The importance of UX for investigation software

Thomas Drohan
Thomas Drohan - Chief Commercial Officer
Mar 20, 2018
Effective UX makes technology simpler, faster and more intuitive – and ultimately, more useful. When it comes to investigation software, this can mean the difference between catching a criminal or not.

A decade ago, navigating new cities was a very different experience.

You’d require a map, and perhaps a rudimentary understanding of the local language to read street signs and ask for directions.

Today, the process is almost unrecognisable. You open your phone’s map app, type in your target location and the most efficient route is plotted for you, whether you’re driving, walking, cycling or using public transport.

Alongside the emergence of the smartphone, the difference in the way we navigate in 2018 and the way we did 2008 is down to UX (User Experience) design by skilled developers.

Effective UX makes technology simpler, faster and more intuitive – and ultimately, more useful. When it comes to investigation software, this can mean the difference between catching a criminal or not.

For too many investigation programs, however, UX is an afterthought.

Clue is different. Here’s why.

Case complexity

Today, crime is increasingly complex to investigate and solve. Modern technology brings with it reams and reams of data, much of it useful to investigations, but also hugely difficult to control and manipulate. Where investigators once had 10 lines of inquiry, now they have thousands to get to grips with. Data is either too large to process correctly, or too dispersed to investigate.

This complexity is compounded by the fact that most investigation software systems were developed to support older investigative models – not the digital-first types required today.

In many cases, the programs themselves are digitised versions of paper-based workflows and libraries, or clunky spreadsheets without useable search functionality.

The result? Investigation teams are forced to work more slowly than necessary because of shortfalls in software design.

Everyday experiences

This is made more frustrating by the disparity between the UX offered by most investigation programs and those we use every day on our smartphones, tablets and desktop computers.

2 billion of us log in to Facebook each day. Nearly 150 billion apps were downloaded in 2016, courtesy of a marketplace that’s expected to be worth $188.9 billion in 2020. Today, software is a key interface for how we use technology, and technology is increasingly the medium through which we experience our environment.


App happy: Software is a key interface for how we use technology

Design features (or failures) that disrupt our ability to smoothly, simply and efficiently engage with technology are therefore a big problem – with 90% of users choosing to abandon apps that offer poor performance.

An effective user experience, on the other hand, does three things.

  1. They make complex operations faster and simpler to complete. Strava makes tracking a run or ride easy, thereby encouraging the user to improve their performance. Google Translate makes reading foreign languages effortless. Duolingo turns language-learning into a game.
  2. They encourage us to adopt the software into everyday life. Users translate 100 billion words every day using Google. Strava tracked more than 136 million runs by users in 2017. Users spend an average 10 minutes per day learning to read, write and speak with Duolingo.
  3. They encourage us to form new habits. These habits can be quickly undone by bad design, however – as Snapchat found, when a UX update prompted a million-strong petition to restore the previous design, wiping $1 billion off the company’s value.

The evidence is clear. Successful UX design should ‘fit’ users’ existing way of working, and can have a profound impact on the potential value users can gain from the software.

Clue, too

Balancing simplicity and functionality is the core principle of effective UX design.

This is exactly how our team think about Clue software, which makes powerful search and record-keeping functionality accessible via a clear, intuitive interface. In fact, using Clue is simple enough that most of the businesses we work with spend just 60 minutes training their staff to build the software into their intelligence, investigation and case work.

What does this UX design look like in practice?

  • One repository for all types of data. Teams can store and search through multiple types of evidence, including mobile phone data, bank statements or incident reports. Each record is classified according to custom fields chosen by the user.
  • Easily access and link multiple records. Teams can build cases quickly, with all relevant information in one place. Decisions, notes, tasks and actions can all be accessed via relevant records.
  • Accessible via multiple devices. Clue is designed for use on the move, allowing users to upload and download information wherever, whenever.
  • Powerful search functionality. Users can find data and build connections quickly, spotting links in cases they might otherwise have missed.
  • Integration with other software. Our secure API allows Clue to download and interact with other software systems and data. This includes Excel – to which Clue can export data – and email clients, for which Clue can provide mail merge services.
  • Full personalisation. Users can store records according to custom classifications, search according to bespoke filters, and adapt their Clue homepage and dashboard to show the most relevant data for them.
  • Workflow automation. Users can further adapt Clue by building timesaving workflows into the software – for example, to escalate cases, notify team members about new tasks and send emails when records are amended.

This list covers only a handful of the design innovation made by our development team. As digital technology develops, so do our expectations around user experience. That’s why our software is also updated every quarter – with our last update offering 500 changes, more than 50% of which were suggested by Clue clients.

As digital technology becomes ever more central to our lives, so tracking and understanding crime becomes more complex. Clue is therefore designed to offer simplicity and functionality that other investigation software cannot match.

The result? Smoother, more thorough investigations and cases closed more quickly.

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