MIMS Capstone Project, January 2019 - May 2019
Lead Researcher & Designer
Tools and Techniques
Qualitative Interviews, Usability Testing, Competitive Analysis, Figma, Whimsical, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop
For my MA capstone project, I partnered with two classmates to build an app, called Beaukoh, for pet information management. Beaukoh is an app that aims to enhance the relationship and care between animals and their guardians/owners as well as improve the access to relevant animal related information. Beaukoh allows users to create and build profiles for their pets, share and explore animal related information, and connect with other people and animals. This app aims to address three identified gaps within the animal welfare industry:
There is no centralized hub for pet information management
No current resources fosters organic connections between the animal welfare industry and pet owners
Any attempt to foster or harness animal related communities is often makeshift
During this project, I worked closely with my teammates and spearheaded design and research efforts.
For a more thorough look at our project, please view our Final Report.
Manage pet information all in one place.
The repository of information on the pet profile can help with coordinated care efforts between shared guardians and provide information to help set up sitters or play dates.
Connect with others through messaging or public/private channels.
Users can utilize direct messaging to connect 1-to-1 or in small groups, or use channels to connect with other users locally, or access helpful animal-related information throughout the network.
Publicly share or privately save photos of your pet.
Users can share photos publicly with followers. Or, if they save private photos, those are only visible to shared guardians for a specific pet. These photos reduce pressure of photo curation, and could be used to track progress or improvements in their pet, or help build a shared collection of photos for guardians.
Throughout the entire project, I made sure user research was a top priority in order to identify problem areas, frame our solution, and actually build out the app. We looked to relevant stakeholders, other similar platforms, and actual users to craft and iterate upon our designs.
We began with semi-structured interviews with shelters, rescues, pet boarding facilities, fosters, and pet owners. We conducted 25 one hour interviews. The goal of our interviews was to understand the pet industry, and the pain points and needs that emerge for these key players, particularly pet owners. Among the results, some of the key findings indicated that:
Shelters use different (incompatible) software and systems for animal management, making it difficult to cooperate effectively
The process and actual substance of information transfers to pet owners post-adoption are often incomplete or difficult
Shelters want to open communication channels and form relationships with adopters but lack an organic way to do so.
People care immensely about their pets and heavily invest in them emotionally, financially and by amount of time.
It is incredibly difficult for pet owners to find trusted individuals to care for their pets
Pet owners often trust information from other pet owners
Our first competitive analysis helped us broadly understand what technology and services exist for pet owners and where gaps may be. Our second competitive analysis allowed us to understand best practices of promoting trust and credibility amongst users on forums or group like platforms. Among the results, some of the key findings indicated that:
The pet technology industry is incredibly dispersed, with few resources for pet information management
Platforms utilize a range of methods to promote trust and credibility
Our project my benefit from the inclusion of indicators of role or expertise in subjects for fosters, shelters, vets, etc.
Finally, our usability tests allowed us to gather feedback and improve upon the usability and design of our app. We conducted 17 usability studies with pet owners of dogs, cats and rabbits. Among the results, some of the key findings indicated that:
Users need context before joining a platform in terms of initial value propositions, and clear guidance and explanations throughout the onboarding process
Users appreciate a clear user interface, which allows them to focus on and complete the tasks at hand
Not all information is relevant for all users, and providing customization and opportunities for opt-in or opt-out is important
As the only designer on the team, I focused on maintaining a process that was both highly collaborative and iterative. The design of each feature and component of the application always started with hand-drawn sketches either by myself, or by each team member. Whether based on team feedback or feedback from usability testing, these designs went through many iterations during hi-fidelity and building periods. I utilized tools such as Whimsical and Figma for lo and hi fidelity wire-framing due to the ability to showcase designs and changes in real time, and allow multiple individuals to edit simultaneously. The most important iterations often occurred during usability testing when we were able to see how real users used the app and hear their feedback about what did work, what didn’t, and what was potentially confusing.
As an example, below is the process for how I designed the pet profile from hand sketches, to hi fidelity designs to the final design currently on the app. For initial sketches, we knew we wanted the pet profiles to include the name of the pet, a profile photo, other photos and basic information. However during the sketching we explored possible mobile and desktop differences, various layouts and other types of information that might be included.
Through these initial sketches, we were able to choose some designs to move forward with. We liked the idea of the photos and posts displaying as tiles, a display tactic we haven’t seen on many social media apps. We recreated our sketches on Whimsical and Figma which allowed us to further flesh out specific details with varying levels of fidelity.
Finally, we used the high fidelity designs and user feedback to finalize the design on the app.
To determine the color palette of Beaukoh, I created a mood board to help our team align on the feelings and experiences we wanted the app to convey. Our goal was to create a clean and simple, yet vibrant design. Having observed the color choices of other pet-related apps, we wanted to make sure we didn’t utilize muted colors but instead something that popped for the user. From these moodboards, we created numerous color palettes, testing them on mock UI’s to determine which adhered to our goal of simple, clean and vibrant. Ultimately, we settled on a shade of blue as our primary color - it communicates feelings of calmness, but still calls attention to users on the screen when necessary.
For the typography, we experimented with many different styles. Ultimately, we decided to use the sans-serif font, Avenir. In some cases, designers will use a serif and sans serif font pairing to indicate hierarchy of text. We chose to use the weight and color of our font, Avenir, to communicate hierarchy in the UI. We combined our typeface and color palette to create a stylish but inviting logo. We incorporated a paw print into the design as it is an easily recognizable signal of something animal related. Even if users are unsure of what the name or app is at first, the paw print gives them their first indication that this is something for them and their pets.
While we have built out a functional version of the app, we are continuing to iterate upon it. Please let me know if you’d like to see it, and I’d be happy to share. Once our next iteration is ready, I’ll provide instruction access here.
Working on Beaukoh was perhaps my favorite project during the MIMS program, and not just because it meant spending time talking about and playing with animals. This capstone project was a fantastic opportunity to serve as a research and design leader for my team, and to put in practice all the skills I’ve learned from my courses. What I valued most from this capstone project was the experience of working closely with developers and product managers, and utilizing a system that incorporated UX research and UX design techniques at every step of the way. Every decision and next step was guided by what actual users would need and want, which we were able to identify through our interviews and usability studies. Hopefully Beaukoh will come to an app store near you soon!