creating an app for dog owners in the Bay Area

Bay Woof is a community supported e-magazine and non-profit for dog lovers in the San Francisco Bay Area. They offer news and education to promote responsible dog ownership and advocacy.

client = Bay Woof

duration = 3 weeks

team = Connie Chung & Mariana Gomez

my role = UX/UI designer

prompt:

Bay Woof wanted us to create an app to help people find dog parks in the Bay Area. The current website had a map spotlighting numerous off-leash dogs areas, but it was clunky with no way to filter the results or view them in a list format. Bay Woof wanted the map to be delightful for dog owners.

dog people

We wanted to tailor the experience to dog owners and dog walkers, and design something useful and delightful they could actually use. So we talked to six dog owners to find out how they chose places to take their dogs, and what features are important to them in a dog park. Our users interviewees were: 

Between the ages of 25-60

Dog owners or dog walkers

California residents

Working from home during COVID-19

Dog park visitors

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Our user interviewees reported things like:

"I find parks through word of mouth from dog friends​​. And I do a lot of cross referencing reviews that I read on Yelp, Google and Bring Fido." – Michelle

"I rely a lot on reviews from other dog owners." – Kat

"I first thing I look for is grass. My dog loves to run in grass. Sometimes I'll use Google Street View to check what kind of terrain there is before I commit to driving there." – Julie

"My dog doesn't get along great with other dogs, so I try to find parks that aren't too busy. Google lists 'hot times' for certain parks– when they are busiest– and I avoid those times."

– Daniel

"If I'm taking my client's dogs to parks with dirt, I always check to see if there's a washing station, because they get so dirty by the end. Grass is ideal because some dogs have allergies to things in the dirt." – Ina

"My dog doesn't like being on a leash when other dogs aren't. I only take her to parks that require leashes, so I always look for this kind of information on park listings." – Jackie

Our main take-aways:

Our interviewees trust other dog owners, relying a lot on recommendations from friends where to take their dogs. They also read a lot of reviews.

Each dog has different needs and every interviewee was searching for a place that fit these specific needs.

Terrain is very important when deciding on a park.

But mostly we learned that dog owners love their dogs and love talking about them!

Jordan the dog lover

Then we created Jordan. Jordan is a representation of all our research. 

 

Jordan kept us focused on the needs of dog owners and was a reminder that we weren’t designing for ourselves.

the problem:

Jordan needs a way to compare dog parks based on community input to find a park that fits her dog’s needs, because she trusts other dog owners to give reliable recommendations, and her dog is one of a kind.

the competition

We analyzed 8 different apps that provide similar services to the idea we were conceptualizing. We researched dog related apps like BringFido and SniffSpot, and others that were map centric, like Yelp and AllTrails. The two apps mentioned most during user interviews were BringFido and Yelp:

BringFido

pros

Dog centric

Community generated

Features all dog friendly locations, not just parks

cons

Confusing navigation

Extreme reviews

Information is often out of date

Yelp

pros

Dog friendly filter

Community generated

Used to using it for everything else

cons

Isn't dog focused

Extreme reviews

We learned that the competition was missing trustworthy reviews, an aspect hugely important to Jordan. While Yelp was popular among the general population, it wasn't dog centered. And although BringFido was dog centered, it often lacked updated information and had tricky navigation. 

brainstorming

We thought about the problems facing Jordan, and put our minds together to find the solutions.

problem: dog with specialized needs

problem:

extreme reviews

problem:

bad park pictures

Jordan’s dog has specialized needs, and Jordan wants a park that fulfills all of these needs.

I came up with the idea of a dog personality quiz. Jordan could input her dog’s preferences, like preferred terrain and size of park, and the app only shows results that match. This saves Jordan from having to weed through pages of results that aren’t relevant to their search.

We learned that in general, people only wrote reviews after an exceptional experience or a terrible one. Because Jordan relies on reviews, we wanted to encourage users to leave ones that were less emotional.

What if users were asked to explain something they liked about the park and something that could use improvement?

We hypothesized that if users were prompted to give star ratings to certain aspects of the park like the terrain quality, safety and maintenance, users would leave better feedback.

How would these ratings be displayed on each park page? The three highest rated amenities would be visible on each park listing. Users would be more willing to leave ratings and reviews if they saw they had benefit.

Jordan needs better photographs of dog parks. We knew that users looked at photos to get a sense of what to expect of the terrain and amenities. In general, listings have very few photos.

We hypothesized that if we provided a place to add photographs, visitors could take their own pictures and post them in their review.

making it

reality

we needed:

a personality test to narrow down the search results to only ones relevant to Jordan...

and a rating system and a way to add photos to reviews...

We started with the basics. What would the functionality of the app look like? With each stage of usability testing we increased the detail, until the last stage, where we added color, pictures, and fonts.

Here is the same page of the app shown in three different stages. Stage one where we tested the functionality, stage two where we tested the language and terminology, and stage three where we tested people's responses to the visual elements like color and font.

stage 3 park details page

stage 1 park details page

stage 2 park details page

functional and pretty

I drew inspiration from the Bay Woof website when I started the visual design process.

I used Omens as the body font. It kept us consistent with the existing brand and its rounded corners were playful, perfect for a dog app:

I drew inspiration from the Bay Woof website when I started the visual design process.

I used Omens as the body font. It kept us consistent with the existing brand and its rounded corners were playful, perfect for a dog app: