• Duration:
  • My Role:
  • Sep.1 2017 - Dec.1 2017
  • I am the UX Designer of our team. I designed all the user interface for stand-alone app version and created the interactive prototype for usability testing. After preference test I iterated our google map plugin prototype and UI. We as a team did our user research, design brainstorm, prototype iteration and evaluation activities together.

Happy Path

Happy path aims to serve urban dog owners who work and/or study full time. Our app provides information that helps people find the destination for walking and entertaining their dogs. Users can avoid unwanted interaction, obtain and share information with others through crowd sourcing features, thus, have a happy-path journey.

Research

Happy path aims to serve city-dwelling dog owners. Members of this user group share something in common: they are very busy, yet most of them invest significant time and resources to tend to their dogs’ well being.

Problem & User Needs

Walking/exercising dogs and keeping dogs under well training status.

Research Method

We first began our research by conducting interviews in the city of Atlanta. In order to access this group, we chose two separate interview locations that they frequent: a central park (Piedmont Park), and a residential area (Trace Apartments). With the aid of an interview guide and consent form, we interviewed and recorded data from a total of 12 people in both areas.

Following the first interview, we uncovered that there were 3 main pain points that were consistent across all 12 participants. In order to further narrow our scope and user group, we decided to conduct an online survey that focused on understanding two of these pain points: walking/exercising and dog training.

Through social media, slack, and word of mouth, we gathered over 30 survey responses. With the help of an hour long brainstorming and affinity mapping session, we analyzed the survey responses, outlined our user goals/needs/motivations, and ultimately narrowed our problem space down to one single issue: Dog owners find it difficult to Walk/exercise their dogs and keeping dogs under well training status, due to interference from people and dogs who are not aware of the current trainning, nor of the dog's temperament.

We heard similar stories from interviewees and survey respondents about encounters with humans and other dogs when at the park or in the city. We decided to communicate these common stories via personas and a storyboard.

Persona

Storyboard

Competitive Analysis

We discovered that there are a plethora of dog products and solutions already on the market, including many training and safety solutions that are directed towards the special “breed” of urban dog owners. These findings reinforced that, at the broadest level, there is a market and user need for urban dog caretaking solutions.

Several training apps (iWhistle Fun, Dog Whistle, Sonic Pet Trainer, etc.) make use of high-frequence sound that mimics dog whistle for “come” training. Other apps (Dog Clicker Training, Dog Training Sounds) allow you to use your phones for audible sounds as signals for your dog during training. We found products that can get aggressive or poorly behaved dogs away from you and your dog, (the popular Dog Repeller app, and several horns and ‘buzzers’ that emit high frequency sounds inaudible to humans).

These products are more focused on short-term obedience training, rather than addressing ‘sociability’ training “on the fly”- during interactions with unfamiliar dogs and humans in social settings. We were unable to find any products or apps that can help manage the interaction between strange humans approaching your dog - short of pepper spray, guns, tasers, etc.

Design Process

Design Goals

Our goal is to help urban dog owners enjoy taking their dogs out while maintaining consistent positive dog behavior. This involves:
• Helping the dog owners choose and go to destinations without negative interference;
• Educating others (other dog owners, non-dog owners) about how to interact with their dogs.

Design Criteria

In addition to the personas referenced earlier, we set a number of usability criteria in the beginnning to guide our design process.

We will hold ourselves accountable by conducting usability studies, where we will measure KPIs as dog owners use our solution, such as their: ability to complete tasks, the number of “errors” they make during task completion, and the amount of time required to become proficient in completing tasks. We may incorporate contextual inquiry methods into these studies to ask users probing questions as they complete tasks, specifically surrounding these usability criteria.

Brainstorming

To arrive at our design alternatives, we did a combination of individual brainstorming, group brainstorming, and organized several consultations with “dog experts”. We came up with a broad range of ~20 creative, divergent ideas through our brainstorming.

Once we discussed and built upon our design alternative ideas as a group, we created an affinity map to better categorize the ideas. We categorized the design ideas into three groups:
1) training awareness devices (devices that raise pedestrian awareness of nearby dog’s training status)
2) training progress management solutions
3) online resources

After grouping all the ideas, we further sorted them on a Y axis of feasibility (considering criteria such as timeframe and anticipated finances required to create the solution).

We set up counsult meetings with a course Teaching Assistant, second-year advising panel, and 2 peer students who both have significant experience designing products for dogs. Our goal was to incorporate their feedbacks into our design ideas and land on 3 final design alternatives.

Design Alternatives

We chose Happy path for the following reasons:

Accessible: A mobile application would be very accessible to our selected user group, given the pervasiveness of smart phones.
• Happy path app doesn't need to test on a dog.
• The voice message of dog leash may gather an unwarranted response such as fear, curiosity, specifically for other dogs or children.
• Pedestrians may give dog owners weird looks for using a voice button to communicate instead of peaking to them directly.
• Because the dog vest is directly on the dog, there is a high chance that it may get damaged or dirty.
• For dogs who are not used to wearing vests or harnesses, they may require additional training in order to get comfortable with this vest.

Wireframe

I created the following wireframe to demonstrate the key functionalities of happy path application.

Tool: Balsamiq

Hi-Fidelity UI

The UI elements of Happy Path need to be visible under various lighting conditions and texts should be readable, so that users can use it in a motion required situation. I designed the user interface with selected color scheme and large-enough fonts.

Tool: Sketch, Photoshop

While we were developing our solution, we kept showing our designs to qualified users to gain feedback and iterate the prototype. Many users mentioned they would like to see the "Happy Path" features embeded in some navigation app that they already use, so that they wouldn't have to download and register for another app.

That led us to the second version of Happy Path -- a google map plugin "Happy Path". We migrated the key functions and "Happy Path" style to google map, integrated the features, while keeping the UI elements consistent with google map ecosystem. We wish google were happy to see what we offer.

After we have developed two versions of Happy Path, we planed a preference test to help us decide which version we would keep for the final design. During the preference test, we switched the order of the two versions that users took test with, to avoid order effects.

We found that 75% of participants preferred the Google Maps Plugin version and the other 25% had no preference. Those who preferred the Google Maps Plugin version mentioned that not having to download a new app was their #1 reason for choosing this version. Given these unanimous results, we decided to go with the Google Maps Plugin version of Happy Paths.

Prototype

I used InVision to create this clickable prototype for evaluation. We made a few improvements after the evaluation activities. In order to present to viewers a better experience clicking through, the clickable demo below has already been updated to the final improvements. I will specify the improvements in the following sections. Check out the prototype for your self:

Evaluation

We decided to use a final in-context usability test to help us evaluate whether we successfully addressed our user needs. Additionally, this in-context testing would give us user feedback about context-specific items, such as text readability when in sunlight, app usability when used with just one hand. Consistent with our previous tests in this project, our test subjects were dog owners who are currently living with their own dogs in Atlanta and are working and studying full time.

We used most of the same tasks from our preference testing, but we incorporated edits from the preference testing, and added a task for users to test the new enable audio feature.

We received qualitative feedback during the in-context think alouds that users appreciate the general ‘friendliness’ of our interface, as well as the fact that it can be easily operated with one hands while walking a dog. And the graphics were high-contrast (in Google’s existing color scheme) to enable easy outdoor use.

The average score of Standard Usability was 77.5, We interpret this to be above average usability, based on the typical industry score of 68 as a benchmark for average usability.

Improvements

Based on the evaluation feedback, we discussed our plan for future improvements. I made a few iterations regarding to some major problems that occured in the usability tests.

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