A Dog Adoption App
An on-going project
User Experience Design, User Interface Design
User Research, Prototyping
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Each year about 100,000 dogs are put down in Israel, mostly just because no one adopted them. Many organizations are doing their best, but for lack of resources and a good platform to promote their dogs, they can’t get enough exposure. The challenge, therefore, was to create an app that will function as a database for all those dogs, so people who are interested in adopting will have easy access to view their options.
I met Bar Larom, an Android developer, when I was dogsitting his sweet dogs, who were both saved from the kill-list. He was the one who came up with the idea to create this app, and already had initial wireframes and a functioning prototype. As the issue is very close to my heart, I offered to help with the UI/UX aspect of the project.
Test with shelters and adopters
Since I’m the only designer on the team and we don’t have much constrains about time, I relish the liberty to iterate back and forth between the phases. In order to tell the case study in a coherent way, I’ve arranged my work according to the phases and not according to the chronological order they happened.
Phase 1: Empathize
Diving into an ongoing project, my goal for this stage was to understand the challenge I'm facing: who are my users and what are their needs and pain points, meaning I had to conduct in-depth research of the problem and the market.
First, I wanted to know what’s out there, so I decided to conduct a competitive analysis. Obviously, I had to make sure we’re not about to create something unnecessary, but I was also interested to gain insights as to how others dealt with the challenge and to learn from their choices, whether they’re successful or not. I analyzed a total of 8 apps, direct and indirect competitors.
Those are four of the apps I analyzed
My analysis’ takeaway is that the current solutions on the market are not providing a satisfying solution. They are not generating a market big enough, which leads to an insufficient variety of dogs. Furthermore, in most of them, some poor UI/UX choices were made.
The users’ biggest frustrations with those apps led me to the following conclusions:
The filtering feature is very important to users; many times they’re looking for a dog with a few specific characteristics, and half the apps are not allowing these multiple queries.
Many of the apps are full of empty users’ and pets’ profiles, due to faulty design of the registration process- for example, asking open-ended questions. To avoid the frustration created by those empty profiles, I need to design the sign-up in a way that guides the user and makes it an easy and quick process.
The users are frustrated to find there are no pets in their area after downloading and registering. To avoid that we need to show value in the app store or at least before the registration.
This is a features' comparison between the six most relevant apps I analyzed.
Even though we were still in early stages, it was clear to me we had to make a decision: whether or not to allow private users to add dogs to the database. There are too many terrible stories about dogs who ended up in a bad place, or back at a shelter. The industry of pure breed dogs causes people to buy a dog and then they breed more, and sometimes those dogs end up in shelters because of the health issues pure dogs suffer from, when there are so many homeless dogs out there for free. We also wanted to avoid users’ taking advantage of the platform to make a profit. With those risks in mind, we decided that at least until with have a stable product we won’t allow it, and only verified organizations will have access to the add function. They are cautious about the adopters, make sure the dog is not gonna find himself on the street once again, that he gets all necessary vaccinations and castration, not to mention they don’t profit from it.
With that in mind, from now on I continued my research knowing I have two different types of users: the Adopter user and the Shelter user, so, later on, I could define each ones’ needs separately. I defined my questions, to clarify what I needed to learn more about:
Adopter User Questions
What are the motives of adopters while looking for a dog?
How will an adopter react when he finds out a dog is about to be put down?
What are the pain points of the current adoption process from the adopters’ side?
Shelter User Questions
What should be the app’s main goal for the shelter? To increase requests?
Which information the do shelters require from adopters? (screening process)
What would be a deal breaker that would cause the shelter to reject an adopter?
What are the pain points of the current adoption process from the shelters’ side?
How do the shelters keep track and promote their dogs currently?
We contacted a shelter, hoping they will help us understand better their needs, and how the app could help them. This specific organization is made only of volunteers, they have no website, nor any system to manage and promote their dogs. They post the dogs on their Facebook page and manage the dogs in a Whatsapp group chat. At that point, it was obvious we can make a huge difference for them, but unfortunately, as much as they were excited to hear about our doing, they didn’t have the time to cooperate with us further. We understood we must first create a functioning app to demonstrate the possibilities and how proof of value.
User interviews and Card-sorting
I decided to conduct user interviews so I would achieve a better understanding of how the app should function for the adopters. I reached out and found 10 volunteers who are originally from Israel, have adopted their dog there and moved with it to Berlin. In order to let them help me determine what's important to adopters, I prepared cards and asked the interviewees to arrange them according to their priorities. I recorded the interviews and am currently processing them.
Phase 2: Define
At this stage, I had to make sense of all the information I gathered and define my users’ needs. The following table details each user’s basic needs:
Another question arose; should we force users to sign up? I had in mind that it is crucial for the app, but research shows that forcing registration can be a barrier that may cause users to drop the app when boarding, so it is an important issue to consider. Is the signup a must for the app? Is no signup is really a better UX in this case? The following table displays the pros and cons of no registration:
Phase 3: Ideate
At the Ideate stage, as the name suggests, my goal is to ideate solutions for all the insights I’ve gathered into my users’ needs at the previous phases. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m dealing with two kinds of users, both have strong agendas about what they want, and I wish to find the middle ground.
As we have limited resources, we wish to define an MVP and create a simple yet functioning product, with which we could test our solution’s efficiency and usability.
Keeping that in mind, I want to make sure I consider every possible solution, as well as any additional yet surely not essential feature that came up during brainstorming we could later implement. The following charts present the features we came up with, divided into the two different interfaces we’ll have and grouped according to necessity.
Adopter Users’ Features
Shelter Users’ Features
Regarding the more complicated problems I’ve encountered, I reached out to a few friends of mine who’re more experienced than me in the UX field and asked for their advice. Among the challenges I’m working to solve are the filtering feature, the registration, and importing the shelter’s dogs into our database.
For the signup conflict, where the needs of the adopter users and the shelter users collide, I’ve looked at all the possible middle ground solutions, as they’re shown in the chart below. After I finish analyzing my user interviews I will pick the most suitable one.
Middle options to solve the signup conflict
I quickly sketched paper wireframes, so I would have a general idea of how the essential features will look like before I proceed to high-fidelity prototyping.
Phase 4: Prototype
Being a visual person, I knew that crafting a temporary high-fidelity prototype will help me understand better what is working and what’s not. The prototype came in handy at the user interviews, as I could see the users’ reaction and hear their thoughts. Without the prototype, they would have had a difficult time imagining how the app would look like, and I would’ve gained fewer insights. With the knowledge I obtained by making the prototype, I now know I will have to make some major changes to the app’s design.