UI/UX Case Study: TheraPaw-Connecting Dogs with Humans for Stress Relief
My Role: UX Researcher and UI Designer / Project Duration: 2 Weeks / Project Status: Complete
The year 2020 has left a devastating impact on millions of people across the globe. Covid-19 has negatively affected people’s mental health. About 4 in 10 adults in the US have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders. People have been forced into social and physical isolation. How are people handling their stress during these turbulent times? As we started digging deeper into this question, we realized that many have resorted to adopting or buying pets to help cope with the isolation.
Recent studies indicate that simply petting a dog can lower the stress hormone, Cortisol. It can also reduce loneliness and feelings of depression. Engaging with dogs helps with: Increase in physical activity, Providing companionship, Providing sensory stress relief.
Unfortunately not everyone can afford to get a dog. This may be either due to limitations with finances, space or time.
We believe people need a way to manage their emotional well being by having access to dogs when they need to relieve stress.
If you don’t have the time, money, or ability to own a dog full-time, what are some of the ways people could experience the health benefits of spending time with dogs.
We set out to explore the problem space by defining our target audience as people who love dogs and would like to get stress relief by spending time with dogs.
How might we provide a way for people to manage their stress with the help of dogs?
When we started identifying our problem area, we thought partnering with dog shelters would be a good place to begin. We started looking at potential shelters which would align with our principles. We looked at ASPCA, since their mission to rescue and care for homeless pets, to prevent cruelty of pets, increase adoption and increase volunteers would work alongside our goals of connecting more people to dogs and increase community engagement.
My team consisted of Shawn Mordecai and Stephanie Park. My role was to oversee Research, while Shawn and Stephanie oversaw Design and Project Management respectively. We did overlap and collaborate as a team to develop and create our MVP.
Understanding our audience
We interviewed participants from our network, to understand how they are dealing with stress currently and how interacting with dogs has impacted them.
We asked them:
• Do you own a dog?
• Do you know someone who owns a dog?
• Do you visit them often?
• Have you fostered or volunteered at animal shelters?
• How do you deal with stress?
• What makes you feel better when you are feeling stressed?
• Describe how dogs make you feel?
• What are the reasons that stop you from owning a dog?
• What prompted you to adopt/own a dog?
Key Insights from our interviews:
• People notice dogs have had an improvement in their emotional wellbeing.
• People prefer to be with dogs based on their physical and personality traits.
• Some participants got over their fear of dogs when they interacted with dogs that belonged to family/friends.
• Some of the participants cannot get a dog due to limitation with time, space, finances, etc.
Based on our user research and synthesis, we created a persona, Megan who represents our target audience and gives us insight to user frustrations, goals and needs. Our persona will also help us validate our design decisions.
To empathize with our users, we created a journey map of Megan, our persona, to understand how she is dealing with stress in her current situation. Journey map also helped us recognize areas for opportunities for improvement
After creating Megan’s journey map, we got clarity about our users and their pain points and we revisited our initial problem statement and validated if we were indeed working towards solving the right problem.
“How might we provide a way for people who deal with stress, the opportunity to be with a dog they like, who are not able to handle the responsibility of owning one, in their current situation?”
We looked at the insights we got from our user interviews and decided on the key features we could create to solve the problem our users are currently facing.
Our team started with ideating potential features we wanted to include in our product. We used the MoSCoW Map (which stands for Must, Should, Could and Won’t have) and Feature Prioritization to categorize these.
We decided on making our product a native mobile application so that our users would be able to store and access information, anytime without having to worry about internet connectivity.
We created low-fidelity sketches based on the tasks that Megan would use. The tasks involved:
- MY ACCOUNT: Personalizing dog preferences in the Account Screen. Users can apply filters based on size, age, personality traits of the dog, etc..
- DOG RESULTS: Finding the youngest puppy and adding it to your Favorites. Users can save the dogs they liked in their favorite list, that way they don’t have to explore dogs every time they log in.
- SCHEDULING: Scheduling a time to meet the dog. Users have busy life, they can schedule a time to meet with a dog, based on their convenience.
Once our team reached unanimous decision on the layout of our Account Screen, we designed a Mid-Fidelity Wireframe in Figma to get the look and feel of our app.
We ran two rounds of usability testings. The first round was with our mid-fi prototype, with five users. With feedback from the usability testing in round one, we iterated our mobile web design layout, creating solutions to problems our users faced. We designed the product incorporating visual elements like color, typography, images, etc. and brought the prototype to a Hi-Fidelity Prototype. We then ran a second round of testing to verify if the changes we implemented in our Hi-Fi design supported the change.
What we found was there was a substantial increase in time on task and a huge drop on success rate on the first task, which was setting preferences on the account page. The reason for this may be that we removed the Preference tab from the Account Screen in our mid-fi and placed it in the Paw icon on the bottom navigation in Hi-Fi prototype. Users naturally assumed that they would find Preferences in their Profile Settings.
Task two and three saw improvement with both success rate and time on task.
- Run more tests to improve the apps usability and learnability
- Add text to our navigation bar labels
- Provide users with “Suggested Dogs”
We set out to find how people’s interaction with a dog affects their moods. What we found in our research confirmed our hypothesis that having access to dogs has a positive impact on people’s overall emotional health.
Users would benefit with having access to dogs and those who are not able to get a dog of their own, should be able to have access to one. The increased number of users taking advantage of this service would in return lessen the burden that volunteers have in running shelters like ASPCA.