(Capstone project | BrainStation UX)
10 weeks | 2020
Learning UX and UI during the process
Pen + Paper, Sketch (later Figma),
Found is a GPS pet tracking app with integrated insurance features such as microchip reminders, and the ability to engage the user’s trusted community. Users can quickly track down a runaway, as well as recruit the help of close friends and family if additional help is needed.
WHY I CHOSE THIS PROJECT
I chose to tackle this problem because I’ve known dozens of people that have lost pets, in a variety of ways, and have struggled immensely with tracking them down, too often without success. On top of this, I have worked with animals in the past and have seen first hand the overcrowding issues that have plagued animal shelters, with a large percentage of the pets beings strays. I wanted to know why these were ongoing issues, and how I could help pet owners easily find a runaway, which in turn would hopefully reduce the strain on animal shelters.
In North America, over 10 million pets go missing every year. Animal shelters admit 7 million cats and dogs yearly, and around half of them are strays. To address this, the project seeks to uncover why this is the case, and provide a digital solution to reduce these numbers.
HOW MIGHT WE QUESTIONS
• How might we reduce overcrowding in animal shelters?
• How might we increase adoption rates amongst shelter pets?
• How might we facilitate the confusing and stressful process of finding lost pets for pet owners?
* I chose this last HMW questions because upon further research, I realized there was currently a steady incline in feral cat control through spay/neuter programs (Canada). Feral cats being a major contributor to overcrowding. This made me focus my attention on pet retrieval, and/or lost pet prevention.
• Pet owners are generally not well prepared to deal with a lost pet.
• Pet owners are not well informed about active and proactive solutions.
• Pet owners need a fast and convenient way of finding their lost pet.
• Current solutions of lost pet retrieval may not the most effective.
After writing the problem statement, I conducted additional desk research to discover the main reasons why pets run away, and how people are currently dealing with said situation. This gave me a good overview of the landscape by observing trends, as well as pros and cons of each solution.
REASONS PETS RUN AWAY
They saw an opening and thought it would be fun.
Actively looking to escape in order to explore. Cats and dogs can get very curious.
Something such as a loud bang (ex: fireworks are common here) can activate a pet’s flight mode.
Once I got a better overview of the landscape, I then gained qualitative data by interviewing potential users. Due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to interview as wide a range of pet owners as I would have liked (ex: various owner or pet ages, various lengths pet was lost for, various amount of times pet ran away, etc…). With a wider timeline I would have liked to first send out a survey/screener, gaining quantitative insights to find that wider range of candidates and dig deeper before writing interview questions.
I interviewed 4 participants that are/were pet owners, and had lost a cat or dog for a minimum of 2 hours in recent years.
• Understand how pet owners navigation a lost pet situation.
• Understand the breadth of knowledge pet owners have regarding lost pet retrieval solutions.
• Understand how well owners felt they were prepared.
• Further understand how pets are lost.
KEY INTERVIEW INSIGHTS
After conducting interviews, I synthesized the data into pain points, motivations, and behaviours. From there I found common themes.
"You go straight into panic mode, and can't think of the logical steps to go through to quickly find your pet."
"I'd rather be proactive than reactive. Have something already in place to help me keep him safe, and use it as a resource."
PERSONA + JOURNEY MAP
The persona was created using data from the interviews. Since there was a low variety in types of users within my research, I decided to create only a primary persona. There was a slight difference in how loose or careful users were with their pets. For examples, some users don’t let their cats go outside, while others will let cats roam the neighbourhood freely during the day. Same with on or off leashing dogs in public. In the end, they all had essentially the same goals.
The journey map follows Judy through her process of discovering that her dog Skip is missing, to searching, and to retrieval.
REFINED HMW QUESTION
How might we reduce search time for a lost pet while increasing connectivity between owner and pet?
At this point, I decided on creating a GPS tracking app. It’s a solution that would rid of all the user’s pain points, and easily the quickest way of tracking down lost pets. I then conducted a competitive analysis of three leading GPS trackers.
After conducting a competitor analysis, I decided to add insurance features such as microchip reminders, and the ability to engage the user’s trusted community.
Insurance features are put in place because looking back at the interviews, I learned that sometimes collars fail. Also, issues with a GPS collar could be as such: faulty tech, owner forgetting to charge the battery, or loss of collar. It is somewhat common for dog's to lose collars (from rough play or purposely due to irritation), and common for cats. Cat's especially, because as they jump around, the collar can sometimes catch on branches or other things, activating the quick release. The quick release ensures the cat doesn't choke, but unfortunately the collar must drop.
• The “Lost Mode/Share Pet Location” feature would be used if the user couldn’t reach their pet themselves for any reason. For example, they are at work across town, or maybe on vacation.
• Microchip reminders include push notifications to update information in the national database, such as phone number and home address.
After reviewing the persona, as well as keeping in mind the opportunities found in the journey map and the competitive analysis, I wrote down a series of user stories.
I chose to map out the two features which would have the most impact, as well best show the functionality of the app, keeping the opportunities found through the journey map in mind.
ACTIVATE "LOST MODE" AND CALL A FRIEND
"Lost Mode" quickly notifies trusted contacts about the whereabouts of the pet. To allow the user's contacts to have access to the pet's location without having to download the app, they receive a link to a private Google map accessible on the web. Through "Lost Mode", you have the ability to contact them via text or call straight from the app.
Type: Formative Tests (Qualitative data)
Goal: Identify problems to fix, and which part of the design that causes problems.
1. Create a new geofence for dog
2. Activate Lost Mode and call a friend
*Guerrilla Summative A/B Testing (Quantitative) was conducted with Prototypes 4 and 5 to refine the UI.
Core task flows ready, I began by using the Crazy 8s technique a few times to quickly sketch out possible layouts. Since this is a map-centric app, I wanted the majority of the homepage to be a map, hiding everything within the hamburger menu. I soon found out through user testing that this was not the most efficient solution.
*In this version, activating Lost mode sent a notification to the user's Facebook friends through Messenger. Messenger also allows users to location share. Originally, I thought you could share the pet's location as well, but as it turned out, only Facebook users can location share. Things got complicated.
So then I had the idea of periodically sending friends an image with the pet's location. But this had major downfalls including waste of battery, time, and too many steps. I quickly pivoted in the next prototype.
• Rough navigation, often confused about where to go.
• Too many steps to accomplish tasks.
• Poor "Lost Mode" strategy and visibility of system status.
SOLUTIONS FOR PROTOTYPE 2
• Kill the hamburger menu and tab bar. Add bottom navigation.
• Change Facebook friends to list of chosen contacts.
• Change style of "Lost Mode" button to better reflect status.
In this version, I pivoted away from Facebook in "Lost Mode", and the user would simply add contacts to the app. Notifications would be sent by text and email, with a link to a secured private Google map accessible on the web.
• Inconsistent tab bar from normal homepage to "Lost Mode".
• Activation notification too long.
• Can't edit notification or choose contacts before sending.
SOLUTIONS FOR PROTOTYPE 3
• Consistent tab bar throughout both modes.
• Shorten notifications.
• Option to edit notification to contacts.
• Option to choose contacts in "Lost Mode".
After two structured usability test sessions, taking into account the usability issues, I designed this third iteration. At this point, I decided to update the UI to a clean, soft aesthetic and create a more calming feel.
After conducting guerilla usability and A/B testing with prototype 3, I made some further changes, and once again updated the UI.
• Fuller map (covers most of the page)
• 2 ways to access each main task for flexibility of use
• Added fab to quickly access main tasks
• Pet profile moved from tab bar to pull up tab
• Similar to the "Find my Iphone app" (familiar to users)
After having learned much more about UI design in the months after graduation, I decided to go back and redesign the app. Below is the updated branding and interface.
Simple black and white design with highly intentional colour use for the least amount of distraction. Blue being the most calm colour, was used as the primary. Icons are soft and rounded. Every effort should be made to calm the user in an emergency. I chose Helvetica Neue as the type because it is clean, modern, and its legibility across all types of screens and devices.
Calm | Cozy | Comfortable | Soft | Safe | Relaxed
I am in the process of making updates to make sure colors are more accessible. Will reflect in the prototype soon. I also compared various types of color blindness to see if those affected could differentiate between different UI elements. No issues arise through color blindness tests.
DESIGN IS NEVER OVER. IT’S A CONSTANT EVOLUTION.
Times change, people change. Design changes with them. If I had more time, I would have dug deeper into research by putting out a survey, chatting with shelter workers and other working within the industry.
TEST OFTEN, TEST EARLY
I’ve caught myself, more than once, spending hours building out a flow, and when I finally put the prototype in front of a user, they shut it down instantly. I thought it was perfect. I was wrong. Embrace a quick feedback loop, and adjust accordingly. No point wasting time on beautiful UI if the direction is wrong in the first place.
Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Users want a digital product that works the same way as the other products they use. Flatten that learning curve for the user by understanding mental models.
• Making sure the color contrasts all pass AA or even AAA accessibility standards. Adjustments are being made.
• Quick onboarding, as well as short pop-up instructions as user lands on different pages, hinting specific features and uses.
• My research shows that there might be some miscommunication between shelters and owners, and vets and owners because too often owners are simply not aware of how microchips work and what to do with them (0% of interviewees). When a pet is adopted from a shelter, does the vet simply insert the microchip without telling the owners to register the chip then update their information when changes occur? Are the owners given the information but are forgetful, or even worse lazy? If the information is given, in what form? Digging into this issue would be a track I’d like to further pursue.
• Adding a feature for a printable pre-designed poster with needed information and clear photo. In case other solutions fail, simply download, print and go. If the owner doesn’t have a printer, the company could have it set up so that the owner can also have us print the posters for them on weather proof paper and ship them over.
• Another insurance plan in case the GPS collar fails in any way would be to have a pre-written email easily sent to all shelters and vets within a chosen radius. This way no time is wasted contacting each shelter or vet individually. One button does it. This could also be the case with social media. One button to send a message to all platforms.
• Design the tracking history. Yet another insurance feature in case the collar fails. Knowing where the pet has been until the last minute. Would be able to see a simple path, or a heat map indicating areas most explored.
• Add a “quickest route” feature with updated road blocks/delays, to make sure the user reaches their pet asap.
Theft of animals is common. I’ve personally seen it happen more than once. There is a big market out there. It’s also common for these pets to end up online on websites like Craigslist and Kijiji. If suspecting theft, maybe there could be an AI facial and nose recognition scanning classified ads to search for photos and descriptions matching the pet. Fun fact, dog noses are each unique, like human fingerprints.
There is absolutely an issue with the lack of prep amongst pet parents regarding dealing with a runaway. But, looking at statistics coming out of the American Humane, only 15.8% of dogs and 2% of cats that enter animal shelters are reunited with their owners. This is extremely low. Something doesn’t feel right here. Owners that truly care about their pets would go to lengths to find them. These statistics make me assume that there is a deeper issue of a large demographic of owners abandoning their pets. I’m not talking about bringing them to a shelter because of the sudden inability to take care of them, which is valid. I’m talking about an intentional dumping of the pet to dispose of them without any regard for its safety or well-being. This makes me incredibly sad and angry. I feel like we need an update in laws (especially in the US) more strictly regulating the purchase/adoption of cats and dogs, and find ways to better keep pet owners accountable for the health and safety of their pets. Breeding facilities should be extremely limited, and a more detailed recording of both the owner and the pet should take place. I’m thinking maybe taking a profile photos of both the pet and the owner, and in the case an owner abandons a pet with no identification, AI can link a current photo of the pet with an older image, which then links up with the owner. Obviously this could only be done if the owner originally got the pet at a registered breeder or shelter. Also, pets are sometimes adopted as puppies or kittens, which means they have physically changed over time. The AI would have to take that into consideration, and predict how they would currently look.
How might we keep pet owners accountable for their pet’s welfare?