Rehome: UX Research, Strategy, UX/UI

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Rehome: UX Research, Strategy, UX/UI

UX RESEARCHER & STRATEGIST

Project overview

Deliverables: sketches, designs, competitive analysis, market research, personas, IA/sitemap
Tools: Post-its, notecards, Sketch, Invision, lots of coffee

Methods: In-depth qualitative interviews, brainstorming, prototyping, wireframing, UX/UI design, cardsorting
Skills: Interviewing, synthesizing, wireframing, designing 


Opportunity

Every year in the US, more than 6 million lost, abandoned or unwanted dogs and cats enter animal shelters. From this, 3-4 million cats and dogs are euthanized each year. Most of these animals come into shelters because they have been abandoned by their owners and are picked up by animal control on the street. Owners will usually abandon a pet because they are left with little other options. 

Pet owners have no other choice than to abandon or give their pets to shelters when they can no longer care for them and their is no quick way to find a safe and loving home for their pet. This induces a large amount of guilt and stress for both the pet owner and pet.

Pet seekers have no convenient way to browse and find a pet that is a good fit for their personality and lifestyle


Strategy

This is a project motivated through my own experience. I found a cat on the side of the street and quickly took it in to join me and my pets, a dog and two cats. After a few weeks, I noticed the cat, named Moo, was eating quite a lot of food and gaining weight fast - I was thrilled. During a check-in with the vet, I was told that, lo and behold, Moo was pregnant. A month or so later, she gave birth under my bed to two beautiful kittens. I went from having 3 pets to 4 pet to 6 pets. Even for the animal lover I am, that was too many pets.

I was wracked with guilt. I didn't want to give up any of the cats, but I knew this was unsustainable. I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful, cat-loving neighbor who took and the mom and a friend who was in the market for two cats. However, the situation I was in sparked an idea in my mind. What do people do when they quickly have to find homes for pets? 

I decided to talk to people in order to understand if this was a problem (or if there was a completely different problem at hand) and, if so, what their mental model behind this. Since this was my own project, I began with some guerrilla research, market research and competitive analysis. 

I learned so much throughout this project, pivoting from day one to a more community-based idea. This personal project is still in-progress and I'm continuing to iterate and research the idea!

*please keep in mind, this was one of my first UX/UI projects! as you may see in my more recent projects, my approaches and deliverables have changed and grown significantly!


My role 

User Researcher & UX/UI designer


My Process

1. Market research & competitive analysis
- My first step was to understand what was on the market to solve these types of problems (if they so existed). I combed the internet for different forums, apps and websites that either helped owners rehome their pets or find a no-kill shelter in the area. I also searched for apps that allowed people to find animals that fit their personality and lifestyle

2. Guerrilla research
- As one of my favorite research tactics, I set up shop in my local Starbucks, with a sign on my computer saying, "talk to me for 25 minutes about your pet and I will buy you a coffee" - surprisingly, this worked extremely well, and I was able to speak with 25 people over the course of a weekend 

- During these interviews, I asked people to tell me the story behind how they found their pet (any tools they used) and if they, or anyone they knew, had to ever find a pet a new home. While only a few people directly went through the "rehoming" process, many had stories on how friends or family had encountered this problem. I also asked what their ideal process would be if they were faced with a life-changing situation that made them unable to care for their animal  

3. Synthesis
- I brought home my findings and created an affinity diagram (no pictures were saved in this process, unfortunately) 
       - Initially owners would try to find a friend or family member to take the pet; some would post on craigslist, however that "felt shady"
       - If this failed, owners would bring their pets to a shelter (I didn't hear of anyone abandoning their pets in the 25 interviews I completed)
       - There was a lot of guilt and stress when encountering this problem
       - Many owners used apps, such as Petfinder, to browse pets, but they often found their was little information on what the animal's personality
       - Only 5/25 people obtained their dog/cat from a breeder/pet store
       - Sometimes people would pass on a pet if the shelter was too far away or didn't offer flexible viewing time; interestingly, there was also stress in going to a shelter, even when looking for a pet to adopt

4. Cardsorting & sitemap
- After synthesizing the information, I held closed cardsorting sessions (again, at that faithful Starbucks) to understand users' mental models behind how they would actually utilize a service that provided owners a way to find a new home for a pet and potential adopters to find a pet that fit their lifestyle. 
- I used these findings to help inform IA and a sitemap

5. Sketching & wireframes
- Using the cardsorting and sitemap, I began to sketch some ideas (which were thrown out - lesson learned). I then developed these into wireframes. I ran several concept tests on these with friends and family
See a low fidelity prototype of version .1 here

6. UX/UI Designs
- I gathered some general feedback on the wireframes and began to complete some higher fidelity designs. Unfrotunately, this is around when the project was put on hold due to higher work volumes


Deliverables

Deliverables included: 
- Competitive analysis
- Personas
- Affinity diagram
- Sitemap/IA
- Wireframes
- Designs


Next Steps

I am just picking this project back up and have started to iterate on the idea with additional research (both market and user), as well as my experience in the field. I strongly believe in the need of helping reduce the amount of abandonment and sheltering of animals and will continue to work on this project as much as possible.


Postscript

Joys
- Learning about the different methods of research
- Using new techniques (at the time), such as card sorting
- Experiencing the rush of guerrilla research (which is still a favorite)
- Having something come together that I created

Challenges
- Being the only person on the project, since I was new to the world of user research and UX/UI
- It was one of my first projects, so I was still testing the waters on many of these techniques
- I thought about the solution before really understanding the problem

Lessons
- I would do some aspects differently, such as not testing the wireframes with friends & family (biased view), doing more of an open cardsorting, targeting my audience in a more effective way so that I would speak with more relevant people
- I had many assumptions going into this project, which shined through in some of the design choices I made - this will be revisted
- The personas aren't based off of enough information - this will be revisited