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The Town Dog

"The Town Dog" project was a culmination of my second-year master's thesis, where I aimed to address the pressing issue of limited access to dog-friendly amenities in Muncie, Indiana. Through extensive research and user interviews, I identified the need for a comprehensive platform that provides dog owners with easy access to relevant resources near them. To this end, I developed a mid-fidelity mobile application that offers a one-stop solution to dog owners seeking information on dog-friendly stores, parks, daycares, vets, and more.

 

By leveraging intuitive design and a user-friendly interface, the app enables dog owners to quickly and conveniently locate dog-related amenities in their vicinity and obtain relevant information. This project aims to alleviate the frustrations faced by dog owners in Muncie, Indiana, and improve their overall experience by enhancing accessibility to accurate dog-related information.

Project Role

Researcher, designer, tester, and writer on the design brief.  

Problem

In today's society, more people are advocating for pets, and most families consider them full members of their family. However, as pet owners, residents of Muncie (as well as many other places in the United States) struggle to find dog resources on a daily basis. There is currently a lack of accurate information and other resources for pet owners to easily access when needed.

Goal

I aimed to design a user interface prototype that would allow dog owners in Muncie, Indiana, to easily find dog-related resources. Through design thinking sessions and interviews with local dog owners, I created a mid-fidelity Figma app prototype that displays dog-friendly resources based on the user's GPS location. While the prototype is not fully functional due to my limited coding knowledge, it serves as a proof of concept and a foundation for future development. The prototype's coverage area is currently limited to a specific section of Muncie, given time and resource constraints. Overall, this project demonstrates the potential of a comprehensive platform for dog owners in Muncie, Indiana, to enhance their experience and improve their access to accurate dog-related information.

Research

I researched academic articles, conducted surveys and lead a design thinking session that all lead me to the platform based solution. I found these articles helpful when researching for my project: 

From this research, the main points our team discovered:

Dog owner want a platform that includes costs and reviews of each amenity.

Dogs improve the communities health as a whole as well as the owners health.

Having a platform where information is correct will help dog owners save time and energy.

Design Thinking Session

I conducted a design thinking session using human centered design principles. These sessions took place in two time frames where a total of seven pet owners participated. In this design thinking session, four stages took place: an introduction,  questions, categorization, and rank. After introducing the pet owners to one another and the project, I asked the pet owners a series of eight questions where they wrote as many answers that came to mind and posted it to a board. After the questions were all answered, the group then went back to each questions and categorized the responses per question. After the this, the responses were then ranked from most to least important per question. The main facts that were learned included:

  • When it comes to care, pet owners primarily struggle with cost of owning a pet, trusting pet care professionals, and accessing correct information for their pets. 

  • Pet owners prefer to get their recommendations for pet related amenities from trusting friends but use the internet as a platform to see the latest changes in information.

  • Pet owners would prefer customizable options when searching for amenities such as importance, price, and location.

Prototype

Low-Fidelity Prototype

Based on the research conducted above, I created a mobile app platform where users could create out their homepage to their preferences while also having other parts of the app. In the navigation bar, there were six aspects of the app: the homepage, map, calendar, market, information, and profile. The goal of these pages was to provide a one stop shop for dog owners to find correct information pertaining to their current needs. 

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Low-Fidelity Prototype Testing

After testing the basic frames out with four users, I learned that there was not a need for the information section and that most of the users would rather have it incorporated into the profile section.

Mid-Fidelity Prototype

Moving on to the next step of the project, I created out a mobile app platform in Figma to add functionality to the wireframes. After using a basic template, I then further expanded the app to fit the changes from the low-fidelity testing. 

Testing

After The Town Dog mid-fidelity prototype was complete, I proceeded to test four dog owners local to the Muncie area. During this test, I let them explore the app, gave them tasks and asked questions. What was found from the results were that there was some issues determining whether calendar dates had events due to difficulty seeing the icon marker, some terminology confusion and to improve the functionality of the app. However, the users also expressed how this app can especially be used to newer dog owners to learn the latest amenities and information around the users. 

Future Directions and Limitations

While this project was primarily used for a thesis project, I would hope to see the app set in motion one day. Since the project is currently only local to a portion of Muncie, Indiana and still based in Figma, the app would need to be further developed to become a high-fidelity fully functioning prototype. Since I was the only one on this project, to further complete this, there would need to be more on the team to continue to set this in motion. 

Some of the limitations that were faced were lack of resources, difficulty finding interviews within the Muncie area and being a one person team. When it comes to lack of resources, I struggled with ways to help provide incentives to gather research. One of the issues with finding interviews and gathering data within Muncie was that there was not a lot of diversity within the studies. Most of the users were primarily younger Ball State students but with further development, more thorough and diverse research can be conducted. Lastly, the final limitation was that I worked alone on the project. With the help of professors to guide me, creating a fully functioning and developed app proved to be challenging for one person. In the future, gathering a team can solve this issue. 

Bonus

Please enjoy an image of my dog who was the inspiration behind the product and graphics:

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