Step 1: Research phase "Understand"
To gain insights and understand the problem from the side of the pet shelter's more, I went to visit the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter to interview and ask prospective pet owners, the humane society owners and volunteers a few questions about the biggest problems they face, listen, observe current pet adoption process, understand and to gain empathy.
Talk to people I asked what are some of the biggest challenges pet owners have when they are choosing a pet and learn more about the current end-to-end pet adoption process. Karen the owner mentioned they currently use PetFinder.com to showcase and market their dog profiles and most people's current behavior includes finding the shelter from Google, looking at the pet on their website and coming in person to play with the pet and see if it is a good match for them.
Observe current behavior in person - How people are currently adopting pets in person and discovering them online. It is also important to remember to fall in love with the problem, not jump to the solution.
Pet Adoption UX Questionnaire - I began by creating a list of general open-ended non-leading questions to ask prospective pet owners including asking about their current pet adoption process and to listen and let the people do most of the talking. Questions include — How do you currently go about adopting a pet? Explain and ideally show how you do these tasks (step by step). To highlight any inefficiency in the current end-to-end process and therefore opportunities. Watch which other websites or applications people use when adopting a pet. What other products do you use to adopt? When you are using product X, do you find anything frustrating that you wish was easier/different? Is there anything that you wish product X allowed you to do that it doesn't allow now? What comes to mind when you think about product X (how would you describe it to a friend)? What do you like the most/least about product X?
Organized findings and emotion sentiment - Using a user research tool called Airtable, I compiled the positive and negative emotion mapping sentiment of the current end-to-end experience and core user actions to organize, analyze and share findings.
Research current behavior and methods online - I also began researching the landscape of existing behaviors and solutions out there for matching pet buyers to shelters to adopt a pet. The competition has shown on Google that there are many sites and shelter services that are very poorly designed and user experience, most sites having missing or outdated information. It appears the shelter websites do not have the technology team or staff resources to update or maintain the website's CMS.
What is empathy?
To feel what someone else feels. To walk in another’s shoes. This is the very first step in the design thinking process and ultimately sets the foundation for true innovation to occur by putting all assumptions and ideas aside and letting your users be your inspiration for the key problems to solve. A lot of times we shape a potential solution which really has no influence from direct conversations with our users. Basically, throw all previous knowledge out the door and all you need to for this stage is your genuine curiosity to solve a problem.
The objective: To help people articulate the latent needs users may not even know they have.
Observe: People watching is always fun but observing is about seeing users actions and hypothesizing why they are acting a certain way. This can also be a powerful tool to step into their shoes without having to disrupt their normal behaviors.
Observation technique: What is this person (or persons) doing? How are they doing it? (Body Language, etc.) Why are they doing it this way?
Engage: Getting out of the building and actually talking to your users is probably the most uncomfortable but potentially the most effective if done right. The thing here is not to blatantly go up and ask your user for the solution because most of the time we really don’t know what makes us happy. Engage in conversations that allow users to tell stories of their experiences.
Define → Ideate
1) Pet Shelter Owners, Foster Care Pet Owners - Looking to sell pet
2) Prospective adoption pet owners - Looking to adopt pet
There are millions of homeless pets in the US looking for a good home. People find currents solutions hard to discover or search for their right companion. Shelters have too much demand for sick and unhealthy pets. Shelter owners need technical skills to update information on the website, and often as volunteers that come and go information get's outdated and websites abandoned and not maintained from the people that originally created the website leaves.
Currently, in the United States, there are approximately 7.6 million homeless animals that enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats.
Big questions that come to my mind, why are they currently not buying or selling enough so millions are still in foster care or pet shelters? Is it that the sellers can't promote and market them? Is it that buyers can't find and discover them easily enough? Or both? Is there currently too much supply of homeless pets and not enough demand? Are the animals too sick to care for, which leaves for a smaller target audience of people that have to take care for them?
How-Might-We match people and pets?
Aha! moment: "Tinder for Pet Adoption"
Using brainstorming card prompt tools, constraints tool worksheet and How-Might-We brainstorm prompt from my Stanford d.school Design Thinking program materials, I began early design concepts and assertations.
Using the Constraints Tool from my Stanford d.school Design Thinking course materials and the "Yes, and..." approach I used it to creatively brainstorm new ideas off the top of head. I felt that there was the most excitement, interest and energy going towards "Tinder for Pets" that clicked so decided to go with that one and run with it.
Step 2: Early design concepts and assertions
Began sketching early wireframe flows and concept gestures to include in the user interface including the main selector screen, profile page and search filter selector screen.
Step 3: Prototype phase
Build, test, learn, iterate, repeat. Main selector screen initial interface design concepts visual and interaction design.
Pet Adoption Search Results Design Concept. Helps an adopter find a pet which matches their lifestyle, considering factors including breed, gender, age, temperament and health status. For the UX Copywriting, I added "Fetch Results" copy to add a fun positive tone and personality to the prototype.
Match Screen According to existing behavior users want easy access to drive and visit a pet before they adopt or easy access to contact the shelter to ask about more information or questions they might have.
Prototype Demo and Motion Graphic Concept Design. Creating a friendly brand, color scheme and experience.
Step 4: Testing prototype with real people "Validate"
Talk with users to learn if the solution solves the problem, and they will change their existing behavior to using the proposed solution in the future. Using real content from the Silicon Valley's Humane Society website I created a hi-fi prototype to test with users to gather first impressions, user intent, expectations, thoughts, feedback and NPS Score.
“I love this so much, it’s like Tinder for Dogs. It is the cutest thing I have ever seen. Genius. Where can I download it?!"
User Participant #1 - Rachel, 24, F / CA
What frustrated you most about this app?
The only thing that was frustrating was that you couldn’t swipe left or right on the dogs.
If you had a magic wand, how would you improve this app?
I would enable swiping to like or dislike a pet.
What did you like about the app?
Loved how easy it was to use and that it directed you to the shelter that the dog is located at.
How likely are you to recommend this site to a friend or colleague (0=Not at all likely, and 10=Very Likely)?
10 / 10
Notes: She currently first searches online to see the local adoption centers, would like to see the reason why they are at the shelter in the first place. She wishes the current process was easier to find pets, the sites were not visually appealing or information design not well organized to make the experience fun or simple enough to do.
"I love that it gives you information on the dogs and can come visit them. Genius idea, interface for Tinder is easy to use and why it is so popular. I love how the information is presented and what kind of dog they are. If I were to adopt my next pet, this is exactly the app I would use, in comparison to the other's it is much easier to use. Currently refines searches by breed and age. I would totally use, super easy, so cute, great idea."
User Participant #2 - Soohoo, 29 / F / San Diego, CA
Notes: Last purchased yellow lab from breeder 5 years ago. Googled adoption pet and went to visit in person and check them out on their own website online. See their age and their background and nice to filter by weight, age, size of dog - doesn’t like small dogs. Runs into the issues of sorting and filtering by location on mobile. Refining by advanced filters by colors, good with kids, etc. Missed the contact information before they like the pet. Would like to see more detail of who owns the pet and do a Q/A with the owner. Or be able to heart or bookmark the app on favorites before you like and visit. Prefered if there were more information about weight, size - more great information to consider in making the decision to choose to swipe left or right to add after the prototype phase.
Step 5: Final concept and test finding learnings
The final concept pulled the ideas above into a cohesive interaction scenario. The proposed solution would make it easy, friendly and delightful for people to discover pets and refine by their criteria, similar to dating and relationships. I'm proud of a simple and creative solution in short amount of turn-around time of one-week of research, design thinking, prototyping, testing it with users and getting a strong positive response.
The next steps would be to interview and test the prototype to more prospective pet buyers and the adoption pet owners. Also, explore more on the shelter owners experience of creating a profile and updating information on the app faster than on their existing website or other pet finder tool services to make the switch to this tool. As well as implement the familiar Tinder-style gestures on the hi-fi prototype and add detailed pet information people care about in making their decision. A card-sorting technique with variables like location, weight, sex, size, age, personality, breed, color, health, good with kids, etc. in priority most important to evaluate and inform the information design.
Validated the solution for "Tinder for Pet Adoption" creates a fun and easy interface for matching people and pets. "Fetch" provides one solution and customer-acquisition channel to solve the problem of millions of homeless pets waiting for adoption with an intuitive, simple, elegant interface solution for people to search, discover and adopt fast and easily. Thank you for the opportunity Google, I had a lot of fun!
Update: Found this on Twitter a few months later :-D