UX researcher and UX/UI designer
october 2023 - dec 2023
Figma,  Balsamiq wireframes,  Google Docs,  Optimal workshop card sorting tool,  Adobe Illustrator 

Problem statement
As a dog owner, I had recently gone through the process of educating my dog, and I got a glimpse of the struggles that people have when their first pet joins their family. After I’ve done extensive online research about dog training methodologies and needs,I realized I need help from a professional, and that online tutorials are not enough. I searched the available local trainers in the area and observed that each one’s information was unclear, scattered between social media content and outdated websites, and lacked a proper reviews page. In the past 2 years I have worked with 3 trainers and I contacted  more to get a clear image of their work and the services they provide. I joined a community of people interested in dog training and realized that these issues are not addressed, and that there is a strong potential for an app that would help organize this educational process. This is where the idea of dogScool was born.

The solution
Dogscool app helps dog owners easily find the right professionals to work with in the local area, in order to make the training process as clear, simple and fun as it should be. From the perfect dog training program to each user's needs to other educational dog activities, local communities to adhere to, challenges and interactions, and a complete dog profile to help owners keep track of their progress. It’s the educational assistant that all dog-parents need.
Who are the users? 
Dog owners that are interested in the educational process of their buddy, from the basic puppy training courses to the ones that deal with behavioral issues or the ones that want to get more advanced training like sports, activities, competitions etc.
Why build it?
There are no apps to bring together the dog education services and activities available in a certain area, although the number of pet dogs is constantly increasing especially in the urban areas along with the need for finding a trainer; on the other hand, the market offer is also increasing, due to demand. By making these dog services more accessible, we encourage and support the users in following through with their good practices and make their dogs happier and more balanced.
“The Global Dog Training Services market is anticipated to rise at a considerable rate during the forecast period, between 2023 and 2030. In 2022, the market is growing at a steady rate and with the rising adoption of strategies by key players, the market is expected to rise over the projected horizon.” (Dog Training Services Market - Growth, Trends and Forecast (2023 - 2030) Research, 360 Reseach Reports)
The process
1. Empathize
Competitive analysis​​​​​​​
For the competitive analysis, I chose two of the most known app dedicated to dog training - Dogo app and Goodpup. These are apps that help owners train their dogs at home, with pre-recorded video sessions and feedback from  a few associated dog trainers. Although these apps are not targeting the same services as my case study app, by studying them I found very helpful insights that clarified some directions to use for the developement of dogscool. I also found a series of apps that get owners in touch with local dog-services providers such as dog walks and petsitting, but none to help users find dog trainers or local dog training sessions.
Understanding the user
Research goals
• Understand user behavior regarding dog training
• Identify user frustrations with dog training information and accessibility
• Determine which tasks users would like to complete using a dog education app
- Survey - google forms (at least 30 ppl) - you can check it out here.
- Interviews (at least 3)
- Direct observation (whatsapp group of 250 people)
I conducted an online survey via Google docs and user interviews (in person and online via Google Meet) to collect information and have more insight into user behavior and needs. Also I collected information by direct observation on a large group of aprox. 200 people (a dog training community that I am part of).
• For the survey: 33 participants with ages between 18 and 65, and from different backgrounds
• For the interviews: 3 participants with age between 28 and 43, that fitted the target audience
•  For direct observation: a community of 250 people that are working with their dogs and are interested in canine development and education.
What I’ve learned
Survey conclusions:
- The main problem in finding a dog trainer is lack of structured and relevant information about the professionals and lack of a review system.
- 70% of the respondents contacted a professional to train their dog, rather than doing the training following their own experience or online information;  
- 57% of the respondents are looking for both in person and online collaboration with a dog trainer, while the rest are only interested in live in person training.
- The main criteria for choosing a dog professional is by recommendation/ reviews and the training methods used. The next two most important criteria are price and experience, and the least important is location.
- The main purpose of community needs for dog owners are planning dog activities (meetups, walks, playdates), followed by a forum with discussions about training tips and tricks.
Interview conclusions:
- 3/3 feel they waste too much time searching for the right professional for them;
- 2/3 feel discouraged by the lack of planning and progress tracking in the training process;
- 2/3 is inspired by the community (friends, family, dog club) to join activities and invest more in the time spent with their dog;

After gathering all data, I used online  affinity mapping to organize the thoughts and ideas and I got a better picture of the targeted user in order to create two user personas.
2. Define
Target audience
The minimum age demographic for this app would be 16. The upper age range can vary, anyone with a smartphone or PC can benefit from this app. The main audience would be, according to the survey, aged 25 - 44, female.
The target user is someone who cares about his dog’s wellbeing and behavior and is involved in his pet’s education. Enjoys spending time with him/her and wants to find fulfilling activities for both the dog and the human.

User personas
3. Ideate
With the user personas in mind, I went further and build user flows to visualise the interaction of the user with the app. Then, I created an initial sitemap.
User flows
Card sorting and sitemap improvement
I used Card sorting as a method to make sure that information architecture is consistent and easy to understand for users. I conducted an open card sort via Optimal Workshop and realized that participants grouped some categories in a different way than I imagined them. In my initial sitemap, I assigned most features to the Profile page but after the participant’s feedback, I separated some features such as the chat into a new page, I regrouped some of the categories and renamed others for a better understanding of the features.

Revised sitemap
4. Prototype
Based on the revised site map I started designing the first low fidelity wireframes for the main features of the app - the home page (Agenda) and the Search feature with booking a meeting with a trainer process. After I got a pretty good idea about how the app features could be arranged, I went further and developed mid-fidelity wireframes using the Balsamiq tool. The next step was to create high-fidelity wireframes in Figma together with generating a functional prototype that I used for user testing.

Low-fidelity wireframes:
Mid-fidelity wireframes (tool Balsamiq):
High-fidelity wireframes (tool Figma):
The initial prototype for user testing was developed in Figma and can be found here.
5. Test
Usability Test
First I developed a Test Plan - that can be found here.​​​​​​​
The Goal of the Test was to assess how easy and intuitive first time users find the app features when interacting with it for the first time on mobile. I observed how the participants interacted with the prototype in order to identify the errors and fix them.
The methodology consisted of 5 moderated usability tests that were held in person (4 of them) and remotely via online video call (one of them).
The participants were recruited from my own personal network. Some of them were familiar with dog training apps and others had no experience with the dog- education services. I interviewed them between Nov 27th and Dec 3rd. The meetings were conducted following a Usability Test Script that you can find here.

Usability Test Report
The participants completed 3 tasks using the prototype of Dogscool app and shared their thoughts about the process. I analyzed the results using the rainbow spreadsheet method. There were several errors in the interaction of the participants with the prototype, and the most important issues that I found are described below, together with the solution for resolving them.
For a more detailed analysis of the results, you can access the rainbow spreadsheet here.

Preference Test
Before having the interviews for the Usability test, I developed 3 variations of welcome screen for the prototype, to test (at the end of the interviews) the participant’s opinions on the visual style of the app regarding the overall appealingness, illustration style and colors.​​​​​​​
The results are: 3 out of 5 participants chose as their favorite style the first screen, and the rest of them also thought that the first one would be their second choice. They liked the illustration style, that it uses powerful colors but also white space to make it more minimalistic, and the friendly feeling it has. One of the participants opted for screen no 2 due to the more playful illustration style and powerful predominant color of the background. For the 3rd screen variation, one of the participants thought it seems more professional and serious, but all the others stated that it has a too common or impersonal style.
6. Refine
Next, I went through the process of refining the wireframes and designing all the UI style features that the app would need, making multiple variations and then choosing the ones that fitted better. 
I first developed a style guide that addresses the most important aspects to be considered throughout the app, so that I can maintain consistency. It contains information about the Typography, colors, UI elements (ex buttons, cards), grids and spacings. 
In all the design process, I followed the Gestalt laws and visual design principles like similarity, proximity, continuity, balance, hierarchy or repetition to ensure usability and appealingness to the design.
Dogscool Style guide:
I also created a series of illustrations following the style that was preferred by the interview participants, to enhance the most important screens and to give the app authenticity and familiarity for the users.​​​​​​​
The refined UI design for dogscool:
You can find the final prototype here.
There are some features of the app that remain to be designed, such as the detailed personal progress structure, activities to be shown and a way to filter and visualize progress in charts and schemes. 
Another feature to be developed could be a way for one user (dog parent) to set up different profiles for each of his dog and manage them separately.
As future development, the app would probably be more appealing if it could accommodate also pre-recorded training videos and online face-to-face meetings between trainers and users. For this further process, firstly I would conduct another usability test with the last prototype that I developed, and after gathering the results, I would design the new wireframes and usability tests for the new iterations.
Thanks so much for following my learning process! Best whoof wishes!
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