According the ASPCA estimates, of the approximately 6.5 million companion animals that enter US shelters nationwide each year, only about 710,000 are ever returned to their owners. About 1.5 million are euthanized.
Fetch is an animal centric social media platform where users can scroll a timeline of posts, photos, and videos of our favorite furry friends.
Yet, the main functionality of the design is a toolkit to improve volunteer recruitment and coordination regarding animal search and rescue efforts.
This toolkit leverages social networking to quickly recruit and optimize both professional animal welfare as well as citizen efforts.
“How might we inform the community in real-time about lost pets, last known general whereabouts, and updates?”
“How might we improve volunteer recruitment and coordination for animal shelters and rescues?”
“How might we utilize mobile technology to elevate the plight of missing and neglected or abused animals?”
“How might we improve fundraising efforts for animal shelters and rescues?”
“How might we make it easier for people to get involved in helping animals in need?”
One of the primary interactions is quickly creating and sharing a post seeking volunteers to join your efforts.
This interaction utilizes a UI pattern reminiscent of an onboarding process, with a series of option cards that slide in from the right. The idea here is to make creating and promoting a group as easy as possible for the user.
This whole process, provided the missing pet is one of the profiles previously created by the user, can be completed with one thumb.
When private, your group recruitment post will only appear on the timelines of those accounts which you follow and mutually follow you, or that you specifically invite.
I sought to design a simple yet powerful tool that could support the needs of people on both sides of this equation, the pet owners and animal welfare groups. I conducted a competitive analysis on a few of the top sites/apps that attempted to solve the same problem I was concerned with. What I found was that these solutions were lacking a real time coordinated search and rescue effort.
My competitors focused mostly on improving the ability of a user to alert animal rescues if their pet ends up at one. For my part, I wanted to design a solution that resulted in actively rescuing the pet and returning them to their owner without ever going to a shelter.
Based on my competitive analysis I devised a problem statement and formulated my initial HMW question:
“How might we design a system that informs the community in real-time about lost pets, last known whereabouts, and status updates?”
I explored several possibilities for how I might approach this problem.
• Employment: I considered developing a concept for on-demand animal rescue employment in an app like DoorDash or Lyft.
• Deployment: Get rescuers in the best position to spot and communicate.
• Picture Feed: Imitate an Instagram design dedicated solely to lost animals.
Ultimately, I settled on deployment, but later incorporated the picture feed strategy into my design as well to solve for some problems I encountered in my initial development according to an analysis of my user interviews and anti-persona.
Sketching and Storyboards
I sketched a variety of divergent ideas that could support the needs of this community, and then drew storyboards to further communicate the idea I had in mind as I solicited feedback from the users. Due to the ideas I came up with in combination with the scope of this project, there were only two ideas that would be feasible, and only one that my user base felt I should pursue.
I created 3 pro and 1 anti-persona based on my user research. I had acquired 6 users over the course of this project to discuss ideas with and test prototypes on. These pro personas became composites of my users and the anti-persona was developed based on stories I solicited from my user base regarding the kind of people they look out for. The anti-persona became particularly useful in helping me make some important design decisions, most importantly integrating a social media platform with the toolkit in order to support community policing of users who have ill intentions.
Design Synthesis and QOC Analysis
As I reflected on my role as a designer, I concluded that my philosophy on this matter is the synthesis of two clichés. As an anthropologist I seek to make the world safe for human difference. As a designer, I aspire to improve lives through better design. I was inspired by Swiss industrial designer Yves Behar, who is famous for fusing gotta-have-it design with social responsibility. I took this quote of his to heart, “Design needs a new relationship with the world, one that is more focused on our planet’s needs.” This is significant to my overall process, because all life on this planet is the planet. And the nonhuman flora and fauna have suffered enough as a result of human “progress”. If I could do anything with my life or my newfound powers as a designer, it would be to reverse these trends.
One of the things that attracted me to HCI and user-centered design is the emphasis on empathy. Given my intersectional upbringing which ultimately led to my passion for anthropology, I’ve long viewed the degree to which I experience empathy to be something of a superpower. To this end, I continue to seek moments in which I can empathize with my users in such a manner that closes the gap between myself and the user instead of furthering it as described in, “The Promise of Empathy” (Rosner & Bennett, 2019).
If Fetch can do anything to improve the ASPCA statistics I listed at the beginning of this report, then it will have been a success. It’s my hope this design will help people think critically about the role that humans play in animal’s lives. Pet posts are very popular on social media platforms, so much so that a variety of competing pet specific social media platforms have launched in recent years to capitalize on this fervor. Yet these platforms don’t even attempt to solve a problem. My user base has been making do with Facebook groups and coordinating with SMS group chat. While useful, the reality is that these tools are generic and don’t directly take into consideration the needs of the community I’m designing for. My intention for this design is that it raises awareness surrounding issues related to animal care and welfare by drawing users to the platform to see the latest posts on caturday or from our favorite celebrity animals (RIP Lil Bub). Interspersed on the timeline would be posts from local animal welfare organization like those my users work with, as well as larger media organizations like PETA and The Dodo. In a utopian vision, my app would change society so that humans treated animals with the same respect they treat other people. Obviously, this is a lofty vision, but to any extent that my design can move the needle in that direction would have been time well spent on my part.
Rosner, D. K., & Bennett, C. L. (2019). The Promise of Empathy: Design, Disability, and Knowing the “Other”. CHI 2019 Paper, 1-13.