Spark

 
 

THE BRIEF

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.

(5-day design exercise completed for an interview)

 
 
 
Spark-problem
 

HYPOTHESIS

Potential owners are more likely to adopt shelter dogs while engaged in a fun social outing where they can bond with potential new two and four legged friends. Adoption success will increase as these meet ups are centered upon building a community to crowdsource post-adoption issues and questions. Attendees also know they are supporting shelter dogs with their attendance fees even if they don't find their doggy match.

 
 
spark-teaser
 

 
 

RESEARCH

  • Overpopulation: 2.7 million pets are euthanatized every year *
  • Biggest misconception: shelter dogs are damaged goods *
  • Focus on dogs: 308k dogs vs. 201k cats in U.S. shelters from January to March 2016

Although pet adoption encompasses dogs, cats, and other animals, I constrained my problem solving specifically to canines. This means I can solve more specifically for one large group of animals and one specific user group for the product:

Audience.png
 

USER INSIGHTS

  • Lack of owner readiness and understanding how to train shelter dogs are the biggest reasons for adoption failures
  • New owners need to be educated about ownership (before and after adoption) *
  • Gut assumption that majority of young professionals would appreciate a more natural way of learning about adoption, breeds, and training

The hardest thing about adoptions is that people pick by breed and how cute the dog is... not by about the dog’s actual personality.
— Phone call with Stacy from Seattle Humane

The biggest pain was just finding a dog and waiting, checking every night.
— Ben, adopted dog owner

 
 
 
  The headlines to adoption sites miss the mark by focusing on the adoption process and not the emotional impact of finding a best friend.

The headlines to adoption sites miss the mark by focusing on the adoption process and not the emotional impact of finding a best friend.

 

I noticed a consistent theme of heavy-handed instructions on following the right adoption procedures and what can be depressing overpopulation statistics. For the targeted young professional demographic, I would suggest a design focused on increasing social interactions between dogs, adopters, and staff.

 

PRINCIPLES

 
 

 
 

THE SERVICE

INTRODUCING SPARK

Users rsvp via Spark to socialize with other potential owners, shelter dogs, and staff. They meet human and animal friends over treats to learn from other new owners or the shelter.

A bark is a good match between an adopter and shelter dog.

 
 
Hero-1.png
 
 

THE OBJECTIVE

Match potential owners and dogs to ensure successful adoptions, connect owners with other owners and shelter staff to create a supportive community, raise money for shelters via social event registrations.

 
 

MATCH AND GO

 
 The most effective way to know if a dog is right for an adopter is to simply spend time interacting with her.

The most effective way to know if a dog is right for an adopter is to simply spend time interacting with her.

 
 

Users meet new friends and find a community with a common interest in dog ownership to ensure dog adoption is successful. The events fund shelters both with attendance fees and adoption fees.

The strategy focuses on would be owners but also caters to young professionals--especially metropolitan transplants--who are not ready to own a pet but can still spend time with dogs for fun and to support shelters.

 
 
spark-home-drilldown
 

PERSONALIZED PER ADOPTER

 
 If dogs could only talk... Tapping the Floating Action Button would message the shelter with this dog already referenced.

If dogs could only talk... Tapping the Floating Action Button would message the shelter with this dog already referenced.

 
 
"...Help an adopter find a pet which matches their lifestyle, considering factors including breed, gender, age, temperament, and health status."

An effective dog profile should balance breed information with the individual dog's personality--provided by shelter staff.

 
 
 I particularly love finding ways to break down the core problem into smaller, solvable solvable chunks--especially when it can scale across the entire workflow

I particularly love finding ways to break down the core problem into smaller, solvable solvable chunks--especially when it can scale across the entire workflow

 
 

Through my research, I came across six common traits that shelters can use to match dogs and potential owners.

  1. Good for novice owners
  2. Exercise needs and energy level
  3. Tolerates being alone
  4. Kid-friendly
  5. Dog-friendly
  6. Suitable for apartment living

Shelter staff would assess each individual dog on the above characteristics--generating richer information than gender, breed and age as is currently listed on shelter sites. By assigning a numerical value to these attributes (1 to 5) from the both the dog's perspective and the potential owner's perspective, an algorithm can be used to suggest a match.

 
 
 Currently, the design exploration of this is too geometric and sharply edged for a fun and inviting look and feel. With further explorations, I bet there's a better way to express this. 

Currently, the design exploration of this is too geometric and sharply edged for a fun and inviting look and feel. With further explorations, I bet there's a better way to express this. 

 
 

WHY A HEXAGON

The strategy is to create a visual way to signify pairings. Over time, Spark users would ideally recognize similar hexagon formations of dogs they prefer for a faster, intuitive glance at dog profiles and matches. 

 
 

EASY SOCIALISING 

 
spark-profile-message
 
 

I am wary of creating yet another app with its own messaging surface but felt like it was essential to the experience. The goal was to  make it as fast as possible to share a dog's profile with Spark users and non-Spark users through any current communication app.

 
 
 There should be an option to pick a time slot with a dog if there were multiple adopters interested in one dog.

There should be an option to pick a time slot with a dog if there were multiple adopters interested in one dog.

 

 
 

PROOF OF PROPOSITION

In order to measure the impact Spark is making, I would work with experts of quantifying and qualifying:

  1. Money raised from event registrations
  2. Percentage of event registrations to number of Spark users 
  3. Conversion rate of attendees to new owners
  4. Conversion rate of invites to invitees event registrations
  5. Number of users who are attending multiple events
  6. Number of event creations by shelters / volunteers
  7. Money raised to sponsor dogs
  8. Number of Spark users returning adopted dogs (should be lower than traditional failed adoption rates due to hypothesis of better chemistry between owner/dog)
  9. Number of dogs without barks
  10. Overall average percentage of bark and adopter matchups
 
 
 

 
 

PROCESS

PROBLEM SOLVING METHODOLOGY

 
  1. Identify core problem in a concrete and concise statement
  2. Determine who the user is
  3. Find out what the pain points and opportunities are from actual users
  4. Come up with a set of principles to act as a compass for the project
  5. Hand-sketch and wireframe volume of ideas
  6. Funnel the leading concepts for quick and dirty prototypes
  7. Partner with developers early to make sure design and engineering are cohesive
  8. Get feedback from more users
  9. Refine designs from captured feedback
  10. Capture metrics from first product iteration to factor into next iteration

*Go back to 6 as many times as time permits

 
 

MOVE FAST

FOCUS ON USER NEEDS

STAY ON TARGET

 
 
 This was a preliminary attempt at mapping out the system. Although things changed, it was useful to see it all together to identify the core workflow(s).

This was a preliminary attempt at mapping out the system. Although things changed, it was useful to see it all together to identify the core workflow(s).

 
 I moved fast here to get an overall design of an end-to-end workflow. I glossed over non-essential details in order to get the overall skeleton of the app done--knowing it would all be hypothetically fleshed out over time.

I moved fast here to get an overall design of an end-to-end workflow. I glossed over non-essential details in order to get the overall skeleton of the app done--knowing it would all be hypothetically fleshed out over time.

 
 

BENEFITS, NOT FEATURES

Originally, I started designing an app that auto-schedules essential first steps for an adopter while also providing a space to ask the community about problems. This was based off the majority of research pointing to failures of the adoption process: lack of owner readiness and knowing how to train shelter dogs.

The wireframes of this experience felt stale and like it was missing the mark. I then stopped designing to refresh my perspective to make sure I was asking the right questions. I realized I focused too much on a checklist of features that was too much of an information bank.

After reflecting about young professionals, I thought about how moving to a new city to start a career can be lonely and visiting a shelter could be intimidating. I also kept thinking about the appeal of this age group to seek out memorable experiences. 

What if there was no pressure to adopt and events could simply be just about hanging out with the dog.

Eating some good food, hanging out with friends, and meeting other owners while getting to know a shelter dog just seemed like good times. What if users could search for activities they enjoyed--hiking, running, or sitting and reading at a park.  

From here, ideas and the direction started to come together with momentum. It answered the core problems of mismatched pairings and refocused on the joys of dog ownership. 

 
 
 

QUICK AND DIRTY PROTOTYPING

I primarily use Principle to knock out multiple prototypes of fundamental micro interactions. The goals are proof of concept among the team and to also use for feedback from users. I am a strong proponent of getting users to use the experience as early as possible. 

 
 This example is higher fidelity than I normally initially prototype with. Lower fidelity tends to be effective at moving faster and getting better interaction feedback that isn't focused on unrefined visual polish.

This example is higher fidelity than I normally initially prototype with. Lower fidelity tends to be effective at moving faster and getting better interaction feedback that isn't focused on unrefined visual polish.

 
 
 

INSIGHTS FROM PROTOTYPING

  1. Balance: Because Spark is part event registration, part dog adoption, it was important to recognize to not do both at full effort (until proper testing to influence design direction). My gut was that the app should make the event registration piece as streamlined as possible with a dead simple way to invite friends on the premise that registrations lead to adoptions.

  2. Details, details: I started to feel that the prototype did not cover the full range of registration and event speed bumps. After getting feedback from friends who have adopted or volunteer at shelters, the issue of multiple people wanting to hang out with the same dog at an event had not been properly addressed.

  3. Lightweight: Prototyping the home screen with all the events, activity types, and barks started to feel a lot to take in. There were multiple horizontal carousels in addition to a long vertical screen to scroll. It made me question if there could be a simpler but still inviting and engaging home screen. 

 
 

 
 

RESULTS

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.

After this 5 day exercise, I felt that personalized dog match ups with social event combination was effective at addressing the problem of adoption appeal. By targeting a specific user demographic, creating an app centered on lifestyle activities--outside the shelter--was an engaging way to match dog and adopter. I was also particularly fond of registration costs going towards the adoption fee or sponsoring the shelter.
 

THOUGHTS 

  • Jumping the gun: In order to have higher fidelity mockups finished within 5 days, I pushed on visual design before prototyping. I am typically opposed to this as I believe interaction design should precede visual design to get the experience right. Although the concept was simple enough to do both concurrently, I still prefer to designing the interactions first.

  • Conflicts: The obstacles around multiple barks of the same dog at an event definitely needs more thinking. How would the solution mitigate competitiveness among adopters. What happens when a bark is adopted by another owner prior to an event. How can a first to adopt system be designed without frustrating users.

  • Grey area: A more effective solution for dog and adopter lukewarm match ups is needed. The portrayed designs primarily showcased high affinity matches but I would love to explore how to treat neutral pairings since in-person interactions could lead to adoptions. 

  • First use: The dog preference and questions asked by the app is fundamental to Spark working well. Although I did not design any of this, I would emphasize a dead simple way of effectively gathering the right set of info for good match ups. This would be a great research study to fine tune the perfect design.

 

FEEDBACK

I called Seattle Humane and also friends close to the adoption process for feedback on the hypothesis. 

Some people go into a shelter and fall in love with an animal without thinking of the reality of how much it takes to care for them (time and expense). And , lots of people adopt puppies and return them when they turn into big dogs and aren't quite as adorable anymore. 

The app could contain a questionnaire to help you/the shelter determine if you're a good candidate for pet ownership.

Adding something around how the shelter is a high-stress place for dogs and might make them behave differently also supports your hypothesis.

How does one see more specifics about each?  Like... "1/5 tolerates being alone" seems to be a problem, can you get more info? What are his past issues around things positive and negative. 

 

*Thank you for taking the time to read this