(Capstone project | Brainstation UX)
10 weeks – 2020
Learning UX and UI during the process
Pen + Paper, Sketch (later Figma),
Adobe Photoshop, Invision
Found is a GPS pet tracking app with the ability to engage the user’s trusted community. Users can quickly track down a runaway, as well as recruit the help of close friends and family if additional help is needed.
WHY I CHOSE THIS PROJECT
I chose to tackle this problem because I’ve known dozens of people that have lost pets, in a variety of ways, and have struggled immensely with tracking them down, too often without success. On top of this, I have worked with animals in the past and have seen first hand the overcrowding issues that have plagued animal shelters, with a large percentage of the pets beings strays. I wanted to know why these were ongoing issues, and how I could help pet owners more easily find a runaway, which in turn would hopefully reduce the strain on animal shelters.
In North America, over 10 million pets go missing every year. Animal shelters admit 7 million cats and dogs yearly, and around half of them are strays. Pet owners are too often underprepared to deal with a lost pet situation.
• Pet owners are generally not well prepared for dealing with a lost pet.
• Pet owners need a fast and convenient way of finding their lost pet.
Quickly and efficiently reconnect lost pets with their owners, effectively reducing search time, reducing stress, and increasing the chances of a safe return.
How might we facilitate the confusing and stressful process of finding lost pets for pet owners?
I conducted additional secondary research to discover the main reasons why pets run away, and how people are currently dealing with finding lost pets. This gave me a good overview of the landscape by observing trends, as well as pros and cons of each solution.
REASONS PETS RUN AWAY
They saw an opening and thought it would be fun.
Actively looking to escape in order to explore. Cats and dogs can get very curious.
Something such as a loud bang (ex: fireworks are common here) can activate a pet’s flight mode.
Once I got a better overview of the landscape, I dove into secondary research by gaining qualitative data from user interviews. Due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to interview as wide a range of pet owners as I would have liked (ex: various owner or pet ages, various lengths pet was lost for, various amount of times pet ran away, etc…), but still got great insights. With a wider timeline I would have liked to first send out a survey to find that wider range of candidates and dig deeper to before writing interview questions.
KEY INTERVIEW INSIGHTS
Participants were pet owners that had lost a cat or dog for a minimum of 2 hours.
* A major insight from the interviews and from casually chatting with people, was that many owners had their pets microchipped, but weren’t sure if they were registered or how they worked.
The persona was created from the qualitative data taken from the interviews I conducted. Since there was a low variety in types of users within my research, I decided to create only a single persona.
There was a slight difference in how loose or careful users were with their pets. For examples, some users don’t let their cats go outside, while others will let cats roam the neighbourhood freely. Same with on or off leashing dogs in public. In the end, they all had essentially the same goals.
At this point, I decided on creating a GPS tracking app with the ability to engage the user’s trusted community if additional help is needed. It’s a solution that would rid of all the user’s pain points, and easily the quickest way of tracking down lost pets.
The “share pet location” feature would be used as backup in case the user couldn’t reach their pet themselves for any reason. This increases the chances of a quick capture.
Activate Lost mode and call a friend
- Lost mode quickly notifies trusted contacts about the whereabouts of the pet. To allow the user's contacts to have access to the pet's location without having to download the app, they receive a link to a private Google map accessible on the web, and password protected. Through Lost mode, you have the ability to contact them via text or call straight from the app.
• Live tracking (GPS, Wifi, Bluetooth)
• Create virtual safe zones
• Engage trusted contacts in emergencies
• Push notifications to register and/or update microchip information
* This last feature acts as insurance in case anything happens to the collar. Explanation in the “Competitive Analysis” table.
DESIGN IS NEVER OVER. IT’S A CONSTANT EVOLUTION.
Times change, people change. Design changes with them. If I had more time, I would have dug deeper into research by putting out a survey, chatting with shelter workers and other working within the industry.
TEST OFTEN, TEST EARLY
I’ve caught myself, more than once, spending hours building out a flow, and when I finally put the prototype in front of a user, they shut it down instantly. I thought it was perfect. I was wrong. Embrace a quick feedback loop, and adjust accordingly. No point wasting time on beautiful UI if the direction is wrong in the first place.
Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Users want a digital product that works the same way as the other products they use. Flatten that learning curve for the user.
• Improve the visuals. My visual skills get better with time, and constantly feel the need to update and refine.
• I feel like there might be some miscommunication between shelter and owners, and vets and owners because too often owners are simply not aware of how microchips work and what to do with them. When a pet is adopted from a shelter, does the vet simply insert the microchip without telling the owners to register the chip then update their information when changes occur? Are the owners given the information but are forgetful, or even worse lazy? If the information is given, in what form? Digging into this issue would be a track I’d like to pursue.
• Adding a feature for a printable pre-designed poster with needed information and clear photo. In case other solutions fail, simply download, print and go. If the owner doesn’t have a printer, the company could have it set up so that the owner can also have us print the posters for them on weather proof paper and ship them over at a cost.
• Another insurance plan in case the GPS collar fails in any way would be to have a pre-written email easily sent to all shelters and vets within a chosen radius. This way no time is wasted contacting each shelter or vet individually. One button does it. This could also be the case with social media. One button to send a message to all platforms.
• Design the tracking history. Yet another insurance feature in case the collar fails. Knowing where the pet has been until the last minute. Would be able to see a simple path, or a heat map indicating areas most explored.
• Add a “quickest route” feature with updated road blocks/delays, to make sure the user reaches their pet asap.
Theft of animals is common. I’ve personally seen it happen more than once. There is a big market out there. It’s also common for these pets to end up online on websites like Craigslist and Kijiji. If suspecting theft, maybe there could be an AI facial and nose recognition scanning classified ads to search for photos and descriptions matching the pet. Fun fact, dog noses are each unique, like human fingerprints.
There is absolutely an issue with the lack of prep amongst pet parents regarding dealing with a runaway. But, looking at statistics coming out of the American Humane, only 15.8% of dogs and 2% of cats that enter animal shelters are reunited with their owners. This is extremely low. Something doesn’t feel right here. Owners that truly care about their pets would go to lengths to find them. These statistics make me assume that there is a deeper issue of a large demographic of owners abandoning their pets. I’m not talking about bringing them to a shelter because of the sudden inability to take care of them, which is valid. I’m talking about an intentional dumping of the pet to dispose of them without any regard for its safety or well-being. This makes me incredibly sad and angry. I feel like we need an update in laws (especially in the US) more strictly regulating the purchase/adoption of cats and dogs, and find ways to better keep pet owners accountable for the health and safety of their pets. Breeding facilities should be extremely limited, and a more detailed recording of both the owner and the pet should take place. I’m thinking maybe taking a profile photos of both the pet and the owner, and in the case an owner abandons a pet with no identification, AI can link a current photo of the pet with an older image, which then links up with the owner. Obviously this could only be done if the owner originally got the pet at a registered breeder or shelter. Also, pets are sometimes adopted as puppies or kittens, which means they have physically changed over time. The AI would have to take that into consideration, and predict how they would currently look.
So many ideas, so little time.