they do not know when they will be called into court), we started working on ways to improve the waiting experience and decrease the trauma triggers of stress within the courthouse. We wanted to increase the trust and transparency between the court and client, which is one of the factors vital to decreasing ACEs. With this narrowed direction we began to work on a robust notification and touchpoint system called Court Connect that would connect and notify all major participants in court hearings.

Phase 6: Generative research after pivot

Once we identified our core audience, we conducted a second round of interviews that honed in on the needs and desires of youth who use the building. We coordinated with DHS to schedule five interviews with teenagers living in an emergency shelter. We developed three participatory and co-design design activities to engage the teenagers in creative exercises instead of conducting a traditional question-and-answer interview.

The sticker user-journey chart, fill-in-the-blank, and interview questions led us to develop a more complete service blueprint and hone in on the largest pain points experienced by the youth. From there we designed Court Connect to integrate a digital notification system and update the physical space. 

 

 

 

 Roughing out a service blueprint

Roughing out a service blueprint

 

 

Phase 7: Design and user testing

After visualizing the messaging and check-in experience for the user, the court, lawyers, and judges, we developed a low-fidelity prototype to show DHS and the court staff. We received specific feedback regarding language and cancellation options. From there, we created a digital prototype and tested it with designers, DHS staff, court staff, and community members. 

Our ideas evolved into finding a communication and visual thread that also could connect the pre-court, check-in, waiting room, and post-court process. We began developing a Court Connect notification system that integrated the physical placemaking recommendations made for the waiting room space. We used the framework of a service design blueprint that shows a visual sequence of a specific use case or scenario, alongside with the touch points between users and spaces accompanied it with a narrative. 

 

We leveraged co-designed a user-journey maps with Youth. Where youth placed stickers on the graph based on how they felt. The above scan is a compiled version of all the youth journey maps. 

 

Graphical service blueprint outlining the user experience from pre-court to post court.


Solution

Digital

Court Connect is a digital notification system that provides greater transparency between visitors and Allegheny Family Court. Upon first court notice, clients and visitors will be sent text-message reminders that provide the time, date, and location of their hearing. Through automated reminders and simple response options, clients and visitors can have more flexibly check-in, manage their activities during the wait, and navigate the court experience. The Court Connect notification system is designed to increase the number of meaningful touch points between Allegheny Family Court and visitors in order to reduce trauma triggers.   

 

Physical

Building a strong community is important for preventing and easing the effects of trauma. Co-creation with users of the Allegheny Court,  developed recommendations for waiting room updates—including seating, activities, paint, flooring and more—and developing a clear and unified wayfinding signage. We recommended naming the waiting rooms and courtrooms with the names of Pittsburgh sports teams and landmarks. This would help the Allegheny Family Court staff capitalize on the local community’s history, assets, and culture. 

By integrating Court Connect’s digital and physical systems, Allegheny Family Court can create a space that promotes satisfaction, health, and well-being.

 

Other Key Deliverables

Here are key deliverables we made for the Allegheny Family court. 

Court Connect Notification wirefram.png

Court Connect Wireframe

Co-designed waiting room experience.

 Court color palette based on local Pittsburgh colors.

Court color palette based on local Pittsburgh colors.