CityPups is a web-based aggregator of dog adoption from local organization and shelters, with a primary goal of helping city-dwellers find the perfect dog to adopt.
I was brought on board to design and test possible solutions to the problem identified by CityPups, by conducting a modified design sprint with only me as the primary UI/UX Designer and Researcher.
The Design Sprint
Understanding the Problem
Sketching Possible Solutions
Decide & Storyboard
Validate Through User Testing
Day 1: Understanding the Problem
Before I could formulate any solutions, I first had to conduct research to better understand the problem.
After reviewing the research data that CityPups collected, it showed that people living in cities struggle to find the right dog to adopt due to the adopter’s unique city needs. While basic information about a dog such as breed, gender, size, helps users narrow down their search, this does not translate to finding them the best possible dog match specific to their lifestyle and city-living needs. The lack of information on how to know whether a dog would fit the adopter’s lifestyle often result in missed-matched adoption or deters them from adopting.
User Quote: “Sometimes having the basic information on websites is not enough. "How do I know if the dog would fit my lifestyle?”
Below are the questions we are trying to have answered to better inform our solution and design decisions:
1. How might we help users know if a dog would fit their lifestyle?
2. How might we raise adopter’s confidence that they are making the right choice?
3. How might we provide the best possible dog match?
4. How might we enable users to learn more about the dog before committing to adopting?
Understanding the Problem Through User Interviews
Personal Search Experience
Before designing any potential end-to-end user experience, I was inspired by the concept of realtor websites, dating apps, or retail sites that have features where users are presented with results based on selected preferences at the beginning of their search. With hundreds of results, by gathering information about the user at the beginning of their search, will not only help them narrow down their search, but also raise their confidence that they are being matched with the most compatible dog based on the personal information they have provided.
Possible end-to-end User Experience
The current process
Once a user decides to adopt a dog that they found on CityPup’s website, they get sent to a third-party contact to start the process.
Possible end-to-end user experience
I’ve sketched out several user flows and narrowed it down to the simplest and most efficient user task flow found below. I’ve identified the following as the key or most critical tasks that will help users achieve their desired goal: (1) Input data, (2) browse results, and (3) book appointment.
DAY 2: Sketching Possible Solutions
Finding Inspiration aka Ligthning Demos
In the lightning demo process, I looked at realtor websites and other retail store websites to find inspiration for features that could be helpful in our solution. While these companies are not direct competitors, I found several features from their website/app that could inspire a solution for this project.
1. Dior’s gift finder search experience – I really like Dior’s gift finder feature because it closely relates to the solution we are trying to achieve, the concept of helping the user find the best gift based on personal preferences or characteristics of the recipient.
2. Favorite feature – With hundreds and even thousands of results to look at, it’s good to have a “favorite” or “saved” feature so you can look or filter everything later when you are ready to schedule appointment to meet a dog.
3. Redfin’s booking mechanism – I really love Redfin’s booking mechanism, how it starts with the current date so you don’t accidentally book in the past, and the arrows are only for going forward and not back, how you can see the month and day, how the date is by day view and not by month view.
Once I had my inspiration and end-to-end user flow, I spent 8 minutes creating 8 different variations/ideas for CityPups screens, after which I was able to decide which ones made sense the most. This process helped me flush out all my ideas without overthinking.
How did I choose the most critical screens?
With the goal of finding the adopter the best possible match and allowing them to meet them before committing to adopting, it was apparent that the most critical screens were (1) data gathering, (2) browsing search results, and (3) scheduling appointment.
The first iteration of the user flow was focused on answering questions about the adopter’s preferred dog. Information such as desired age, size, gender, etc.
I then realize that the initial format might not be the best option as it still doesn’t help the adopter identify which dogs would fit their lifestyle. The first iteration focuses on finding them what they want and not what is the most compatible. Therefore, I changed the questions to focus on learning more about the adopter. Questions about their lifestyle, living situation, availability, etc.
The second iteration of the question flow shown above was in a form format. While that might be viewed as the most efficient way of gathering information, with all the questions in one page and less clicks, I thought it felt impersonal and insincere. It didn’t provide a sense of interest. So, I decided to change it to a one question per screen format to provide a sense of conversation and interest. With the website asking the questions individually, the users would feel more confident about the results.
Day 3: Decide & Storyboard
On the third day of the sprint, I was ready to create a storyboard that I would ultimately transform into a prototype. But before moving forward, it was important to first identify who our users are. Knowing who we’re designing for gave me a backbone when making design decisions.
Who are we designing for?
25 yrs. old living in NYC
Lives alone in a studio apartment in NYC. Now that she does not have roommates, she finally feels "ready" for the responsibility, and companionship of a dog.
She follows some adoption agencies on Instagram, and even "saves" some dogs she wants to adopt.
Ellie has spoken to adoption agency representatives to ask questions. This has been helpful but is very time consuming to find the right contact or make an appointment.
Ellie hasn't acted because she doesn't feel 100% confident that a dog will be a good fit for her and the dog.
Most adoption sites focus on making a connection between people and dogs. This is great for browsing, but it often leads to her falling in love with a dog that needs more space, attention, or activity than she can provide. This leads to disappointment, and more indecision.
Description of dogs on sites are too general - for example, it may say "this dog doesn't require a lot of space" - but how small is too small?
Creating a Storyboard
First, I looked at all the screens/pages that I sketched on the second day and wrote notes on the screens that had features or functionalities that I liked, or I thought were most essential. Then, I combined all of those picked out screens and created the final user flow.
Lo-fidelity sketch of the user flow that I ultimately translated into a prototype
Important Design Decisions based on our Persona
1. Favorite or Saved Feature - With hundreds and even thousands of results to look at, it’s good to have a “favorite” or “saved” feature so the adopter can look or filter everything later when they are ready to schedule an appointment to meet a dog.
2. Incorporating a Video – I added a video feature to give the adopter an idea about the dog’s personality and energy level.
3. Dog Size Guide – This feature is not shown on the lo-fidelity sketch, but I added it to the prototype. One of the frustrations of our user was the vague size description of dogs on adoption websites, therefore, I thought it would be nice to add a size guide like when you’re purchasing clothes online.
4. Contact Information and Booking Button on Dog’s Profile – “It’s very time consuming to find a contact and make an appointment”, with that sentiment in mind, I added those two features to the dog’s profile page for convenience. Additionally, with hundreds of different organizations and shelters, I thought it would be less confusing to incorporate the name or logo of the shelter/organization on the dog’s profile to keep users informed. The logo is also clickable, it brings users to the shelter’s profile page and list of all adoptable dogs from their shelter/organization.
5. Easy Booking – I incorporated a way for users to schedule on the website which is linked to the shelter or organization’s availability, so the dates shown are the most up-to-date schedule.
6. Best Match Priority – To ensure that users are getting the best match, their best matches are presented at the top of the results page. Dog profiles that are best matches will also have the label “best match”, to distinguish them from other results.
Day 3: Prototyping
After deciding on the final user flow and features/functionalities of the website, I proceeded to create the prototype. Seeing the sketches in a hi-fidelity instance with everything incorporated, gave me a better sense of the overall experience, thus allowing me to refine it further for the best possible experience.
DAY 5: Validate Through User Testing
The primary goal for testing the prototype was to validate whether the gathering of information helped the user in feeling more confident that the results they see best matched their lifestyle, and whether the information was enough in helping them decide to adopt. I am hoping to learn more about their needs and see their reaction.
I reached out to friends and family for testing as I knew some of them are looking to get a dog. The users are between the ages of 30 to 60 with majority male testers. I conducted all interviews in-person which felt more like a real-world user testing scenario and made the conversations flow more naturally and faster.
The users seem to like the individual questions at the beginning of the search. They felt like it was really trying to learn about their life and therefore expect that the results will be the best match for their lifestyle.
Specific Feedback for Improvement
There are not enough answer options for different lifestyle and availability scenarios. The lack of option makes the user wonder whether the site can find them a dog, since their scenario is not included.
Additionally, for the availability question, it would be good to add a warning when the user chooses an option that is not ideal for dog ownership. For example, if the user often goes on business trips, there should be a warning that it may not be suitable for that user to own a dog as dogs require care and attention.
I agree that conducting a design sprint can be useful for quickly creating, generating, and validating ideas and can help answer critical business questions. However, as I was conducting the 5-day sprint, the workload felt large for just one person. I think where possible it would be advantageous to do the design sprint as a team. That could have generated more solid ideas, as well as realistically achieve the 5-day timeline.