Imagine a post-pandemic world, where herd immunity is long established, and variants of the virus are on a steady decline. You want to take advantage of this new found freedom to visit family, but the guilt you feel over leaving your pet at home after a full year of being together every day is almost unbearable. In addition, the pet sitter that you’ve used (and loved) in the past had to find more stable work during the pandemic, and can no longer come twice a day to give your pet its medications.
How can you find a reliable pet sitter, and ensure your fur baby is getting all the care it needs?
Defining the Problem:
I interviewed pet owners who are just as obsessed with their furry friends as I am. I asked them questions about their past experiences with pet sitters, and what types of qualities they look for when hiring pet sitters.
Through initial user research, I found that most pet owner’s concerns came down to two categories: communication and trust.
Pet owners want to know that their sitters are showing up and staying for the agreed upon time frames, and they want to be able to communicate with their pet sitter without feeling like they are intruding, or feeling like they themselves are being interrupted. Hand written notes or clunky outdated portals aren’t nearly enough to give pet owners confidence that their pets are well cared for while they are gone. They need efficient booking processes, real-time updates, and easy communication so that they can enjoy their time away.
After understanding the problem, I began to brainstorm how to go about solving it. The driving question behind the next steps became: how might we increase communication in order to increase trust between pet sitters and pet owners?
After initial interviews with the pet owners, I synthesized my insights into a singular persona centering around the simple, but extremely important, need of trusting their pet sitters. This user prioritizes the care of their pet above anything else, including cost, time, and convenience.
To solve my user’s most pressing problems, I mapped out the user flow from initial sign up, searching for pet sitters, booking a pet sitter, initial meet and greets, communication during the experience, all the way through to the final home check.
Next, I mapped out and prioritized key features in order to deliver the highest value on the first release.
With a clear goal of increasing communication and trust with our user in mind, I followed the following process:
Ideation and paper prototypes
Wireframes + Prototyping
Usability testing and iterative changes
1. Ideation and
I began by sketching the features that would increase communication and trust, and iterated on layout, hierarchy, and user flow. It was important to our persona that all information (from their side and the pet sitters side) be contained as comprehensively as possible, while still allowing for a quick read and assurance that everything was ok at home.
Inspired by the paper sketches, I started mapping out a concept that allowed users to instantly check key information on the home screen such as the confirmation of visits, whether your pet sitter had messaged you directly, and a quick indicator your pet was safe and well taken care of. I wanted pet owners to be able to check in on their pets anytime with a quick glimpse of the app, and then dive deeper when they had more time or if they were alerted to a problem. A key feature was enabling the pet sitter to check in and out of the residence, in addition to clearly communicating that each and every item on the pet owner’s to do list was addressed during the visit.
3: Usability Testing
Given time constraints, I had to move forward with usability testing in the wireframe stage, with prototype interactions built in. I recruited 5 participants and gave each 3 tasks to complete. My goal was to see if the communication features were intuitive and informative enough to instill trust.
From the testing, I gained valuable insight which informed subsequent iterations on the prototype. Overall—there were a few too many ways to get to specific information, and it was unclear on some screens who should be taking action, pet sitter or pet owner. I simplified some of the user flows, and added buttons to better inform actions. There were also some styling updates as a result of the user testing including reducing text, and increasing point-size.
Once I had the core features defined and improved in my revised wireframe, I infused the color palette and some styling into the app in order for it to display a little more realistic in advance of usability testing. With purple signifying sitter actions, yellow serving as the color for pet and owner responsibilities, and green indicating completed tasks, I developed a system for easy identification of roles.
Based on the research collected from user testing, my assumptions around increasing communication to ultimately increase trust were validated, and certain features such as in-app messaging, live checklists, and having pet sitters check in and out of their visits, were discovered as key components to accomplishing that goal. UI improvements, and continued simplification around user flow, while introducing new features would be the next steps to take in building out this application.