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Jacob Chen

Alana Levene

Yongwen Dai


UX research

UX design


Time frame:

Sep--Dec, 2022


Women have the right to feel safe while traveling. While we can’t fix the world’s problems in one fell swoop, we can arm women with the information they need to make informed, data-driven decisions, and to feel more secure and confident in their travel planning . SafeZone is a new data layer we designed for Google Maps, which aims to empower women to making better safety decisions in choosing the next travel destinations. 

Google Maps Safe Zone

Safety on the mind, safety on the map



We improved the design by adding a score breakdown panel and official sources to elicit trust in users using the scoring system. For factors ("walking at night") that need more rounded opinions, we added a public review section where users can view more related personal experiences, and filter concerns based on which categories interest them the most. We also made UI changes for when a new district is added to the comparison list to increase visibility.


In the initial iteration, users found separating the public score and official score confusing. They also wonder whether the scores come from trustworthy sources. ​Users see the value in comparing scores between neighborhoods, but they want to be informed more explicitly when a neighborhood is added.​


Alleviate safety concerns when planning to travel

Gather information to arrive at risk assessment of traveling

We conducted task-based usability testings with 8 participants and have them think aloud, to understand the extent to which our interface is intuitive and understandable. This was followed by a survey that aimed at eliciting honest signals to evaluate how well SafeZone addressed our HMW questions and the impact it brought. 

  • People explicitly express a higher confidence level in using our new safety feature implemented in Google Maps to plan their trips.

  • People would recommend this to female travelers just as much, if not more, than other groups (e.g., male travelers in a group, solo male travelers, female travelers in a group)

  • People can tell the specific situations that they will choose to use this tool.

Iterative prototyping



Stage 5

Survey to determine the suitable types of content used in design

night-time travel

internet access


crime rate

numerical score

text-based content

We sent out the survey to 25 female participants who have solo traveled before, in order to identify the dimensions solo-traveling women look for when researching the safety information of a destination. Based on popular opinions, we decided to implement the following feature in our design:

User-validated needs:
New design opportunities 

Stage 4

Storyboarding & Speed-dating to align ideas with user needs in the early stage

Generate a degree of familiarity with the places traveling to in order to increase traveler's self-awareness

Introduce non-intrusive methods for users to measure safety

A safety scoring platform of cities and neighborhoods that allows users to submit and filter scores on various parameters

Leverage the platform users frequently use, e.g. Google tools

The team consolidated our crazy 8 ideas to be developed into storyboards, followed by a few speed-dating sessions with participants to validate the users’ needs we have identified so far. Speed-dating has helped us discover areas we have misunderstood about the users and new opportunities yet to be explored in the design phase:

Focusing on safety issues from female-perspective can be limiting

Heavily relying on family and friends to navigate around safety concerns is burdensome

Insight 2

Google maps is a common tool used in travel planning.

Female solo travelers pay a lot of attention to accommodation selection.

The most trustworthy information source is word of mouth, but popular opinions carry as much weight

Sufficient information is essential to help them make the decision for travel destinations.

Insight 1
Insight 4


Synthesis & Ideation

"Planning for safe accomodation always concern me--I want to live in a safe neighborhoods when traveling alone!"




Background research

Semi-structure interviews

Contextual inquiry

Directed storytelling


User journey map

Affinity diagramming


Speed Dating


Iterative design

Usability testing

Think aloud

Synthesis &​ Ideation

Design Process Highlights

“How might we help women feel confident that their travel plans meet their safety considerations?”

We have discovered that safety considerations are a driving force for women in selecting travel destinations. Female solo travelers lean on the adventurous side, but safety is a variable in every decision – from choosing a city, to selecting a hotel, or determining if it’s safe to go to a bar in a particular neighborhood at night. For female solo travelers in particular, the uncertainty of one's safety in a given place, and the lack of reliable and hyperlocal information, can often be a big barrier to exploration. And if they can't explore, this defeats the purpose of traveling.

"73% of women who travel solo worry about their personal safety"


Select cities or neighborhoods that you’re interested in. Open the list view to see how they compare.

Decision Making

Users can filter reviews by identity, preference, and other personal concerns. The flexibility to filter based on personal concerns supports inclusivity while helping people decide where to go before and during a trip.


SafeZone is a geographical representation of safety. It maps “safety scores” of cities and neighborhoods based on government published data and crowdsourced, user-submitted reviews.


A new safety layer on Google Maps


Stage 1

Background research to narrow down the problem scope

Our team looked on social media, travel websites, and research paper to source data on travel planning. After reframing some of the assumptions we have, we decided to focus on female (or female-representing) travelers due to the general vulnerability and opportunity emerged through this group.

Stage 2

Contextual inquiries to extract rich anecdotes

We began the synthesis process by clustering interpretation notes devised from contextual inquiries using the method of affinity diagramming. This process allows us to discover and create patterns among various findings, and group them by themes following a hierarchy from low to the highest level. Based on affinity clustering, we categorized users’ pain points and generated four main insights

Stage 3

Affinity clustering to derive insights

Insight 3
Insight 3
*View on desktop to see full case study*

Where does our product fit in the user journey

UI components


This project was a great learning experience working with my team. I learned to collaborate with people of diverse backgrounds, and adapt flexibility in the way I approach problems–through a non-linear research process to pick the most desired methodologies in order to better understand the users (the uncertainty model). One of the main design challenges was to validate or challenge our assumptions in order to identify the real user need. I have learned about useful techniques like using speed dating to gather valuable qualitative feedback, and demonstrated my strength in forming high-level insights that are valuable to conceiving design ideas grounded in a deep understanding of user needs.

Next Step:

SafeZone is a start to calling more attention to female travel safety, we understand that there's room for development. If we had more time, we would like to conduct more in-depth usability testing on how representative and valuable the five safety metrics we have chosen are. We would also like to consider factors that affect the feasibility of collecting accurate data, and how might we adjust for the different scenarios when data are being collected.




"If you see a lot of snippets [in a Google search], you see a lot of the information looks the same, you sort of know that there is some sort of consensus on it. You get a feel [for the safety] pretty quickly."

Our team conducted contextual inquiries via semi-structure interviews and directed storytelling with 8 women who have solo traveled before. Having our target audience to directly recall past experiences, including details and emotions related to the trips help us effectively and efficiently understand how solo female (or female-presenting) travelers:

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