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Technica 2018, the largest all-women hackathon was hosted at the University of Maryland, College Park in November 2018. Over the duration of 24 hours, women are immersed in tech culture and encouraged to exercise their imagination to create interesting and innovative hacks.

Team Members​​​

Jaina Gandhi

Janki Desai

Kausalya Ganesh

Tzu-Chia Yeh​

Sponsor Brief

Sponsor: Nextdoor, a private social networking app for neighborhood communities

Make a hack that brings people together and fosters connection within a community.

The Problem

Being forced to drive around until a spot opens up, trying to decipher a parking sign, not being entirely sure if the parking is free or paid, do any of these sound familiar?


Finding a good parking spot in any part of a city is a hassle, especially in areas where the parking lots are not visible on Google Maps.

Goal of Our Research
  • Bring the neighboring communities together

  • Improve communication of parking restrictions to motorists

  • Reduce the number of vehicles that get fined for bad parking

Tools & Methodologies
  • Contextual Interviews

  • Empathy Mapping

  • Visioning

  • Invision

  • Sketch

The Solution

We took a lean UX-driven approach to research, branding, and creating a high-fidelity prototype of Alto - crowdsourced community-driven app to help people understand parking restrictions in different parts of a city.

We took a lean UX-driven approach to research, brand and create a high-fidelity prototype of Alto - a crowdsourced community-driven app to help people understand parking restrictions in different parts of a city.​

User Analysis

A recent Gallup poll stated that “sending and receiving text messages is the most prevalent form of communication for American adults under 50”. Keeping this in mind, people in the age group of 18-50 years, who use text messages and social media to stay connected to the world are the target audience.


Only 5 percent of Facebook’s global user base is not accessing the platform via a mobile device 4. Therefore, the chatbot is integrated with the Facebook Messenger platform.


According to the British Psychological Society, people actively share their life through social media posts, especially if there’s an aspect of novelty to it. So it is safe to assume that a user’s first instinct upon spotting paranormal activity will be to take photos/videos to share with their social media network. By including JanineBot in this mix, users can start reporting incidents directly to the Real Ghostbusters.

In order to find the right problems to solve, it was important to understand people’s reaction to various scenarios. So I created an empathy map that captures the motivations of people who seek out the Real Ghostbusters.


Feature Analysis

Based on user analysis, the following solutions were created in JanineBot -

  1. Trigger the Emergency Response System by dialing 266 from their phone

  2. Schedule appointments with Ghostbusters to give a detailed account of an incident

  3. Report ghost sightings or a haunted house directly on the chat screen

  4. Learn tips & tricks for self-defense against entities


JanineBot serves the purpose of a secretary who can respond to incoming clients quickly and allow an immediate call-to-action. Clients see the ad for JanineBot on Facebook so by signing up from their profile, their public information is immediately available to the Real Ghostbusters, for emergency and accounting purposes.

The Emergency Response System 2-6-6 (BOO)

Clients call 2-6-6 (like the 911 system) to trigger an emergency response during a life-threatening situation. With the proliferation of VoIP and cell phone use, the 2-6-6 system adapts to evolving technology by recognizing when someone dials the emergency number on any phone.


The system also notifies the Real Ghostbusters ASAP to assist in the rescue mission.

Appointment with the Real Ghostbusters

If chatting with JanineBot can’t explain why the Rollerghoster is spinning too fast, or explain the disappearance of a relative, clients can book in-person or Skype consultations with the Real Ghostbusters directly from the chat screen. Since Facebook has details such as name, date of birth, phone number, location etc., getting an appointment is a simple one-click process.


Upon confirmation, JanineBot sends appointment details to the registered phone number of the client.

Report Paranormal Sightings

People have the tendency to record videos and click photos of the bizarre things they see. This feature helps them report bizarre, paranormal activities they notice on-the-go. Upload media and share the building name (or address) on the JanineBot chat screen.


The details are sent to the Real Ghostbusters immediately. Once reviewed, the details also get uploaded to the list of haunted areas in the city.

Tips & Tricks on JanineBot

Along with the list of the most haunted areas of the city, Janine & Slimer also curate important information about entities to share with clients. The list gets updated regularly and JanineBot users always have access to fresh content.


Clicking on a link takes users to an external website from the chat screen. Once they return to the chat, they will be greeted by a prompt to continue the conversation.

The Design Process

Conducted background research on the world of the Ghostbusters and created the empathy map based on episodes in seasons 1-5 of the Real Ghostbusters series. With those details in mind, I drew basic sketches to help with the storyboarding process.

Storyboarding Sketches

Low-Fidelity Prototype


In order to start building the chatbot, I designed a framework for it.


  1. The Bot Scope
    I limited the scope of conversation with this bot by including a set of options that the user can choose from. Ensuring that the user understands the scope of the bot felt imperative to the process of getting potential customers accustomed to conversing with JanineBot.


  2. The Chatbot Personality
    Janine Melnitz has a defined character. Using her persona in a conversation with the user would make the exchange less robotic.


  3. Content Spreadsheet
    To help create a brand, ensure consistency of spellings and grammar, and to keep information supplied by Janine and Slimer up to date, I created a content spreadsheet. As long as this document is updated regularly, a machine learning tool like Rasa or Dialogflow will be able to extract the data from the sheet and import it into the chatbot.

  4. Task Flow
    Laying out the tasks in the form of a flow chart helped me understand the scope of the conversation flow. Allowing people to work on it was useful to tweak the design for the high fidelity prototype.

User Testing

The in-class quantitative evaluation on JanineBot was very insightful.
Method: Usability Testing

Document: JanineBot Usability Analysis


The usability evaluation began with questions to determine if the participant was within the scope of the intended audience of JanineBot.

Interview Questions:

  1. Do you use Facebook Messenger?

  2. Do you have FB Messenger on your mobile device?

  3. How often do you check your mobile device in a day (~hours)?

  4. Do you always have your phone on you?

  5. Would you rather reach out to customer care representatives over text or call?



  1. Find the different activities that JanineBot can do

  2. Book an appointment with the Ghostbusters in early January

  3. Upload details of a paranormal sighting

Out of the five participants who tested the prototype, two had some difficulty with the process.


  1. All five participants were comfortable using a rule-based chatbot to communicate

  2. Some participants found the personality of JanineBot charming

  3. None of the participants were irked by the conversation

  4. One participant found it difficult to scroll horizontally to look for available appointments

  5. One participant was uncomfortable booking an appointment without seeing the price difference between a Skype and in-person appointment


Changes to the System:

In order to reduce apprehensions with booking appointments, JanineBot will be able to answer questions about appointment prices on the chat screen itself. For detailed information about the different kinds of services, the bot will provide a link to the Real Ghostbusters website.

End Result


Software Used:


Based on user observations, the task flow of JanineBot was refined. The feature that prompts users to enable location for emergencies was confusing for most of the participants.


Solution: Based on Jakob Nielsen’s principle of interaction design,  matching the system and the real world was an important step. The Emergency Response System (2-6-6) was implemented in the same way that users understand the 9-1-1 system.

Test the High-Fidelity Prototype: JanineBot on Botsociety

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