Mission Impawsible — a tail of designing a cat tracking app from scratch

It was now time for Project number four, this time we were allowed to choose a brand and design a brand new feature or vertical for the brand of our choice on any platform we’d like. Sometimes it’s actually easier to get started if you’re given some limitations to work within. Being able to choose whatever we’d like seemed like a great opportunity at first but actually pinpointing any type of potential problem we’d like to solve actually felt more limiting than anything else. In order to come up with a problem me and my fellow team members were simply discussing what we had done over the weekend, as another team member mentioned that she went to play with some community cats in her area we started discussing the topic in more detail. I recalled some anecdotes about a cat that lives at my bus stop, this specific cat seems to get fed too much which led to a discussion on how people coordinate their feeding efforts to community cats. Hearing more about community cats from the two locals in my group I realized that these cats have a profound place in the hearts and lives of Singaporeans.

As we discussed feeding coordination and the welfare of Singapore’s community cats we discovered that there is no digital platform available for cat enthusiasts to share information about cats in their area and their welfare. The opportunity to solve a real problem relating to something as delightful as cats seemed to entice every member in our group and we quickly decided that we should design and prototype a digital platform for the Cat Welfare Society in Singapore where users can share updates and information about community cats in their vicinity.

Before conducting any research we drafted an initial problem statement and a loose idea of what we wanted to accomplish:

We started our research by looking at the brand we had chosen, in this case the Cat Welfare Society of Singapore in order to understand their current mission and goals.

We looked at previous attempts of solving their business goals through digital platforms, mainly their adoption of the OneMap tool in order to track cats from crowdsourced data back in 2013. However this attempt was short lived as there were no marketing or serious efforts to attract and retain the users providing the data.

When OneMap was launched in 2013, the Cat Welfare Society’s President explained how a digital platform would help them in their mission of promoting cat welfare across Singapore.

We also looked at recent news stories about community cats in the media and based on the amount of news articles we could conclude that cat welfare is a serious topic in Singapore.

Our next step was to discuss community cats with potential users of our design. We made a screener survey which was posted across social media. The purpose of our survey was first to provide us with some data regarding cat related behaviour as well as identifying individuals who would be suitable for us to interview. Our survey garnered 87 responses, enough for us to see some clear trends in how people interact with and think of community cats. What I found especially useful with the survey was the free response form sections where we were able to hear some interesting and useful thoughts about the cats.

From the survey we were able to see that most people recognize individual community cats in their area. Out of the people who have interacted with cats, over 80% have interacted with community cats. The manner they interact with the cats is usually by observing or petting. Our respondents were feeding the cats much less than we expected but taking photos was more popular than we had predicted. Creating and sharing cat related media was another popular activity that surprised us.

Following our survey we contacted a number of participants who mentioned that they were happy to speak with us. We ended up scheduling 7 interviews that were conducted both in person or via phone/Skype.

After our interviews we went back to our initial problem statement and amended it in order to reflect our interview findings.

By this point we had all the data we needed in order to conclude the research phase. We used our findings in order to come up with Personas and User Journeys.

The two personas represented two different types of persons we encountered during the interviews. Steven represents the busy working person who for some reason can’t own a cat but often visits cats in his area to destress and relax during the week. Cathy represents someone who is more of an activist and promoter of cat welfare in the society. They are both very passionate about cats but have different motivations behind their actions.

With the personas we were able to come up with 3 different User Journeys and identify different features that would be needed throughout the journeys.

The user journeys provided a great tool in order for us to assess what our application needed to accomplish. We had a basic idea of the functions we needed so in order to proceed with the design process we conducted technical background research to assess what platform would be the most appropriate for what we wanted to build.

In order to conduct our technical background research we consulted with a pair of developers, we briefly explained the features that would be needed and why they were important. They helped us understand the technical limitations and how feasible it would be to build these features.

At this point we had a good idea of what we wanted to built and what we needed the features to accomplish. As a part of our process we started looking at some competitors or similar apps that are available in the App Store.

Petfie had several of the features that we were looking at prototyping, however its focus was not specifically on community cats and we found the app quite difficult to use.

We also looked at some other apps that were used for reporting animal related information to organizations

In order to assess the features of these applications we created flow charts so we could analyse the effort and efficiency of completing crucial tasks.

At this point we wanted to move towards designing our prototype. However we needed to know what we needed to focus on first. In order to decide on what we needed to start prototyping we prioritized our features and came up with our MVP and roadmap for development.

In order to prioritize the features we plotted the features first based in difficulty of implementation, this was based on our earlier consulting with the developers. We also plotted the features according to importance ranging from “must have” to “nice to have”, this gave us a good idea of where to start prototyping. We split this section in two parts, one containing the main features and another one containing the features accessible from the Cat Profile page.

Based on our prioritization we were able to come up with our MVP containing the essential features as well as a roadmap for the implementation of the rest of the features.

Now we were almost ready to start prototyping. But, we needed to make sure we knew what our prototype was supposed to prototype.

Now we were truly ready to start prototyping. To test the most basic features we started by prototyping and testing on paper.

In order to analyze how the task was completed we also did a user flow of on the process.

As the basic tasks seemed feasible through the user testing on paper we felt comfortable enough to move onto a medium fidelity version.

When we had a working medium fidelity prototype we quickly started changing the medium fidelity assets to high fidelity assets. During this process I was tasked with creating the UI elements, something I’ve had very limited experience with previously. Although I was inexperienced in this area it turned out quite okay. Next time I’m tasked with this type of work I’ll probably spend more time reading up on the Human Interface Guidelines prior to prototyping.

We tested this version of the prototype with users, noticing a great improvement in the time to complete the task thanks to the fidelity and UI elements.

In order to asses the new feature we also made a flow chart in order to measure how the task was finished.

Through the process of prototyping and testing we made several iterations based on the feedback we received. Redoing some of the UI work was a highly tedious task, but seeing the improved experience as the iterated version was tested made all the work worthwhile.

Before concluding our project we looked at what the next steps would be, following the roadmap we previously established.

It would’ve been great to be able to continue with this project in order to prototype some of the other features we had decided to include in our application. However it was just a 2 week project so this was the time to say goodbye to our cat project. In previous projects I have felt that my strengths have lied in the research part of the project, therefore it felt extra good to be able to make some strong contributions in the UI aspects of this project. During the next project I’ll definitely step up to the occasion in case there are some big UI design challenges!

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