My design process

I spent 20+ hours over four days on a little design excise solving a real world problem. Here’s my process and result.

What it is

A mobile app that matches prospective adopters to sheltered animals based on their lifestyles. The app is tailored for two types of users: the doer who sees an animal she likes, goes to the shelter immediately, fills out the application and takes the animal home; and the thinker who is thinking about adopting but lacks the final push to follow through.

The Problem

Millions of animals are currently in shelters and foster homes awaiting adoption.

The User and The Platform

When it comes to pet adoption, I live amongst 50/50 doers and thinkers. I decided to prioritize doers’ use cases since animal shelters rarely hold on to the animal long enough (usually from 5 days, 14 days, to 2 months) for thinkers to figure things out, then I wanted to facilitate personal connections between thinkers and the animal they are interested in to encourage thinkers to follow through with an action.

I chose mobile because the process does not require massive data entry from users. Interview results showed that prospective adopters are often overwhelmed with options when browsing on desktop, and I intended to narrow them.

Humans Involved

The user: prospective adopters
The provider: hosts of animals

What Assumptions Did I Make?

Aside from what users want, is there any misconception about the process that is misleading to them, which poses a risk to animals being reintroduced to a shelter?

Research Questions and Results

How does the current process work?

The doer browses online first, or goes directly to an animal shelter to see their options, picks the one that they made connections with then fill out the application to take the animal home.

The thinker browses casually until specific circumstance changes and pushes them through the process.

Regardless, the user needs to meet the animal in person to make a final decision. No appointment is required to visit the animal shelter, the animal of interest could be transferred or adopted before the visit.

How efficient is the current process and what’s the success rate?

“…more than 20% of people who leave dogs in shelters adopted them from a shelter.”

What are the main human factors that contribute to the problem?

“According to the American Humane Association, the most common reasons why people relinquish or give away their dogs is because their place of residence does not allow pets (29%), not enough time, divorce/death and behavior issues (10% each). The most common reasons for cats are that they were not allowed in the residence (21%) and allergies (11%).”

Is there any correlation between the animals’ breed, age, gender and their adoption rate?

“The size of a dog was important, with small dogs more likely to be adopted, and large dogs the least preferred. Not surprisingly, age was also a factor — puppies were more likely to be chosen. Pedigree dogs were also preferred over cross breeds. Behavioral characteristics were important too. Being friendly to children, friendly to other dogs, and friendly to other pets all led to higher rates of adoption.”

The reality?

  • While only about 25% of shelter dogs are purebred, certain breeds are more likely to end up in shelters due to overbreeding or behavioral issues.
  • 10 genetic disorders (42%) was significantly greater in purebred dogs.
  • About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners.
  • Older dogs and cats are usually house trained, know basic commands, and are much mellower than those young four-legged whippersnappers.

The Conclusion

Breed and age should be considered secondary to a match in lifestyle and environment. User’s expectation needs to meet reality.

User Story/Solution

As a prospective adopter, I want to browse animals profiles that match my lifestyle, favorite animals to keep track of their updates, and make an appointment to visit. The shelter will let me know before my visit if the animal is still available and make recommendations if it isn’t. I can send an animal profile to my friends or share it on social media if I wish.

Second Interface

The provider needs an interface to enter/update animals’ data, and to manage upcoming appointments.

Having an appointment holds the thinker psychologically accountable for the visit, therefore more inclined to follow through. It is important for the provider to confirm that the animal is available and is “waiting for you”.

Here we will only focus on the interface for the user.

So let’s get down to it

I always start on paper. Sketching out the sitemap helps me understand the scope of the product and figure out the logistics, so I can fill in the features and requirements.

Next I iterate wireframes to fill in the missing links.

I try not to get caught up on the visuals when I sketch but sometimes it’s fun to explore.

After I have a general sense of what the screens could look like I start cleaning up my sitemap and move it to hi-fi.

I debated at this stage whether I would require the user to sign up to use the app. After some research and competitive analysis (what are other pet matching websites doing and what’s the logic behind it?) I decided to support the doer to schedule an appointment without signing up since they are most likely committed to adopt if they follow through with the appointment. An email will be sent to them to confirm their appointment so they can track their past appointments if they don’t adopt immediately. If the user wishes to sign up later to access advanced features (favoriting/follow animals to receive updates), their past appointments would be visible to them if they signed up with the same email address that they used for the appointment. For thinkers I decided to support casual browsing and recommend they keep track of their favorites to receive updates, which would require them to create an account, with added benefit to be notified when new recommendations came up based on a combination of their lifestyle and their favorites.

I was aiming for mid-fi wireframes but I went a bit further. I spent some time sketching on paper different interaction models for matching lifestyles and filters. I had beats music’s set up process in mind but wasn’t sure it would be too playful for our targeted users. It is a big decision after all and we certainly don’t want them to take it too lightly. With a little more time I would like to explore the possibilities.

While designing the interface, I asked:

  • On average, how much time does an animal have before it’s adopted, transferred, or euthanized? (research showed variation)
  • On average, how much time does it take for users to make their decision?
  • Where’s the balance between a gentle push and a turn off for the user? (how much I should share with them the fate of the animals they are tracking?)

These are some of the areas I would like to test out with users. I would like to hear your thoughts.