NextBark Dog Park
January 2022 - May 2022
In January, my UX class was tasked with making observations in our daily lives and taking note of the things we found. From there, we were able to expand on what we observed, form a problem statement surrounding the problem we chose, and create a project off of that problem while utilizing user experience design methods.
For this project, my goal was to refresh my skills in UX and take on a problem on my own. I also hoped to address the problems of my user group as best I could, while creating an app I could see myself using.
I go to a dog park with my pup that has about 30 regular park goers with at least one dog each. Over the past few months, that dog park has lost all of its grass on one half of the park, as well as accumulated tons of mud at both entrances of the park. These entrances sit at the bottom of hills, so going to the gate of the park means sliding down some very slick mud; Some people have fallen doing so.
We have a Facebook group for fixing some of these maintenance related problems such as bringing lime or gravel to pour over the muddy parts of the entrance, or buying grass seed to fix up the muddy side of the dog park. We even attempt to use the group to tell others to avoid using certain sides of the park on really muddy days so people don’t slip/fall/lose their shoes.
However, the Facebook group doesn’t make it easy for everyone to see the posts or interact as a community. The group has to be “hosted” or “owned” by one park member which automatically makes that person have the responsibility to delegate tasks to fix the park when necessary, which is not ideal. This person does not want this responsibility because it is not “his” park. It is everyone’s park.
Dog parents who utilize the local dog park need a better platform to build the community because upkeep of the park is everyone’s responsibility.
In order to gain insights on the pain points of the users of my local dog park, as well as gauge the importance of the Facebook group to my dog park's community, I conducted some basic primary research in the form of interviews.
My interviews were mainly semi-structured in 15-30 minute time slots, with a list of questions I was following, but I would add follow-up questions as needed. I talked to a total of 6 people in my user group: dog parents who regularly use the same dog park. These people often know other dog parents at the dog park and/or are a part of the Facebook group for the park.
This research helped me develop a baseline of information on the pain points people encounter in the dog park regarding maintenance and dogs getting along. My findings can be viewed by clicking on the button below.
Following my interviews, I wanted to get a better sense of how the experiences of each participant related to each other. An affinity diagram is beneficial to see these connections as it helps designers see patterns between what people are saying. The color coding helped me a lot with seeing who said what and how many of the participants were saying similar things, or even contrasting things. My Miro board for affinity diagramming can be accessed below.
Prototyping Round 1
Based on my interviews, I knew that I wanted to tackle the maintenance side of the park's biggest issues first. I also wanted to address the other big issue of not knowing the conditions of the park before users got there. So, in order to help the dog park goers with maintenance requests, I added a feature in my app that allowed users to drop a pin on the dog park's map to show what needed upkeep.
Because the dog park isn't regularly maintained by the city, it is up to park goers to all pitch in. This is why the app's maintenance request feature is updated by community members to create requests, but also to complete requests. The same goes for the park conditions feature in the app.
In order to address more of my interview participant's pain points, I also added other sections of the app such as park rules which are listed outside of the park premises, lost and found (for both dogs and property), red alert behaviors for dogs fighting, as well as recent incidents on the home page. The community section was created as sort of an address/contact list for my app users to get to know other dogs who use the park. The profile pages of each dog/group of dogs belonging to a household include phone numbers, the dog's triggers, recent incidents, and other important information. These features were not a part of the golden path of my user group, so they were not built out fully, but were included in case I wanted to follow up at a later time. My first round of prototyping can be found by clicking on the button below.
In my first iteration of my prototype, I didn't really dive too deeply into the language I used, or the gestures I included in a few of my screens. I also wanted to see how people interpret my design, as well as how easily they understand what the app is for. Because of this, user testing was the crucial next step to proceed with my project.
In class, I was able to user test with two of my peers who might not necessarily be a part of my user group, but their feedback was important as well. I also was able to user test with a few others who I had interviewed earlier in the year.
First, I had my testing participants go through my app as they typically would. Some tasks I asked them were:
If you wanted to update the status of the dog park, how would you go about doing so?
Next, you want to see when the park was last updated. Where would you find that information?
Imagine you are bringing your dog to the park, but wanted to see if your dog's friends were already there. What are some ways you'd be able to find out?
Some of my feedback included:
"Mark as complete? Is it like people doing? Mark as complete seems like you post the request."
"A back button might be nice on the new account page in case they want to exit."
"Red alert behaviors might not be useful while dogs are fighting. Maybe add to it, aggressive behaviors for certain dogs?"
When testing was completed, I had a set of 8 debriefing questions I had my participants fill out. They were a mix of long and short answer questions, with the ability to add their own questions and comments at the end. You can see my debriefing questionnaire by clicking the button below.
Prototyping Round 2
Similar to the previous iteration of my prototype, my current iteration of my design includes the ability for the user to create a maintenance request to the community, as well as the ability to update the status of the park in real time. Based on feedback from user testing, I had changed a few of my screens to make wording more clear and to make my design more usable as a whole. I also wanted to make the most recent screens a bit more high fidelity and closer to how it would look as a completed app, so I made a few changes to the UI as well.
Because I have been working in research for quite some time, my UI skills have gotten a bit rusty but I definitely want to continue working on this project and adding a few screens that I didn't get to during the school year.