What if there was an app designed specifically to locate dog-friendly locations? Not only would it tell you where you would be able to take your dog, but the safety features available for your fur pal. Tidbit is an app created specifically for this purpose. It allows the user to search for local areas where you can see other dogs that frequent the area and view the safety amenities available for the whole family.
The Research Begins
As a dog owner myself, I would love a Yelp-like app dedicated to finding new places to take my dog! While I could probably do a preliminary search in Yelp or Google (which I do often because, well, she needs some exercise), I find that the information on the location itself can be sometimes lacking. It’s definitely great to know that I can bring my dog to a restaurant, for example, so long as they are in the outside seating area. But are there any water bowls? Is there shade in the patio? Do other dogs often go there as well?
These are just some of the questions I often asked myself when I want to take my pup to a new place. And usually, this information is provided in the form of a user review. So, when I was tasked with designing a location-based app of my choice, I immediately thought of a dog-friendly location app that would be able to provide recommendations, user reviews, and a social media check-in option. But I also wanted to incorporate safety features as well, so that even the most timid (or hyper) of dogs would know what they’re getting into.
What’s out there?
My first step into this journey was to conduct a competitive analysis of other similar apps on the market beginning with research of the web and mobile versions of BringFido:
BringFido definitely focused on traveling pet owners with an emphasis on pet-friendly hotels. To me, it was their biggest search function and yielded the most results. The user could search for other options like dog parks and restaurants. However, not as many reviews were left for these. Most comments were reserved for the hotels that could accommodate the traveler’s dog.
Upon further research, I was able to find another similar app concept called BarkHappy. It essentially had the same premise of BringFido but incorporated an element of social media and connectivity amongst its users.
Both BringFido and BarkHappy are fantastic resources, and I was certainly inspired by their dedication to pet lovers. Keeping in mind my first impressions, I wanted Tidbit to be intuitive and easy to use, but also have that element of trustworthiness in terms of the information provided.
For most, pets are an extension of family. It was important to this design project to remain loyal to that concept. I really wanted to make sure that I understood the needs of my potential users. After all, what I find as valuable is totally different from someone else’s opinion. The next step in my process was then to conduct user interviews with my fellow dog owners.
It’s all about you! And your dog. Well…mostly your dog.
Over the course of 1 week, I constructed and administered a survey to both peers, friends, and family. All participants were tasked with answering the following questions:
- What kind of dog do you own?
- What do you enjoy most about hanging out with your pup?
- What kind of activities do you do with your dog and why?
- Where do you like taking your dog?
- How do you identify locations to take your dog outside of home?
- What factors influence your decision to take your pup to a dog-friendly location?
- What stops you from taking your pup to a dog-friendly location and why?
- What do you think of location-recommendation apps such as Yelp?
- What often do you use an app like Yelp or Foursquare?
- What do you find most useful about these resources?
- What do you find most frustrating?
- If there was an app developed that focused on dog-friendly location recommendations, what would you find most useful?
- How often do you share any information about your dog on social media platforms and why?
I was surprised that a common thread amongst the participants was that they had dogs that would be best suited in places less crowded by other dogs or people. Initially, I had assumed the exact opposite, in which people would actively be searching for a place with many socialization opportunities. To me, I thought I would see them actively searching for locations with a heavier populace.
It seems that as long as it’s not an overwhelming location, it would be good for their dog. I was also surprised to note that the people I interviewed don’t really utilize their social media as much as I would have assumed, or at least not for the purpose of their pet. One of the participants, who is a mother of two, uses social media often, but only posts about her pets during special occasions.
Some of the patterns that emerged regarding factors that went into decision making included looking up locations via Google and eventually ending up on Yelp via a search engine, word of mouth, or just personal observations of other places. They were all protective of their dogs and wanted them to be in a comfortable space that is suited for their unique temperaments. Location is relatively important in case they wanted to stay local and close to home. Their ability to have a good time with their dog was also an important aspect.
The need to leave and read reviews was consistent among the participants. The ability to trust that the information, particularly the hours of operation and any relevant business information, was crucial to using a dog-friendly app. They also wanted to be able to find a location that serves their dog’s behaviors and natural attitudes.
“What makes it dog friendly? Just allowing the dog on the premises? Provide water, treats?”– Tari (Participant of the dog-friendly survey)
I received such great feedback and insights based off these survey results. To help me further define my potential users, I then began to design my user personas keeping my audience in mind.
After developing the personas and summarizing the type of users who would be engaged with Tidbit, I then moved on to design the initial user flows. I first drew up some rough sketches of the basic navigation.
After just doing this quick brainstorm sketch, I went back and took another look at the responses from the survey and my defined personas. I decided that I needed to clean it up even further. Putting away the ever trustworthy pen and sketch pad, I turned to creating a digital user flow that incorporated an even simpler flow.
Now with the personas and user flows designed, I wanted to then create a mood board to set the tone for the rest of Tidbit! I pulled from many resources of inspiration and came up with two different types:
While I personally enjoyed the spirit and the energy of the first mood board, I think that the users (based on their feedback of what they would find valuable in this type of app) would prefer something calming, relaying the information that they need, but does not quickly overwhelm. The colors presented in second board help develop this sense of trust and is overall warmer and more inviting than the first, the latter of which comes across as more playful and social.
The purpose of the app, while to get outside and find new places, also incorporates the type of dog that an owner has and any particular temperaments. The owner themselves are concerned about reliability, accurate information, and the safety of all involved in the outing.
My process continued with sketching my ideas of the low-fidelity wireframes with pen and paper.
After getting it all down, I then worked to transition from low to mid-fidelity wireframes using Sketch.
After some initial feedback on the look of the app and its elements, I then revised further to tighten up the designs. I wanted to make sure that the initial processes for set up were going to be easy and the following screens would play on a user’s sense of recognition. So, when it came time to popping open Sketch again, the app then went on to evolve even further.
Color Palette and Typography
Since Tidbit needed to be able to relay location information in a trustworthy manner, but also be fun and playful to reflect the personalities of our fur pals, I wanted to create a color palette that would mirror this concept. I also wanted to stay true to my mood board, which definitely favored a blue palette.
Once I was satisfied with the color choices, I moved on to selecting the typography for Tidbit. I had actually discovered the font Oxygen after doing some research into Google Fonts when initially designing my mood board. When I found Oxygen, I thought that it was very easy to read and pleasing to the eye. I believed it would make a great compliment to my color palette.
I was now at a point to gather feedback from my peers regarding the look and feel of Tidbit. I was nervous! What if I had completely missed the point? But after collecting the responses from my fellow designers who choose to provide their comments, reactions, and suggestions, I was ultimately relieved. I decided to summarize the feedback for easy access reminders when going into the final UI designs.
The comments from my peers were good to see, and I take all their feedback seriously. It seems to me that there are some minor adjustments that I need to pay attention to such as button sizes, background colors, or sizes of images and icons to make them pop. More of their guidance focused on what struck them first, what felt out of place, and what could be improved upon. I’ll go back and review my spacing between boxes, font size and color and perhaps placement of images to make sure it looks appropriate. I was surprised to see that they seemed to like it and the idea of the app and thought that, aside from some adjustments that needed to be made, Tidbit was intuitive. They both seemed to really like the paw prints and the overall feel of the application. The colors of the app seemed to be also well-received.
I also conducted an A/B test through UserCrowd on two screens in particular. I wanted to confirm that my choice is redesigning the location screen was the right call.
Testers, overwhelming, chose the first screen commenting on the simplicity of the design and its intuitive nature. Screen B was too busy for some testers, one commenting that the differentiated sections and subsequent color scheme made it seem extremely busy.
Final UI designs and Mockups
Final designs begin with a quick and easy sign in and transition to doggie information input.
After Temperament information is chosen, users will be able to start searching for their desired location. A filter screen is available to define a search even further.
Transitioning over to the mockups to see what they look like on the iPhone!
And finally wrapping up with the responsive web design of Tidbit.
Designing Tidbit was such a generous journey. Probably the most positive aspect of this conceptual project was bringing the vision of Tidbit to life. Seeing it go from a couple of sketches to seeing the actual iOS mockup was very rewarding. It was guided by the critical feedback and suggestions of friends and peers who had invaluable suggestions on the final product.
One aspect I did find challenging at first was the shift in thinking: I wasn’t designing for myself. I am designing for others and their values. For example, I though initially that a social media option would be awesome. My friends would want to know this cool place I took my dog to, right? Based off the survey, that was actually not at all high on the priority list, if it were even on the list. Their priority was to their dog’s general wellbeing and quality of their surroundings.
Additionally, while I was creating the mid-fidelity wireframes, Tidbit undertook a huge redesign. It was completely different from what I had intended originally. I wanted the design to be tighter, more appealing, and compliant with iOS guidelines. So, mid process, I decided to revamp. And while I believe the choice I made was the right one, it did take some extra time.
All in all, Tidbit was a great project and I really enjoyed being able to design an app that I hope others would find useful. After all, it’s dog’s world and we just live in it, don’t we?