Program for Torture Victims

The Program for Torture Victims (PTV) is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that rebuilds the lives of immigrant survivors of torture and persecution from over 70 countries who have stood up for freedom, democracy, and human dignity.

Collaborating with the nonprofit PTV, The Program for Torture Victims mobile application caters towards asylum-seekers and refugees, assisting them in integrating with their host society. The team at LA Blueprint designed and developed a mobile application to assist asylum-seekers, as well as a web console for PTV staff and administrators to use.

my role + tools

User research Product design

The team

Vivian Nguyen Yinyin Wen




California is the asylum capital of the Americas. Every year, more than 75,000 human rights activists, war survivors, ethnic and religious minorities, gang/cartel victims, LGBT survivors, and other displaced immigrants flee violence in their home countries to resettle in California. These refugees uproot their lives and disrupt community and family ties to seek freedom and safety. Many arrive penniless having spent their life savings on a perilous journey to get to the US. Many are broken mentally and physically but aren’t eligible for health coverage or other benefits. Many refugees struggle with a new language, the challenges of a new country, and the bureaucracy of its systems.


Although there are several applications such as the WIN app from Our Children LA and Immigrant Guide, we found that they were difficult to navigate design-wise. Therefore, when designing PTV mobile application, we took into account accessibility and contrast levels, especially as our audience would come from a wide spectrum of demographics.


With technology becoming the bridge between humanity and social services, we collaborated with the nonprofit Program for Torture Victims to design and develop a mobile application that would help refugees and asylum-seekers find resources that would help them navigate a country they are still getting used to. We also have a goal to create a backend web console so that resources and features can be updated consistently throughout the years, or long-term.

How can we create an accessible, virtual haven for asylum-seekers and refugees to easily find resources in integrating themselves in their host community, as well as communicate with others in similar situations?


Communication with PTV

Throughout the duration of the project, our project lead constantly communicated with PTV to see which features they wanted to be included in the mobile application and web console, informing the team of changes and additions.


PTV wanted to see:

  • An Android/iOS mobile app with accompanying web console.

The mobile app is the main product. The app centralizes three components:

  • A resource listings
  • A communication channel via a forum
  • An event board

The app will be used primarily by the clients of PTV in order to find resources, create posts on the forum, comment on posts on the forum, and see upcoming events.

The web console will be used exclusively by PTV staff and volunteers and will be available at a web URL. The web console contains all the features of the mobile app, but because it is used by PTV staff and volunteers, it gives greater control over the app. Resources can be created, updated and deleted; forum posts can be approved; the event board can be updated.

Literature Reviews

We conducted a literature review in lieu of first-hand user interviews with PTV's user base in order to understand the context in which refugees arrive into their host communities. References include scholarly articles on best practices, ethnographic studies, and interviews with refugees.

These findings have been synthesized to develop a persona representing PTV's user base (refugees).

Three key issues in designing technology for refugees:

  1. Access to services (health, education, employment)
  2. Integration into host communities
  3. Journeying to safety


This application’s features compare to the WIN app and Immigrant Guide, however, it would also include a forum where users can talk to each other, and an events calendar where refugees and asylum-seekers can learn more about Program for Torture Victims and their events and programs directly.


  • Onboarding — How do you use the application? What are you looking for?
  • Resources — View resources in multi-level categories
  • Forum — Answer each other’s questions, have discussions, share knowledge and information
  • Events — View Program for Torture Victims’ events and associated events
  • Profile — Higher level of anonymity as it is not a social media application, can choose from avatars


Yinyin and I created low-fidelity wireframes to lay out our features prior to creating high-fidelity prototypes.

Mobile application: Forum
Mobile application: Resources
Web console: Dashboard, forum backend

Usability Testing

We administered usability testing for the web console through Google Forms and recorded using OBS (open broadcasting software). Qualitative analysis using an affinity wall was carried out on Notion using Kanban boards.

Google Form that was used to test the web console
Preview of the Notion page used to gather qualitative testing results for the web console.
Notion page used to gather qualitative testing results


Through our process, we were able to come up with the Program for Torture Victims mobile application and supporting web console that controls the back-end.


Working with Program for Torture Victims opened my eyes to the world of user experience design and research. We realized that designing the console for administrative use was much more difficult than designing the app itself, and required much more features that needed testing from our stakeholders and potential users. The entire back-end portal had features to moderate content, which the front-facing application was much more simple, for our primary target audience of asylum seekers. Looking back as this was one of my first projects in user experience design, there was a lot that could've been improved in the research side. We could have done more usability testing for the mobile app itself, find and interview more potential users, or conduct research through surveys. However, it was still a valuable experience, and Program for Torture Victims were immensely pleased with our application.