Designing beyond a product launch

Facebook’s Safety Check has notified people that their families and friends are safe more than a BILLION times across the world — that means over a billion people have breathed a sigh of relief knowing their loved ones are OK after a crisis. That is huge real-world impact our product is creating and as a designer on the Safety Check team, I couldn’t be more proud of the empathy and care that goes into building this product.
A few months ago, I wrote a Medium post about how we designed the Community Help feature we recently added to Safety Check and went into detail about the design process that got this product ready for launch. Designing with empathy was really key here not only because we were designing a new feature from scratch but also because our product is related to crisis response — this means that the people who are using our product are usually doing so in really difficult crisis environments that are hard for us to envision and comprehend from a distance. So for me, the word ‘empathy’ in this context means having a deep understanding of who we’re designing for and in this post, I want to talk about how this process of building empathy doesn’t end when the product is launched. In fact, a big part of the product design process happens after the launch — when real people around the world start using our product and we use feedback from them to mould it and evolve it over time.
In my previous post, I wrote about the qualitative and quantitative methods we use at Facebook to build an understanding of our audience. These approaches work well not only in the pre-launch design phase where our goals are mostly about understanding user needs but also in the post-launch phase where our main goal is to learn what is and isn’t working well for people. Our qualitative methods include in-house UX studies at Facebook with people who have used Safety Check in the past as well as research trips across the world to visit communities that have been affected by various types of crises (Lima, Kumamoto, Chennai, Fort McMurray, Oakland, San Jose, and others this past year). On the quantitative side, our methods include things like in-product surveys and working with our data analysts to identify common patterns in usage data. Both these approaches work together like micro and macro lenses to help us get feedback and identify opportunities for improvement. The timeline for this research and analysis is ongoing and it happens over several months (if not years) after launching a product. This rolling process can yield amazing insights that turn into product enhancements over time. I want to give you 3 specific examples of how we enhanced our Safety Check product over the last few months based on learnings from these methodologies:

1. Giving people more control over what they’re sharing

Insight: Data showed us that after marking themselves safe using Safety Check, a lot of people were either commenting on their marked safe story or creating a new post to explain what happened and provide additional context about their experience during the crisis. We also heard from some people during UX research that simply marking themselves safe without providing any context was worrying to their loved ones who received the marked safe notifications. For example, when Brad (name changed) marked himself safe in Germany during a crisis last year, his mother received a notification and was really concerned because she thought her son was near the scene of the incident while in reality, he lived miles away from the incident and was safe. A quick text message and a status update later he was able to reassure his family and friends that he lived on the other side of town and was safe. What these qualitative and quantitative insights were really telling us was that people wanted more control over their safety status in order to reassure their loved ones and remove any uncertainty. 
Solution: Creating a mark safe flow instead of a one-click interaction. 
One of the biggest benefits of Safety Check is its light-weight nature — one click of a button and your friends and family know you’re ok. However, based on feedback from people, we realized that to give them more control over their safety status, a follow-up screen where they can add context about their situation after marking themselves safe would enhance this one-click experience and give people more control over the message they are sharing. The note that they type in gets added to the News Feed story that is generated when they mark themselves safe. On the other hand, if people select the ‘Doesn’t Apply To Me’ option, they can now select who they want to send a notification to amongst the friends who asked if they were safe. This change gives people more control over who they share their safety status with even if they are unaffected by the incident.

New flow to add context to your safety status

In this redesigned flow, we also reconsidered the two options for marking yourself safe and how they were presented. Previously, we had a bold green button to tell friends you’re safe and a secondary grey label to say you’re not in the area. We heard in research that both the imbalanced visual representation and the text in the buttons felt very limiting to users and the data reflected this. Changing the colors of the buttons helped the two options feel more balanced, whereas changing the language from ‘Not in the Area’ to ‘Doesn’t Apply To Me’ helped encapsulate a wider range of responses — it could mean people are physically not in the area or that they weren’t impacted by the incident in any way.

Old mark safe buttons on the left vs. redesigned actions on the right

2. Giving people more information

Insight: Another insight from research was that when people receive Safety Check notifications about their loved ones, they sometimes have limited knowledge about the crisis because they’re either located far away, haven’t checked the news yet, or are simply unaware of what’s happened. Even people who lived in the city affected by the crisis sometimes didn’t know what had happened because it was a smaller, localized incident like a building fire or a train accident. To them, not knowing what had happened caused confusion.
Solution: Creating an About page with descriptive information about the crisis.
The previous iteration of the ‘About’ section on Safety Check only had information about when the crisis had occurred and what areas were affected. However, based on the feedback we were getting, this was not enough context for people to know what had happened. To solve for this, we added a dedicated ‘About’ page that contains a description of the incident in addition to details like when the incident occurred and the areas that were affected. This information is provided by NC4, an independent global crisis reporting agency. By adding this context to the ‘About’ section on Safety Check, people coming into this experience with limited knowledge will now have access to information about the crisis, which helps mitigate confusion.

About page with a description of the incident

3. Giving the community more ways to support each other

Insight: Community Help is a feature where people can request or offer help with needs following a crisis like food, water, shelter, and transportation (you can read more about this feature here). Since it launched in February, it has been used in various crises all around the world like the flooding in Peru to the tornado in New Orleans. Across all these crises, we saw that there were a lot of people who were offering help. Even in our field research, we saw that there is an incredible sense of goodwill that follows most disasters. One of my favorite moments from our research trip to India was when one of the participants (a 52 year-old father of two young children) said, “We just knew we wanted to help. It didn’t matter what people needed, I was going to try and help them with it”. This sense of goodwill makes communities really come together to support each other and we want to create more pathways on Facebook for this to happen.

Solution: Integrating Facebook Fundraisers within Safety Check
Since Fundraisers first launched on Facebook last year, so many communities have come together to raise money for great causes. After the terrible attack in Manchester in May, people around the world donated to raise over $450k on Facebook to help this community. For people who are unable to provide on-the-ground support through Community Help, fundraising is a really impactful way to offer help during times of need and we saw this as an opportunity for us to enhance the Safety Check experience. So as a next step towards our goal of helping people recover from a crisis, we are introducing Fundraisers within Safety Check which means that people will be able to create or donate to a fundraiser for charitable and personal causes to help those in need from within the Safety Check experience. This feature will roll out in the upcoming weeks in the U.S. and I’m really excited to see the impact it can have.

Fundraisers within Safety Check

I’ll end with this…

The product design process continues well beyond the exciting launch moment of when a new product is first released. The three examples above show how we are continuously evolving and enhancing our products at Facebook. Empathy still plays an extremely important part in this iterative design process because it means you have to study how people are using what you built, understand their needs, and identify opportunities to improve. In my mind, a launch date is just the start date of the next iteration cycle. This is also my favorite part about product design — that it never ends. In my previous life as a designer at an agency, the part that I struggled with the most was that projects had fixed timelines and at the end of it, you hand off the product to the client and often never get to touch it again. The amazing part of iterative design cycles is that you get to sharpen and optimize your solutions over time to best fit the evolving needs of your users.
With Safety Check, we’re going to keep listening for feedback so that we can continue to build on our product and create tools to help communities stay safe, recover, and rebuild their lives.