An Android app that connects adopters with the perfect pet awaiting for adoption
Project Nature Design Exercise
What I have doneLiterature Review, Interview, Competitive Analysis, Personas Creation, Ideation, UI Design, UX Design, Usability Testing
Tools Pen & Paper, Sketch, InVision
Video demonstrating how does Pawfect Match work
Millions of animals are currently in shelters and foster homes awaiting adoption. Design an experience that will help connect people looking for a new pet with the right companion for them. Help an adopter find a pet which matches their lifestyle, considering factors including breed, gender, age, temperament, and health status.
An android app prototype is created to connect adopters looking for new pets to their perfect match with ease. Users will establish their profiles of lifestyle & personal preferences with a quiz during on-boarding, and the app will provide pet recommendations based on how well the animals match with the profiles as well as proximity. Users can also determine if the animals match with what they are looking for by envisioning the pets' behaviors in different context with the app through contacting caretakers of animals directly, viewing videos of animals in their profiles as well as an augmented reality view.
Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year, yet not all of them can find a home. It is estimated that 1.5 million of animals are euthanized in the U.S. per year. Therefore, it is important to ensure animals waiting at shelters and foster homes can be connected with potential adopters easily and find their new home.
Adopters are stated as the subject of this design exercise. Yet potential adopters of different age which make a significant difference in their search & adoption process with their behaviors. In order to conduct research properly and design effectively within a limited timeframe, I have decided to focus on adopters in their 20 & 30s as they are more likely to utilize technology when they are searching for their new pets. With the target audience defined, I then used 3 research methods to help me gain a solid understanding of the problem space properly. The 3 methods, including literature review, interviewing with pet owners as well as competitive analysis help me to answer some of the questions as following:
What are some of the barriers that keep people from adopting?
What motivate pet owners to adopt/purchase their pet?
What are some of the criterias pet owners look into when searching for their new pet?
Interview with 6 pet owners
Why did they adopt or purchase their pets?
What do they look into when they are searching for a new pet?
What helped them to determine if the animals match with their lifestyle?
What were some of the pain points they encounter in their search & adoption process?
What were some of their favorite parts in their search & adoption process?
What are some of the existing solutions out there to help adopters to look for a good match?
Can adopters find a good match with ease using existing solutions?
What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing solutions?
A key underlying problem is identified in my research process - People are still purchasing their pets instead of adopting one while there are so many animals available in the adoption system. In a study conducted by best friends animal society, about 38% of participants chose to purchase instead of adopting from shelters/foster homes. Not only does purchasing pets not relieve the adoption system by rescuing the animals waiting, but it also creates extra burden to the system by creating opportunities for more animals to be abandoned (e.g. mother dogs with no more values from puppy mill, others who abandoned the pets because they made an impulsive purchase). Therefore, it is important to understand what are some of the barriers that keep people from adopting and address them properly so that more potential adopters who are considering pet adoption can make the right decision eventually.
The three methods mentioned helped me gain a good understanding of the problem space. I utilized affinity mapping to analyze findings from the interviews with 6 pet owners. I then verified some of the findings with qualitative results with a survey conducted by best friends animal society, which obtained responses from 800 US citizens whom acquired pets in 2016. I also looked into some pet adoption sites to do competitive analysis to verify some of the findings as well as to learn about the pros and cons of the existing solutions. With the research done, I came to conclude my research with these key findings:
People with positive experience interacting with rescued animals/good shelters are more likely to adopt. On the contrary, uncertainty about shelter and bad experience drive them away from adoption.
People who are looking for pets often kickstart their search online on pet finding site, yet often frustrated with lack of/not up-to-date information of animals as well as overwhelmed with the number of options of animals and information available.
People with more experience interacting with/taking care of animals know what they need to look for (e.g. temperament, gender, size) when they are searching for new pet; while first-time pet owner are often unaware of what criteria they should consider when they are getting a pet and tend to overlook criteria other than age, breed and appearance. Some of them rely on information online as well as help from others to make a decision.
Seeing how the animals behave in different context to gain an understanding of their temperaments in real life helps potential adopters to identify if it is a match or not and make a decision in an instance.
Interaction time with animal at shelter sometimes is crucial for users to determine if the animal is a potential match, yet it can be limited because of popularity of animal/different policies. People rely on care takers at shelter to provide more insights about animal as their care also shaped the animal (especially the younger ones).
One key takeaway from research is that experience taking care of pets and living with animal can really make big differences in the adopters' pet searching and adoption behaviors. In order to ensure I am designing for adopters effectively, I synthesized my findings into personas that represent my two different user groups: first-time pet owner and experienced pet owner. These two different personas both want to look for the best pet that match with their lifestyle, yet they have different goals and also encounter different frustrations in their search. By synthesizing my findings into 2 personas, it helped me to empathize with the two user groups well before moving to ideation and designing solutions for both user groups to find a pet that match with their lifestyles.
As I reviewed my findings, I also came to realize how influential positive adoption experience or positive experience interacting with rescued animals can be to our users. They will be more likely to adopt animals as well as encouraging others to do so. Therefore, it is important for us to design the right experience for interested adopters to ensure their search & adoption experience are easy and enjoyable.
With the research done, I moved on to brainstorming to come up various ideas that can help our users to minimize their pain points and amplifying their gain points in the search & adoption process so that they can find a pet that matches with their lifestyle smoothly. I made the following assumptions in the ideation process:
With the resources available at google, we can utilize technologies such as machine learning, voice assistant, augmented reality and IoT in the design
With the wide range of users using google services, we can utilize the information provided by the other users to help adopters to determine if the animal is a right match for them in their pet searching process
With the wide range of products google has, we can utilize different touch points in the design ranging from web to hardware
With the capabilities of google, we can gather more information needed to establish a better database of animals profiles. For instance, a database of active 3D models of animals can be set up for augmented reality views.
In the process, I diverged and came up with 8 different ideas that explored design of touch points including mobile, wearables, voice assistant, television as well as physical hardware. The ideas generated are summarized in the photo below
I then reviewed my ideas and my research findings again. Considering the characteristics of the target users, I decided to focus on mobile as the touch point. The decision was made because research pointed out most users are used to looking up for pets and shelters on mobile/web when they are searching for a new pet. Familiarity of this touch point will help users to focus on their task searching for a pet that matches with them. It is also easy for them to have access to mobile. Moreover, ubiquituity of mobile also helps to attract more potential users to utilize this design when they are looking for a new pet.
As the main focus is to help adopters to find a pet that matches with their lifestyle, the idea of using a quiz to provide personalized pet recommendation to adopters matches well with the users' need. It is especially helpful to those first-time pet owners who don't know what to look out for when they are searching for a new pet. Therefore, I decided to focus on the mobile quiz idea. However I also realized a few other ideas can be converged to address some other users' needs. Eventually, I set the quiz then recommendation idea as the foundation of the design and added in additional features to help users to understand if the pet is a right match for them or not. I sketched out some low fidelity wireframes with pen and paper to help me with planning.
Low fidelity wireframes
To ensure I have a proper information architecture for the design, I also used the diagram below to help me in organizing the IA of the app - Pawfect Match.
Information Architecture Planning
I then moved on to designing with Sketch & prototyping it with InVision. Actually prototyping it helped me to understand how some of the interactions designed in first place may not work well and helped me to iterate. Here is the final user flow generated.
Final Design - User Flow
User Flow in detail
The design aims at providing a holistic solution that will cover the needs for both first-time and experienced pet owners to ensure both user groups can find pet match with their lifestyles easily. Here is the breakdown of the features designed:
1. Recommendations based on on-boarding quiz
Users will be prompted to take a quiz during on-boarding (they can also skip it if they prefer to do so). The quiz will ask questions about users' lifestyle and personal preferences to establish profiles for them. With the profile created, pawfect match will automatically search for the right animals that match with users' lifestyle profile in the "For You" tab. This minimized the cognitive load thinking about what should they look out for users and they can focus on the search results instead.
2. Recommendation cards in "For You" tab
The design choice of large recommendation cards view in this tab is intended to minimize cognitive load for users by having users to focus on one animal at a time. The large size photo also helps to enhance the "cute" factor that encourages people to make the decision to adopt. The card contains indication of how well the match is, basic information of the animal such as breed, age, size, name as well as a one line description that helps users to understand the temperament of the animal to determine if it is a potential match or not.
3. Refining search results
If users are still not satisfied with the search result, they can choose to refine the matches shown in "For you" tab with by setting filter manually. The filters provide user control & freedom when they want to search for different pets in mind. They can also choose to retake the quiz to refine their lifestyle profile.
4. Find out why is it a good match
Users will be able to learn more about the details of the animal as they click on the recommendation card. In the profile there is a clear list stating the characteristics of the animal that match with users' profiles. There is also highlight on things that do not match so well/need to look out for so that the users will know in advance if this animal is a right companion for them. Moreover, they can also view a personal note left by caretakers of the animal (e.g. staff/volunteer at shelter) describing the temperament of the animal and experience with it. With all these information, users can gauge if the animal is the right pet for them or not with ease.
5. Envisioning animal's behaviors
Users will also be able to envision the animal's behavior in different context better with the videos provided in the gallery of the animal. Two videos will be included in the profile - one video of the animal interacting with human and one video of the animal interacting with other animals. Additionally, a view in AR feature is provided for users to view the animal in augmented reality. This feature helps users to foresee how will the animal fit in their own living environment. All these will help users to picture how does the animal behave in different context and decide if it is a good match.
6. Contacting caretakers
When users want to learn more about the animal, they can choose to message the caretaker to get in contact with them. It is especially helpful for first-time pet owners as they rely on someone knowledgable to inform them more about things to look out for. Not only does this help users to gain a better understanding about the animal from a personal perspective which will help them to determine if it is a right companion or not, but it also helps to establish trust and good experience in the adoption process.
7. Scheduling visits
Once users decide this animal is a potential good match, they can use the scheduling feature of the page to schedule a visit to the shelter in advance. Users can also make requests to understand how does the animal behave in different situation with the remarks in scheduling(e.g. pet owners with their own pets would like to know how compatible their pets are with the animal). This helps to increase the chances for the users to interact with the animal in person, which is crucial for adopters to make the adoption decision.
8. Find reliable shelters
Alternatively, users can also kickstart their search by looking into shelters nearby. The shelters tab provides users with information, such as contact, visiting policies, animals available as well as reviews of the shelter. This helps to assure users if the shelter is trust worthy or not, and increases the chances of a positive adoption experience that will help adopters to bring the right pet home.
Due to limited time I had, I was only able to conduct quick guerrilla testing with 3 users(convenience sampling that might have led to potential bias as they know the designer - me personally). These 3 users are all in their 20s and they all plan to adopt a pet in the near future. 1 of them is an experienced pet owner while the other 2 will be first-time pet owner. I asked my participants to complete the following tasks in the usability testing.
Complete quiz and find an animal awaiting for adoption that match with your lifestyle
See how can the animal be a great match for you
Schedule a visit with a shelter for you to meet with the animal
Look for reliable shelters nearby to visit
After completion of the tasks, we asked our participants to rate the prototype on the scale of 1-7 according to satisfaction of use and how likely will they use the app when they are searching for a new pet for adoption. The results I obtained were:
Satisfaction of use
Likelihood of use
All participants completed all 4 tasks with ease. The overall results were quite positive, proving that the direction of the design is right. Some of the quotes from the usability testing are:
"The quiz helped to make sure I can find the right pet that matches with me without a lot of effort thinking what do I need to look out for."
"I like how there are percentages on the pet cards to show how well they match with me, also the size of the photo allowed me to focus on the cuteness of one pet at a time!"
"Having filter is useful when there are so many different pets available."
"The videos and view in AR are really helpful. They help me to foresee how will the pet behave."
"Scheduling is wonderful. I like how I can choose bring my own pet too to check if they are compatible."
"Messaging people who take care of the animal is a huge plus. I can learn more about the details when I want to."
"I like how I can find the shelters nearby quickly and check if others had a good experience there. It establishes credibility of the shelter."
Directions for iteration
While the results were positive, I also identified some potential areas for improvement for the next iteration.
While most animals available for adoption are in good health and vaccinated, a number of first-time pet owners may not know about that. Including an element that assure potential adopters that the animals are in good health will help the users to make sure they are making the right choice.
The features for messaging both the shelter and specific caretaker can be confusing to some users as they do not know who should they contact first. An iteration direction is to specify messaging the shelter as a general inquiry regarding the shelter while messaging caretaker is for understanding more about the animal in detail.
While reviews of shelter help user to feel more assured about the shelter, the reviews may not be providing specific information users are looking for (e.g. others who did not adopt might have also left a review). An iteration direction is to segregate the reviews into reviews from verified adopters and others. Another direction to look into is to ask users to review a few different aspects including shelter condition, visiting policy and staff.
I had a lot of fun working on this exercise. As a UX designer, my goal is to make a difference in the world with my designs. Thinking how the outcome of this exercise can benefit potential pet owners as well as millions of animals awaiting for adoption is especially thrilling and fulfilling.
Given the nature of the project is a design exercise which needs to be completed within a week, I had to race with time to ensure I design properly to solve challenges for potential adopters when they are searching for a new pet that match with their lifestyles. Even though it is an exercise completed in a short time frame, I still learned a lot from the exercise. Here are some of the key reflections I had.
1. Thinking of problems at a big-scale
In the ideation phase, I thought about how to apply the unique capabilities of Google. Thinking how we can utilize different technologies as well as different products/touch points to create a delightful experience that can truly connect users with animals that match with their lifestyles. With the limited time given and considerations of users' characteristics, I made the decision to focus on mobile. Yet the possibilities of solving the problem at Google scale were really exciting and that helped to stimulated my creativity in the ideation process. I am hoping to explore more of the design of different touch points if more time were given.
2. Applying material design
This is the first time I designed a complete android standalone app. In the process, I ensured I followed material design guidelines to make the app feels like a product from Google. It was challenging a first but soon become a fluid process for me as I familiarized myself with the standards and consistencies. It also created a satisfying moment for myself as a designer when usability participants mentioned how familiar the design feels and therefore it was intuitive for them to complete the tasks.