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Wag-n-Purr Pet Care

UW HCDE 518 User-Centered Design

Summary

With a small team in UW's HCDE 518, I conducted user research; created wireframes, visual designs, a prototype, and detailed specifications; and performed basic user testing for a mobile application to support better pet care.

A high-fidelity mock-up of an activity debrief, showing a piece of the app's personalization.

Problem

For this class, we were assigned small teams and were tasked with identifying a domain that we wanted to research and design for. Our team chose pet care, leaving the exact nature of the project flexible until our user research was complete.

Throughout the quarter, we were to run through the user-centered design process, which included: conducting user research, creating personas, brainstorming and sketching, wireframing, creating high-fidelity mock-ups, creating an interactive prototype, conducting basic user testing, iterating our design, and producing a detailed functional specification for its hypothetical development.

Process

Before beginning, we developed a tentative design question: How can we give pet owners new tools to become better 'pet parents'?. The goal was intentionally vague, as we needed to know what becoming a better 'pet parent' really meant to our users.

After writing an initial project declaration, we began by conducting three forms of user research. First, we sent out a survey, primarily intended to broadly look for struggles that pet owners face. We received many responses, requiring us to sift through both quantitative and qualitative data to find insights. Next, we conducted a series of semi-structured interviews, following a script but remaining ready to follow-up and probe deeper on interesting points. Finally, we conducted a diary study in which we had participants record their interactions with their pets over two days so that we could get a more realistic snapshot of their pet care than the anecdotal interviews could provide.

A summary table to compare and contrast interviewed research participants.

After analyzing the data, we found that many users were either unaware of the kinds of things they should be doing with their pet or felt that they had inadequate time to give their pets the attention they really needed. We created a series of personas to try to capture the needs of the types of users we encountered. Our personas included a first-time pet owner couple whose inexperience left them without confidence in their care; a career-driven single woman whose busy schedule led her to putting in minimal effort; and an experienced pet owner who was interested in better ways to care for their pet.

Our primary persona: two young, first-time pet owners whose inexperience inspired the creation of our app to recommend healthy and fulfilling activities.
Photos of our team members.

From our research, we refined our design question: How can we inform, motivate, empower and users to engage in the activities that support healthy and fulfilling pet ownership?

Mapping the target audience and the 'direction' (increasing quality and efficiency of pet care) that we wanted to move them via our app.
Synthesizing information from our user research and defining our primary goals of the app: Inform, Motivate, and Empower

With our design goal in mind, we brainstormed feature ideas and began sketching several solutions to our users' various concerns and problems. We used an affinity diagram technique to group similar ideas together, ultimately agreeing upon three that seemed to address our users' needs most appropriately

Our app centered around personalized recommendations for activities to do with your pet based on contextual information (the weather where you live, etc.) and data about your pet (which activities they have liked in the past, their level of fitness, etc.) From here, we explored how the parts could fit together and iterated on our initial sketches to develop wireframes for individual screens.

Grouping feature ideas by type.
Sample storyboard sketches from a brainstorm session. The sketches show activity preference personalization and weather-based recommendations
We can't be confined to one whiteboard!
Sketching out an initial concept for the application flow.
Messy whiteboarding becoming more refined over time as ideas are developed.
Whiteboarding session to draw out content structure of individual screens.
Whiteboarding the flow of one feature, the activity recommendation.

Soon, we created digital versions of our screens, rapidly iterating as we thought back to the needs of our users. Once we were satisfied with the design, we created an interactive click-through prototype using Adobe Fireworks.

We conducted brief and informal user tests to catch any usability issues with our design by running users through three scenarios in our prototype. With the feedback and findings from these user tests, we iterated on our designs again to fix minor issues that some users faced.

Iterating on designs to turn initial wireframes into more polished visuals.

Results

Ultimately, we created a revised click-through prototype that incorporated the design changes from our user testing. We presented our project to our class in which we discussed the research process and provided an overview of the key features. Finally, we also created a detailed specification document detailing the design process, motivations, main features, and screen designs.

Some polished screens from our final prototype, showing a user (1) selecting their pet, (2)seeing the pet's activity dashboard, (3)choosing between two recommended activities, (4)learning about why an activity was recommended, (5) doing the activity, and (6) finishing the activity.
An excerpt from the design specification showing the app's flow and relationship between multiple screens and features.
An excerpt from the design specification showing the behavioral specifications for a single screen.

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