Dog owners run into numerous problems while raising their furry companions, many struggling to find the help they need during these times. DogXpert is an app created for this, with one simple purpose - to connect dog owners with professional dog experts. It primarily uses video-calling to give users direct access to dog professionals, anywhere, at any time, to help erase any uncertainties associated with raising their dog.
UX DESIGNER —
Over 10 weeks, I undertook the full research, design and testing of the app.
Designing For The User
USER FLOW —
The scenarios helped me understand the core steps needed by the user throughout their journey and provided ways I could structure the final solution for their needs. I developed the screens and how they would access and navigate through the app.
I aimed for the app to have 2 flows - the mentor and the dog owner’s, but I focused on the latter, to prioritise meeting the user's needs.
The Suspected Problem
Having owned a dog for several years, I experienced many challenges associated with raising one. One of the major hurdles was finding suitable dog-friendly locations to take my dog. I wanted to see if this was shared by other dog owners to see if there was a problem I could solve.
The Real Problem
USER INTERVIEWS —
To confirm this, I went out to talk to people with varying dog raising experiences. To figure out the main problem that dog owners encountered I asked them questions:
• What are some problems you encountered during the early years?
• Do you still encounter them?
• What are new problems that you experience now?
• How did you feel?
Much to my surprise, what I suspected was completely different to the actual challenges that many faced.
There were evidently repeated instances of:
• Uncertainty in the dog's behaviour and their dog raising methods because of new and/or recurring problems
• Wanting professional support
• Information overload
AFFINITY MAPPING —
I collated the data through an affinity mapping exercise to develop some actionable insights to tackle the most common problems users faced.
The Current Market Was Lacking
FEATURE PRIORITIZATION —
I found the key features and charted them onto a feature prioritization map based on the actionable insights, to determine the most valued features for users - how user centred vs. the current market efficiency and accessibility.
It was evident that the necessary features that were desired by users such as live video chat and 24/7 services were lacking. The current market was filled with unnecessary features that were low value to the user.
A New Objective
To focus on the real problem, I summarised all my research into a problem statement:
Understanding The User
There was a lot of variability in the users that I researched which made it difficult to encapsulate into one major persona. I developed two personas of differing situations to put myself into a more relatable context, and so I could design a solution that accommodated all users.
One was a first-time dog owner, and the other had experience, but both lacked time and could not find relevant information.
Defining The Necessities
From my ideating, I needed to narrow down these ideas to develop an MVP. I went back to the personas, to think from their perspective and how to tackle their pain points.
Pain point: There was too much situational information on the internet (their main source for help), it was hard for them to determine which information was relevant.
Goals: Obtain regular, instant, accessible professional advice.
From the ideation, I developed the MVP by picking out features that fit into my feature prioritization chart - focusing on creating the most easily accessible and most user centric solution.
MVP FEATURES —
A simplified UI.
24/7 instant access
Accessible anytime, anywhere.
Live chat + video call
For direct observation.
With dog professionals.
Personal dog mentor
User can choose based on their needs and have consistent record (like personal gp).
Connects to other support networks like vets and puppy school - efficient in transferring information so users can get more effective support.
The features shaped into an app with one simple function:
An app that uses video calling to bridge the gap that currently exists between dog owners & dog professionals.
The First User Testing
From there I developed a paper prototype to test on users. I skipped the onboarding screens and set up process for the new user to concentrate on the app's main function. However, the first tester found the site flow too confusing with many unnecessary screens.
I realised that I had not thought it through enough and decided to take my time - making a second version with a much simplified site map.
SITE MAP V1
SITE MAP V2
I received positive feedback in the new user flow - being simple and minimal with no unnecessary features. The main feedback was rewording and adding statuses and notifications to make it more clear for the user to know everything they were doing, and where-ever they were within the app.
With the feedback, I made the adjustments on Adobe XD to develop hi-fidelity wireframes. I limited the prototype to black and white to focus the user testing on the flow and functionality of the app.
DRAFT SCREEN FLOW—
USABILITY TEST 1 RESULTS: AN UNFAMILIAR CONCEPT —
From testing the prototype, I came back with findings:
• All the users were at first confused with how the app worked, as they were unfamiliar with the new concept
• Users wanted some sort of explanation on how the system worked and what functions it offered (- one of the user feedback was that the term 'documents' was not explained and ambiguous).
• Users wanted more shortcuts to screens for increased accessibility.
• Users liked general layout, and found the flow and functions easy to navigate through and understandable.
From the feedback, I made a new prototype to address the major issue of the app's concept unfamiliarity - by adding onboarding screens which I had previously skipped.
Another major change I made was changing the name from "Doggomentor" to "DogXpert" - experts gave more credibility and certainty for users. I developed the final prototype, with colour as the final touch.
Here I want to highlight the main design decisions I made on the two main flows for the user - the 24/7 emergency live chat, and connecting / choosing the dogXpert. I used Figma to make a few changes in the UI design - creating similar interactions to the standard UI of existing apps.
UI DESIGN —
• Focusing on clarity and reducing clutter - minimal UI to make it less overwhelming for the users in a potentially stressful situation.
• More approachable - Using a warmer, softer and more playful aesthetic.
24/7 EMERGENCY LIVE CHAT —
The home page gives the user instant access to all main functions of the app. The emergency button is prioritized in the visual hierarchy, for ease of accessibility.
I created a questionnaire for the user, so the app's recommendations could cater to their specific situation.
It takes you to a list of dogXperts who are currently available - showing their specialties and availability so the user can choose whichever would suit their needs.
From the dogXpert's profile, the user can immediately chat.
The chat screen follows the standard UI for the user's ease of use.
The main advantage of video-calling is so the expert is able to observe the dog’s behaviour if needed, and assess the situation.
After assessing the situation, the dogXpert will send a document through the chat to assist the user on what to do from then on.
The document gives a diagnosis and advice on how to treat the dog. The user can have reassurance that the steps they are doing are following a professional's advice.
CONNECTING TO THE DOGXPERT —
The user can choose to either chat to the dogXpert, or schedule / manage an appointment with them. I added the visibility of the dogXpert’s online status on the home page, so the user can easily choose to schedule an appointment if the dogXpert were offline.
The calendar screen follows a similar UI to phone calendar apps, highlighting upcoming appointments.
With minimal UI and minimizing clutter, the user can schedule an appointment.
The form is standard, including custom alarms to give user full control over their reminders.
The Importance Of Planning
Overall, I'm really happy with the final solution and thoroughly enjoyed the full process of bringing the DogXpert app to life. I made a large re-routing of my design and learnt the valuable lesson of gaining information from the users themselves, rather than my own assumptions as a potential user myself. I also gained valuable insight into creating an app and it's differing design guidelines to web, such as readability.
In hindsight, I could have had a better of attack on how the app was to flow. By constantly put myself back into my Persona's shoes, I could have mapped out the screens and features needed in more detail. As a result, it would have saved time from redoing the site maps, and adding crucial missed features such as the onboarding.
I can see further development for the app in becoming a general health app for the user's dog. Flows would also be needed for the dogXperts and how they would connect to the users.