Amigos: Easy, Worry-Free Pet Sitting
UX / UI Design Case Study
For pet owners, the lack of quality, affordable pet sitters is a problem. Most pet owners see our pets as “family members” and “best friends”. But our pets also require regular care and attention, like children. And this can make traveling away from home quite stressful. According to one study, more than a third of pet owners—39%—have canceled or postponed travel plans because they couldn’t find a trustworthy pet sitter to care for their pets. Many businesses offer professional pet sitting services, but those can be expensive, especially for low-income consumers. Currently, no digital platforms provide pet sitting tools to pet owners and non-professional pet sitters. In August 2018, during the full-time UX/UI design course I was taking at IronHack, I designed a solution to address the problem.
UX / UI Designer
2-week Sprint (8/18)
The Pain Points of Pet Sitting
How Amigos Can Help
Guided instructions help pet owners save time and communicate more effectively.
Real-time notifications provide pet owners with the updates they crave, like when sitters arrive, leave, give food and medication, and take their dogs on walks.
Photo and Video MessagING
Photos and videos allow pet owners to see how their pets are doing when they’re gone.
I used a lean, user-centered approach and focused on users and their needs at each stage of the process. This saved time and helped me prioritize the user experience over “perfect” designs.
Empathizing with Pet Owners
After a few negative pet sitting experiences of my own, I was curious.
Did other pet owners worry how much time and attention their pets received? What were their frustrations, and how did they manage them?
Focusing on users’ experiences helped me empathize with their problems and deepen my understanding of their needs.
To begin my learning process, I conducted six qualitative interviews with pet owners. I recruited my friends and neighbors in South Florida, and interviews lasted 45 to 90 minutes.
Home Interviews = More, Better Data
I conducted four of the six interviews in pet owners’ homes. This allowed me to ask participants to re-enact pet sitter “walkthrough” meetings and interview family members.
Due to time constraints, two interviews were conducted in coffee shops.
The day or two before a trip often feel chaotic and rushed. People are in a rush to finish packing, shopping, and preparing to leave.
Pet owners like to meet face-to-face with new sitters to show them the ropes. Unfortunately, they often schedule it for the disorganized days right before they leave.
When they’re away, pet owners want to know how their pets are doing, but they don’t want to be a pest, so they rarely ask for updates.
After returning home, pet owners notice clues around the house that help them figure out what happened when they were away.
Used a non-professional pet sitter in the last 2 years.
Stopped using a non-professional pet sitter due to concerns about poor care.
To learn about current solutions on the market, I conducted a brief competititive analysis of the most popular pet sitting apps.
- Competitors universally position themselves as brokers between pet owners and pet care professionals.
- All offer the ability to find and hire professional sitters, with pet sitting as one service option among others.
- No competitors provide pet sitting communication tools to pet owners who already know their sitters.
- Rover is the most popular and highest-rated product in the space. It also offers the richest communication features for pet owners.
Defining the Problem and Solution
Creating a persona helped me define users’ needs, goals, and frustrations. I named the persona “Catch-22 Cathy” because she craves information to alleviate her worries, but she feels uncomfortable asking.
User Journey Map
I created a journey map to visualize Cathy’s needs, goals, and pain points. This also helped me identify opportunities my design could solve.
Generating Solution Ideas
Next, I used Post-It notes and RealTimeBoard to think of ways to solve Cathy’s problems and satisfy her unmet needs.
Defining the MVP
To define an initial feature set for the MVP, I used the MOSCOW method. Due to time and resource constraints, I decided to focus on the pet owner UI only. The pet sitter UI would need to wait.
Next, I created a site map outlining the app’s information architecture and main navigation.
Rapid Prototyping and User Testing
Why remote testing?
- It’s fast. With UserBob, tests were often done in one or two hours.
- It’s cheap. At $1 per minute, a 10-minute test with 5 participants costs just $50.
- Video screen recordings make rich data. With video, I could re-watch tests and find issues I may have otherwise missed.
But UserBob has some notable downsides:
- I couldn’t probe or offer assistance when participants needed it.
- Unlike some other testing platforms, UserBob doesn’t highlight areas where users tap or swipe, and even if you ask participants to narrate their actions, they often forget.
I sketched concepts of the main screens by hand to create low-fidelity wireframes.
After testing the low-fidelity prototype, I created mid-fidelity wireframes in Sketch, integrating insights from my earlier round of testing.
Usability Testing Results: Low-Fidelity Prototype
I wanted to know if users could understand and use the low-fidelity prototype, so I tested it with 5 people on UserBob.
After testing the mid-fidelity prototype, I began designing the brand identity and user interface.
I realized both pet owners and pet sitters share a core motivation: to help their friends, regardless of whether those friends are human or non-human. “Amigos” seemed like a cute play on that theme.
I wanted the user interface to inspire trust and confidence in pet owners who may be feeling anxious, so I tried to make the color palette feel energetic and friendly.
I placed an origami bird in the logo to evoke ideas of friendship and communication:
- Origami birds are small tokens of friendship between friends
- In the past, people used birds used to carry important messages.
To validate the mood board, I conducted 20 remote, unmoderated desirability tests with adults who owned smartphones. Users said the mood board evoked feelings of friendship and care, and the list made them think of organization.
Style Tile / Atomic Design System
I didn’t want to design the entire UI before getting any user feedback, so I designed a style tile made from UI components, then tested that, which helped me validate the visual direction I was taking.
To validate the style tile, I conducted 20 remote, unmoderated desireability tests with adults who owned smartphones. Users said the UI elements were easy to read and looked and attractive, though a few said it was too generic or ordinary.
I created high-fidelity wireframes by updating the mid-fidelity wireframes with elements from the style tile.
Usability Testing Results: Mid-Fidelity Prototype
I wanted to understand if users could successfully interact with the mid-fidelity prototype, so I tested it on UserBob with 5 men and women.
In order to verify that my design changes had a positive impact on the prototypes, I tested the high-fidelity prototype a third time with 5 adults.
Below you can compare my low-fidelity usability testing results to my high-fidelity usability testing results.
Explore the High-Fidelity Prototype