We believe everyone has the right to feel safe — in their city, in their home, and in their skin. During 2020’s Black Lives Matter movement, Griselda Viteri, a Big Human employee born and raised in an urban community, started to wonder what she could do to create something that made the world a better place, or at least one that was easier to live in.
As Viteri saw an increase of people curating and sharing Instagram posts with resources that served as alternatives to calling the police, she started to envision a larger, more encompassing wealth of information. About 80% of 911 calls don’t need police intervention, so she wanted to help people rethink emergency situations by asking: Is there another way to solve this problem?
As a company, we’re proud to say we agreed with and supported her vision. This led to the creation of Subdial, a mobile app that provides first-responder options for incidents involving mental health, domestic disturbances, non-urgent crimes, homelessness, and more. To give access to as many people as possible, we made sure the free app is available for download on both Android and iOS.
Research & Strategy
The first steps of this in-house project? Collecting contacts and vetting information. This included calling the hotlines and organizations we found on social media and across the internet.
While all of the information we gathered is public, the resources we contacted were excited to be included in the app and shared program details that weren’t readily available online. Some directed us to more people to call. We connected with more than 800 nationwide services, and most were found on Don’t Call the Police, a website that lists community-based alternatives to police.
After consolidating and vetting the services, we organized them into categories and updated their descriptions. For the 2020 election, we also included information on voter registration, absentee ballots, polling places, and more.
Since Subdial is an app that connects people to resources in their own neighborhoods, we wanted to emphasize togetherness when it came to the branding.
The app’s logo represents the community. People coming together completes the circle and makes it whole. If you remove one, then the system is out of sync. The organizations and services in Subdial are often non-profits and community-led, which reiterates the idea that we’re all in this together. We all share the responsibility of keeping each other safe.
The entire purpose of Subdial is to help people navigate their personal situations easily and more effectively, so we made sure users had exactly what they needed when they needed it.
Since Subdial would be used in specific circumstances, we chose a subdued color palette with straightforward iconography that wouldn’t distract or confuse. The app itself is minimal in design, and the landing page, a screen of every service category, is the first thing people see when they open the app. Resources are tailored geographically and tagged for particular situations, streamlining and simplifying the process of finding specialized services. Users can also search for organizations and bookmark them for future reference.
Given the nature of Subidal, we were very aware of the importance of respecting user privacy. Users can choose whether or not they want to share their location, and they can set Subdial for a zip code or an entire city.
Like all of our projects, we thought about the app in terms of accessibility. It’s easy to navigate and inclusive of all users. For emergency situations, we added an “I need help now” button that directs users to a list of national organizations and hotlines that are open 24 hours a day. We still encourage users to dial 911 when necessary, so that number is also included.
All aspects of Subdial were kept relatively straightforward, even on the development side. We built the app’s architecture from scratch and used the headless CMS Contentful to manage all of the content. This allows us to easily update all of the information in the app without pushing new builds to the App Store or Google Play.
Subdial has resources in all 50 states, and we're working on expanding to smaller cities.
We rely on user feedback to discover and understand who’s using Subdial, how they’ve found it useful, and what services they need the most. Our team updates Subdial so we can maintain its relevance and ensure all information is current and accurate.