3-Week Site Redesign

A nonpartisan advocacy group wanted to make traffic-stop data available to everyone, not just specialized audiences

Definition Research / Wireframing / UX Design / Visual Design


In North Carolina, the Bureau of Investigation is required to collect and report on all traffic stops made by police officers in the state. This data can be challenging to access, so a non-profit built Open Data Policing, a site intended to give transparency into this data. However, the site had usability issues and was geared more towards lawyers and specialists. In 2020, the advocacy group Forward Justice wanted to launch a new site based on that data with the intent of making it more usable for activists and concerned community members. Caktus Group built the original site as a pro bono project. For the new site, they partnered with Purpose UX to define the features and update the UI for what became NCCopwatch.

Our Challenge

With a limited budget and timeframe, we needed to design an updated site that would display the same data in an actionable way. We also needed to help Forward Justice and Caktus Group figure out the right prioritization of requested features.

Our Process


(~1 weeks)
We conducted interviews with Forward Justice organizers and community members to better understand what people were using this data for and how the current experience could be improved. We then conducted a 2-day remote workshop to bring together the people at Forward Justice, the community members, and the Caktus developers to map out the key scenarios for use and come up with a rough prioritization of features for the initial launch and for future releases.
We often use Trello for doing remote card-sorts or prioritization because it has a lower learning curve than other online collaboration tools.


(~2 weeks)
From our research, we learned there were 2 key workflows for accessing this data:
1. The “proactive” workflow.
  • Concerned community members or activists would want to see data for an entire police or sheriff’s department. They would want to see this data compared to previous time periods (e.g. after a change in leadership or a new policy) or compared to other communities (or state averages) to better understand issues within the department. This data could be marshaled to motivate other community members to get involved in advocacy, or to have a basis for conversation with local officials.
2. The “reactive” workflow.
  • Community members who were subjected to a stop which they felt was unfair were interested in seeing whether the officer who stopped them had particular patterns in their stop history. They would want to share those records with their lawyer to help with their defense
The first workflow was straightforward - we redesigned the landing page to make the search box more prominent, rewrote the copy to be less technical and more direct, and laid out the page so everything was above the fold. Color palette and illustration were provided by Forward Justice.
Original Design, key actions split across two screens and without emphasis
Open Data Policing - note the tiny CTA (white link under image of NC). You can also see the page text geared at a technical audience
Key actions are available on the page, but technical text is still too prominent and “find a stop” is hidden as a secondary tab
Final Design, key workflows have been emphasized on one screen
Search and Find a Stop workflows on same screen
Key actions are available on the page, but technical text is still too prominent and “find a stop” is hidden as a secondary tab
Understanding Context: Knowing the WHY
The “proactive” workflow was simple: users chose a department and viewed the statistics - easy! The bigger challenge was the “reactive” workflow. While this workflow was used less frequently than the “proactive” workflow, it was the feature most relevant to the average user - someone who was encountering the site for the first time. So a key change was making sure this action received similar weight to the “proactive” workflow instead of being hidden behind a link or tab on the landing page.

Additionally, while “Find a Stop” accurately describes the function of the tool, it doesn’t speak to WHY someone would need to use it. Adding additional context to that action makes it more clear why you might need the tool and how you are intended to use it.

Of course, adding text doesn’t help if the page is overwhelming, so removing technical language to the “About” page, using call-out boxes for non-functional text, and keeping language short and accessible was key to making this landing page work.

In addition to being hidden, the workflow was too complex. Users were expected to enter information such as department, date, violation type, etc. in order to find the Officer ID for the officer who had stopped them. Then, they were supposed to re-do the search using the Officer ID to see statistics about that officer’s other stops.
Before Iteration
“Officer ID” was a key point of confusion - this was not the officer’s badge number, but instead an internal ID number used to preserve officer anonymity
After Iteration
A new label and more helpful explanatory text help make this clear in the redesign.
Small Changes Have Big Impacts
This was a case where removing a feature improved the experience greatly. Users interested in statistics for the whole agency should not need to go through this “reactive” workflow at all, so including the link to agency statistics was only causing confusion (besides, they could still reach agency statistics from the officer page.)

Making it clear that this search result page was not the endpoint of the workflow and giving clear direction on what to do next was easy to implement and vastly streamlined the “reactive” workflow.
Before Iteration
Original search results had two links - to the agency and the Officer ID. Users would often click the agency link and become confused, or reach this page and perceive it as a “dead end”
After Iteration
Simple fix - we removed the agency link and made the Officer ID link more prominent with an icon

Final Takeaway

Significant improvements can be gained with relatively low effort when the goals are clear and the people involved are motivated and available. The updated design performed much better, without adding significant time to the development budget or requiring new features to be built.We were also able to help prioritize and create concept designs for new feature work for future versions of the site (EX: comparisons between departments, social sharing, etc.)

Kudos to Caktus Group for the build, and to Forward Justice for leading such an important project!

NC Copwatch site link