Usability Study on


Over the course of the past ten weeks, we conducted a task-based usability study of the CrimeReports web application.



What is

CrimeReports is one part of the PublicEngines cloud-based solutions product package. The overarching goals of the application are to help the user increase community engagement, supply actionable intelligence, and interact with local law enforcement while minimizing violence and providing critical intervention when needed. Students could use this tool to locate information that can help them in their everyday lives. 




About the Project

With this usability test, our team analyzed the effectiveness of the current web based platform for retrieving crime data, identified potential design problems within the application, and determined the level of difficulty for users to perform individual tasks. We met these goals by observing and collecting data on four to eight participants during a usability study.




  1. Discover common usability problems
  2. Identify areas of the website that require higher levels of focus
  3. Discover where users have apprehension of filling out required information





We conducted our study on four participants who had no prior knowledge of using the CrimeReports application. As they progressed through six task-based scenarios, we recorded their actions via screen capture software and observational note taking.

The data collected focused on the tasks performed, success rates, error rates, and time on task. In addition, we also had the participants think aloud during the entire process to record their expressions and subjective satisfaction. To round out our data, we also had the participants fill out pre-test, post-task, and post-test (System Usability Scale) questionnaires. 




Small, formative, lab-based usability test

  • Defined user profile
  • Created task-based scenarios
  • Encouraged think-aloud process
  • Participant cognitive walk-through


  • Task success rate
  • Pre/Post task, SUS


  • Think aloud data
  • Facial expressions






"Results were laid out using basic map functions I'm most accustomed to."



We found that all four participants were comfortable using a map-based website when progressing through the tasks. The use of the map provided users with functions and capabilities that they were already accustomed to, which provided an overall positive user experience.



"It was very clear where the crimes I was in took place."



"What do the different icons mean?"


Some of the problems with the website revolved around comprehension and ambiguity. Users encountered confusion when attempting to filter their search results by crime type, sign up for local crime notifications, and when trying to use the website to report a crime. Participants had trouble initially understanding what the icons on the screen meant and found the advanced search feature to be unclear in describing the meaning and reasons for certain options.

"I don't understand why quality of life is on there, that's not a crime."





"I'm not sure that create alert is the right thing to do."

When attempting to sign up for notifications and report a crime, participants were unsure that “create an alert” was the correct option to receive local crime notifications and they were hesitant to use the “submit a tip” button, not realizing that it was the correct option for reporting a crime.






SUS Rating

All four participants did give the website a high SUS rating, roughly equating to an A-. Our results from the study indicated that the users found the site relatively easy to use, with only minor improvements needed to create a positive user experience. The discovery of these problems and frustrations with the CrimeReports website helped to influence our recommendations for improvement.








  • Include more detail in the advanced search options, giving the user a better understanding of each selection
  • Add a “legend” to the home screen, allowing the user to select and understand what each icon means
  • Reduce ambiguity by changing “submit a tip” to “report a crime”
  • Reduce confusion by adding a prominent option for engaging with the community and signing up to receive notifications



Fixing these basic design and layout issues will greatly increase the usability of the website, providing users with better opportunities to engage with the community. These recommendations will allow CrimeReports to accomplish their goals of providing an experience that creates true community engagement and empowerment while supplying actionable intelligence to the community. 




Usability Report


Team - Ron Piell, Alan Qiu, Sam Zhao, Gary Zhou