The PuppySquad Experience

Author: Berkeley Vogelheim

Summer of 2016, five classmates and I set out on a massive project. We sough to create and revolutionize the world of dog meetups in one simple web application. Throughout the intensive five weeks, we learned about each other, the design process, and ultimately my experiences shaped the developer I am today.

Week 1: Logo Design and Our Identity

“It’s through mistakes that you actually can grow. You have to get bad in order to get good.”

Our newly formed super team quickly began to develop our identity and a fitting logo to represent our new brand. The task seemed simple, we all loved puppies (I mean who doesn’t), and we wanted a sleek logo that would catch the eye. However, this process of finding ourselves proved harder than we expected. We came up initially with a variety of sketches.

As we learned though, things are never that simple. We ended up after much deliberation completely changing directions for the logo and ended up with this.

This experience allowed us to really grow and develop as a group as we continued to explore ourselves and our identity.

Week 2: Need-finding:

“With each new step, we find ourselves deeper in creativity, and deeper in each other, and deeper in ourselves”

Week 2 we began to develop our product ideas, and as such we needed to go out, interview users, and find what they needed in a product. We each decided to interview various groups, from dog owners, dog lovers, adoption centers, pet businesses, and lonely people to figure out what each group needs out of a dog meetup website.

We found what we needed from our interviews. We realized we needed business and adoption integration, as it was invaluable to these sources that they be able to promote their events on our site. We needed quick and easy access to events, without any login or account creation needed. And we needed to create a variety of events that could easily be viewed, rsvped, and attended by our user base. This needfinding process allowed our group to continue to grow and develop our product ideas, and our identity as a team.

Week 3: Personas and Story-Boarding:

“As we strive to accomplish a well-designed, user friendly experience and product, we always have to be ready to read, react, and change both our product and ourselves.”

With our new information in hand, we as a team began to create our user stories and personas as to how our site and product would operate. We used some of the following personas, generated from our experience in needfinding, to better enlighten ourselves on the task ahead.

Using these personas, we developed some storyboards to go along with the user stories we wanted our product to handle.

Creating these personas off of our needfinding, and using them to generate story-boards really allowed our team to stretch our creativity around the core of our product. We knew we wanted a dog meetup site, but this process allowed us to critically think about the situations and lives our users would be experiencing. This really allowed us to understand how our website needed to behave and react to our user’s situations.

Week 4: Prototype:

We understood what how we needed our website to function, now we needed to draw out how it would look. This required a two step process of team group thinking, and parallel design that would allow us to stretch our creative minds as individuals.

“The expediency and impromptu nature of picking up a pencil and letting ideas flow onto paper can be both powerful and compelling” -Baskinger

We knew what we needed for our initial prototype. A simple sleek event viewing page, an intuitive event creating page, and a solid header and navbar to bring it all together. After collaborating our design ideas, we came up with our initial low-fidelity prototype. Creating our prototype, we used a few tools. First of all we used heuristic analysis to delve into any potential problems and issues that our design might violate. Secondly, we tested our various models with potential users and gathered their feedback. Using these two methods, we eventually created our design.

We all agreed that this basic design was the correct choice for what we wanted our user’s to experience. Although we continues to test and make the tweeks we needed along the way, we stuck with this original design throughout our process.

Week 5: Implementation and Final Design:

“To truly see the fruit of our visions, we need to experience the design…”

Finally our largest mountain stood before us. We had to turn our ideas and design into a working functional product. We began developing our website using team programming from html and css. Working side by side allowed us to really catch any issues and stay on one coherent task throughout the process. In a way, programming together with day to day updates allowed us to create many iterations of things like our navbar, footer, and color scheme.

Eventually, this….

developed into this…

Iteration after iteration of pair programming and group discussion allowed our final design to really become a masterpiece that we were all proud of. Eventually, we began the initial stages of our back end implementation that would allow our website to eventually become relatively fully functional. After continuing to refine our design decisions through user testing and analysis we arrived at our final product.

Although we had to make some sacrifices, overall we were delighted with our final product. And our users agreed. Our sleek, simple design allowed for easy event viewing, simple event creating, and an easy to navigate and intuitive profile creation and profile page.

Conclusion:

My team and I learned a ton throughout our month together. We worked together through long hours and tough design decisions to create a product we are all proud to put our name on. PuppySquad became more than a team name and a product, it became our identity.

Here you can view our final product, presentation, and github link to our finished version:

Github

Presentation

Thanks for reading!

-Berkeley Vogelheim

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