UX Design — Mobile App

The Brief

Overpopulation has been an ongoing problem in local shelters. There are too many animals, and not enough homes for them. Shelters are overcrowded, and adoption helps by freeing up precious space for other animals. There is often a misconception that animals end up in shelters because there is something wrong with them. The fact is, the most common reason that animals are surrendered is due largely to the changing circumstances of their family: a divorce, move, new baby, or misinformation on the responsibilities of dog ownership.

The current options for finding a pet are limited and impersonal. While there are websites that allow users to search an adoption database, the usability is often lacking. On the mobile app front, the issue is similar and often times they lack the education component.

Our team was tasked with creating a mobile app that makes pet adoption easier and more personal.

The Team

This is the team, we decided to get into character. While we all worked equally on the project, there were certain areas that we specialized in. Throughout the project, we committed to taking the design studio approach. We brought together our individual ideas, discussed our thinking, and provided feedback to each other. Our final product is a truly collaborative initiative.

We used an affinity diagram to make sense of our user and domain research

The Research

We started our exploration by conducting research on the current conditions of the industry. This step helped us to formulate questions that were relevant to somebody who was considering getting a pet, possibly through an adoption shelter. We conducted user interviews with a variety of people including pet owners who purchased from breeders, pet owners who adopted from shelters, and shelter volunteers. We also conducted a survey that was deployed on our social media networks that garnered 65 unique responses.

Key insights:

  • According to the American Humane Association (AHA), in an interview of 572 participants 42% of animals were returned to the shelter 6 months after adoption
  • Most pets end up in shelters because of changes in their family’s circumstances, including: divorce, a move, mismatch of personalities, or misinformation on the responsibilities of dog ownership
  • The shelters/rescue centres all have different adoption processes
  • According to our survey, the most important characteristics in selecting a dog were breed, personality, and adaptability

The Competition

To help us identify a gap where PawSeekr could fit in the current pet adoption mobile app market, we assessed the functionalities of Barkbuddy, WoofRescue, and AllPaws. The specificity of the search filters varied between the apps, but they all had a few pain points in common:

Lack of education — The existing apps that we looked at were purely a search tool. The user had to go elsewhere to learn about pet ownership and care. Here the opportunity for us is to provide just-in-time education on the breed, temperament and medical needs. With better education we can mitigate adopted pets being returned to their shelters.

Lacking personalization — All the apps we looked at had a filtering function, but none of them provided a personal matching system. The user still had to sift through the results and determine for themselves which animal was right for them. We can come in and create a system that matches human characteristics to those of pets, and perhaps match them to ones that might otherwise have been dismissed.

Generic — The descriptions of the animals were uninspiring and non-specific. This is an chance for us to create an emotional connection and tell a story from the point of view of the animals

Communications is not tailored to the individual — The experience is impersonal and restricted. There is the opportunity to create greater shelter-to-adoptee interaction throughout the process.

The User

Customer journey of a prospective adoptee

To understand what our customers are feeling throughout the pet adoption process, we explored the customer journey as shown above. This follows the user through the traditional pet adoption process without the assistance of a mobile app. Overall, the experience is a positive one, but there are major pain points when it comes to filling out forms for the application.

We compiled all our research, user interviews, and surveys and created primary and secondary personas.

Primary Persona


  • Wants to adopt a dog for companionship and somebody who complements her lifestyle
  • Wants to be educated on dog ownership and characteristics before adopting


  • The current apps are impersonal and provides very general information
  • There isn’t one source that aggregates all the information I’m looking for
  • Every shelter requires a different application process

Secondary Persona


  • Wants to connect the right dog to the right owner
  • Wants to provide better education and realistic expectations to potential adoptees
  • Wants to work together with other shelters to make adoption easier


  • It’s upsetting when a dog is returned to the shelter
  • There is a lack of education and support within the community

A Day In the Life…

Before diving deeper into the features of our app, we created storyboards to help us better express the functional requirements. This helped us to visualize our users as real people who need to perform real tasks.

The Features

Early on in the process, we identified many opportunities and gaps where our product could fill. But, it wasn’t long before we felt in over our heads on how we could incorporate all the features we felt were necessary into one app. By developing a feature prioritization list, we were able to weed out the features that were not completely crucial to creating a minimum viable product. Once we had an agreed upon set of features, we developed a flow of how our users were going to interact with these features in our app.

We split up our feature list into “must haves”, “nice to haves”, and “not needed”

The Design

To develop one cohesive vision of how PawSeekr was going to look, we individually created wireframes. We then brought them together and discussed which elements we could incorporate into the final product to create a cohesive flow.

Our first paper prototypes
Our prototypes from paper to hi-fideltiy

We conducted user testing on our first set of paper prototypes and discovered that our users didn’t like an onboarding or tutorial feature. They also didn’t feel a need to be able to prioritize search parameters as there were only three categories and the gesture to perform this action was unfamiliar. User testing also helped us uncover an additional screen state that we did not consider. This screen was a booking confirmation page that also provided the user with the shelter’s address and contact information.

Our Brand

We developed brand guidelines for PawSeekr to establish our tone of voice and brand look/feel. You can view our brand guidelines on Invision.

The Prototype

Our final product was an interactive experience that allowed the user to book a meet and greet. The app will generate a list of potential pets based on your compatibility. It also provides information about breed, care, temperament, and health history to ensure the adoptee always knows what to expect. With the app, somebody who is looking to adopt can fill out one pre-screening form for all shelters. Experience the live prototype below.

The Recap

PawSeekr was aimed at solving the problems of what currently exists in the pet adoption app market. We accomplished our goals by creating an app that included the following:

  • A pet adoption search engine
  • A lifestyle and pet personality pairing guru
  • A personalized messaging system
  • A palatable educational resource
  • A single application process

Further Considerations

  • User testing, user testing and more user testing
  • Consider introducing the search function later on in the process
  • Incorporate more interactive educational modules
  • Explore the secondary persona’s user flow (i.e show how shelters would post a pet profile to the app)
  • Consider a community forum function to encourage users to keep using the app post adoption
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