Designing with Pets in Mind: The UX of Dog Walking

Urban Leash is a Chicago start-up that provides on-demand dog walking and cat sitting. Their flexible offerings are built around an understanding of busy pet owners that is lacking among other dog walking companies, making their service unique and much-appreciated by Chicago’s pet-loving professionals.

Challenge

My team and I were challenged to improve the overall usability of the current app as well as to explore a new feature: allowing dog walkers to create their own pages and market themselves to new clients, as well as letting clients view and select their walkers. Our client was interested in this possibility but needed the proper research to make sure it was a valid need of the users.

Opportunity

Urban Leash is doing more than just dog walking and cat sitting — they’re providing their customers with trust that the animals of their lives are truly being taken care of. They’re a little start-up with a lot of love for their furry clients, and take the notion of trust to a deeper level than other similar companies.

My Role

UX Research, iOS app design & form design

Constraints

21 Days

Process

Introduction

The founders of Urban Leash, Demetri Maltsiniotis and Lina Pakrosnyte, had done some research when they launched the start-up nearly two years ago, and knew it was time to take their service to the next level, with an emphasis on user experience. My team and I wanted to uncover more about their clients and pet owners in general, as well as research the competition. We would use this data to inform our design direction.

Discover

My team and I scheduled out our first week to research and learn as much as possible about the landscape of dog walking in Chicago, the mindset of pet owners, and where Urban Leash fit into the ecosystem in general.

Stakeholder Interview

We kicked off the research portion of our work by meeting with Urban Leash founder Demetri Maltsiniotis, and attempted to learn everything there was about his company. I wanted to get a clear understanding of the company’s history and about where he felt the service’s strengths and pain points were to be found.

Research Groups

My team and I quickly realized that our research would be ambitious; there were multiple user groups to learn about, including pet owners who could be considered potential customers, current customers, and current Urban Leash dog walkers. My team made a plan to divide and conquer in order to find out everything there was to know about all of our research groups.

Contextual Inquiry

I wanted to get a full understanding of the service from both a customer and dog walker perspective, so after I had sent out a survey and was waiting for results to come back, I set up an interview with Carrie, Urban Leash’s operations manager, and learned from her the process of receiving orders and assigning walkers, as well as how she follows up with dissatisfied customers and works through walker issues.

Surveys

My team and I set out to gather quantitative data that would inform us about the various user groups. We created surveys for pet owners, current Urban Leash customers, Urban Leash dog walkers, freelance dog walkers not associated with Urban Leash, and users who had signed up but never ordered a walk. I used my writing skills and grammar know-how to make sure the questions made sense and weren’t leading in any way.

Interviews

I scheduled interviews with 5 pet owners, 3 current customers, 2 dog walkers and 1 freelance dog walker who had indicated they would do a short interview on the survey. All told, my team interviewed 19 people.

Define

My team and I had done our research and had gained a thorough understanding of the landscape of dog walking service in Chicago as well as the joys and pain points of the various groups involved. We came together to share our learnings, organize the information, and synthesize it all to pull out the most important insights and move forward.

Personas

We created 6 personas in order to cover the types of people we had identified from our various user groups. The most important became Eliza, a persona I created for a potential customer who needed a service like Urban Leash but was wary about having strangers in her home and unsure about how walkers would handle her pitbull. She embodied the fears and goals of the majority of pet owners we had surveyed and interviewed, as well as represented an important group for Urban Leash: dog owners who want a walker but are wary of dog walking services.

Analysis

My team and I brainstormed solutions for each of our personas. We wrote out what we had learned on dozens of post-its and affinity mapped them into groups to identify themes. We boiled down our huge amount of post its into just a few essentials, and organized those essentials in various ways to make sense of them. We ended up drawing heavily on a chart of pain points grouped by before service, during service and after service.

  • Eliminating customer and walker pain points
  • Capitalize on the various opportunities to build trust not currently being utilized

Feature Prioritization

When deciding who would lead out on the various aspects of our solution, I was exciting to take on the challenge of redesigning the customer-side app’s registration and booking process. Done right, this redesign would eliminate many of the customer and walker pain points as well as build trust among new users.

Develop

I began to design natively for iOS. Creating forms that were simple, intuitive, and didn’t require too many screens or clicks proved to be a difficult challenge that I enjoyed solving. The part of my brain that enjoys puzzles and writing code kicked into gear, I designed, tested, and iterated my forms until they satisfied my high standards.

Recurring Orders

The largest pain point among regular customers was booking recurring orders. When designing a form for recurring orders, I studied the way that other services handle recurring orders, as well as how calendar features on platforms such as Outlook and Google handle recurring events. Below is an annotated look at my final form design for recurring orders, which I created using research and iterated on through multiple rounds of user testing.

Deliver

After three weeks, we delivered our research report, validated testing and design solutions to our very satisfied clients.

Learnings

Nothing will make working in teams 100% seamless, but open communication and honest feedback goes a long way. My team and I agreed on day 1 to be honest about our working styles and any frustrations we would face in the coming weeks. Rather than pretending we would never have conflicts, we openly discussed our personal strengths and areas of growth before we started working, and doing this right off the bat rather than waiting until there was conflict helped our team immensely.

Tech | Design | Code | Feminism | Minimalism

Tech | Design | Code | Feminism | Minimalism