How might we transform the ecosystem of Animal Welfare Organisations?
A pro-bono project with team of UX graduates at General Assembly for service re-design in a non-for-profit space.
A full Documentation case on the obstacles faced and how we overcame them, the insights and solution using the Lean Agile UX Design Thinking methods.
Challenge: To develop a web-based platform for animal welfare groups (AWGs) to streamline their processes and operations.
Client: PetWidget, a Singapore-based start-up that aims to build a comprehensive ecosystem and social platform for pet communities worldwide to connect, via its mobile application and hardwares.
Other preferred requirements from client include:
- Pet profiles/identities are to be the key element of emphasis for all processes and operations.
- Pet profiles/identities can be transferred/shared amongst all the welfare staff and external stakeholders.
- AWGs are able to assign different user roles within their groups.
- An interface for vet clinics, as AWGs have processes that require follow-up action by them
- Vet clinics are also able to assign different user roles within their clinic groups.
Who Are We — Joyani
We are a group of passionate, purpose-driven and creative UX designers.
We employ a human-centred design thinking approach to solve complex social challenges efficiently and effectively.
My key contributions in this project
*Research Plan Strategy Lead and Insights
*Vision of Product
*Product backlog / Feature prioritisation
*Narrative for Presentation Deck
Team’s approach for this project
An Agile UX, Lean-Start Up, Design Thinking coined by Dave Landis.
Total of 3 sprints were ran in the 21-day period.
Why was this approach taken?
- We needed to find out our target users’ real needs.
- We needed to discover and identity real problems.
- We needed to design and develop a solution.
- We needed to be efficient.
: The Background :
I t all began in 2016 when a man named Ivan Loh lost two of his beloved pet dogs while he was overseas. The experience was painful for him that led him on an entrepreneurial journey to create the Pet Widget animal tag.
In the last two years, Pet Widget has expanded to different countries across the globe ( Philippines, Australia, Turkey and U.S.A.). Soon, he discovered bigger issues in the ecosystem
(1) The pet ecosystem is highly fragmented
(2) Communications are highly silo-ed.
(3) The ecosystem highly lacks accountability.
This desperately calls for a system platform specially customised and built to support the various AWGs , their services and partners.
The current pet ecosystem situation in Singapore
1 — Abandoned pets continue to be on the rise
Reports on abandoned and abused pets continue to be in the news in the last 3 months. Shelters and welfare groups here in Singapore are expressing their deep concerns as they do whatever they can, with whatever they have, to rescue and care for these animals, with the hope that each of these animals will eventually be adopted and loved by suitable owners.
Matching the right pets to the right owners remain their Numero Uno mission.
, , , 
2 — The TNRM government-initiated program
In second half of 2018, Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) will roll out a five-year programme called Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage (TNRM), to work alongside AWGs and Vet clinics to control the stray pets population. 
3 — Severe shortage of manpower and donations
AWGs continue to express their call for help for more volunteers and donations as many of these groups are operated by volunteers with day-jobs. Some are long-term volunteers while others are on ad-hoc basis. Many of these groups rely heavily on donations to cover operation costs for running shelters, caring for pets and most of all, for medical-related vaccinations and checks. , , , 
: The Obstacles Faced :
#1: No previous knowledge in Enterprise Software design
All of us in the team has no prior/very minimal knowledge of designing a software system from ground up.
#2: Unchartered New Waters
The non-for-profit space is relatively new for us, especially in relation to the pet-ecosystem.
#3: “Catch me if you can”
Reaching out to AWGs for interviews in the span of project timeline was a major challenge since AWGs are mostly run by volunteers with day jobs.
In addition, we are caught in the season where many of them are relocating to a new area as allocated by the government.
: The Process :
How did we overcome these obstacles as we went along?
(1) Organisational Research
Why was this carried out:
* To get an understanding of the way the ecosystem works, refer to #2 of obstacles faced above
What was carried out:
*We conducted contextual interviews with Subject Matter Experts (our client and an ex-full time staff of SPCA — Singapore’s biggest and oldest animal welfare group).
Major findings from Organisational research
*In countries like USA, pet management is labor-driven and process-driven. In Singapore, there is no processes in place.
*AWGs in Singapore are highly private and relational-based. There is often no exchange of information or communication between them either due to fear of losing control or reputation.
*Pets can include dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, furry animals.
(2) Competitive Research
Why was this carried out:
*We wanted to have a sense of the market both within and outside of Singapore on how Pet Widget stands against any possible competitors, as we are creating a new product. Refer to #1 of obstacles faced above
What was carried out:
*Desk research and interview with client was our major source in gathering information of any competitors. Getting client involved at this stage was also very useful, as this helps to bridge any communication gaps, creates trust and align the team together as the product is developed.
*We had a major obstacle faced when we cannot find a way to understand how the various pet-related organisations work in the non-profit space. We decided to “move outside the box” and think “people” and found out about giving.sg as a web-platform in connecting the non-profit organisations and public.
Major findings from Competitive research
No clear competitor except for BabelBark and eVet Practice.
*eVet Practice targets veterinary practices only and is successful in capturing the market. Was also recently acquired by Henry Schein, Inc. (Nasdaq : HSIC)
*BabelBark has created a platform targeted at various key players in the ecosystem including shelters called BizBark. Its purpose and aim is very close to what our client wants to achieve.
(3) Evaluative Research
Why was this carried out:
*Learning from what systems are out there to implement into the product;
“Take the good, improve on the bad” is a direction to move ahead.
Refer to #1 of obstacles faced above.
What was carried out:
*As we do not have any existing software for evaluative research, we combine the findings from competitive research and applied evaluative research.
In this case, we have conducted LEMERS method of usability testing with BizBark’ Registration and After Registration as recorded. A summary of findings was also tabulated.
Major findings from Evaluative Research
Generally, from the BizBark platform, we can learn that
*Improving overall UI and on-boarding experience is critical since many of the AWGs staff and volunteer have low IT competency to make it more intuitive and easy to use
*The various user access roles and features of the BizBark platform are suitable for the various needs of AWGs.
(4) User Research / Ethnographic research
Why was this carried out:
*Create deep empathy for our AWGs and creating personas.
*Understand their pain points, mental modes, true needs and priorities.
*To replace/reduce/eliminate any possible assumptions as much as possible. *To gain an understanding of the language of our AWGs use to help develop the tone and words for the software.
*Basically to also have a realistic feel of the entire ecosystem.
(Refer to #1,#2, #3 of obstacles faced above)
What was carried out:
*We carried out contextual inquiries with AWGs shelter staff owner and volunteers and full-time staff.
*A full-day of field research was also carried out where we all visited the shelter spaces in-person.
*We carried out “Fly-on-the-Wall” observation on a “lucky day” where there was a live adoption drive organised by one of the AWGs.
*When we cannot get hold of an in-person interview, an user email interview was sent and received.
Major findings and takeaways from Ethnographic research:
**AWGs are mostly run by 3 ways/types of people and we have distill them into the following 3 personas.
The takeaways that led us to create the personas are:
*All of them are run mostly by volunteers, often with low-to-mid level of IT literacy.
*Most of them are always on-the-go.
*Many of them seem to be resistant to change as they have been so caught up with the process of rescuing, caring and running adoption drives for the pets.
**The main services provided by AWGs are Rescue, Adoption and Fostering, no matter the size or type of pets. SPCA being the largest organization also provides Education, Clinic, Inspectorate services.
The team has decided to narrow down to 3 key services and draft up 5 service blueprints to understand the relationship between the processes, operations, workflow and key stakeholders for each of the AWGs.
This also helps us to empathise even deeper with our personas, and identify major pain points and opportunities.
We used PostIts, Mu.ral and Illustrator to digitise the service blueprints.
The takeaways after evaluating from the service blueprints are
*The processes documented mostly in a primitive way by papers
*This makes the operations very cumbersome and disorganised
*This also makes the entire process not easily traceable and trackable.
*There are major gaps in communications between the staff and volunteers.
*Overall, there is no proper structure in place for all the AWGs
**The existing methods of tools for communication, documentation and recordings utilised by all the AWGS are Microsoft Office, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google Drive, Paper/File system. There is also no clear system in place.
A matrix of evaluating the effectiveness of the existing tools was drawn and is based on ease of use and extent of customisation.
A NEW DISCOVERY
As the team continued to research and ideate for the pet management system software, we uncovered three important key insights
With these in mind, a strategic vision for this software product that is novel in the market is thus carved in stone.
: Building the MVP :
With the product vision in mind, we went through extensive research and ideation of all the possible features that we can find and think of to help the AWGs.
Principles and Best Practices
We have considered various design principles and dashboard design best practices as we build the enterprise software.
1- Usability principles
*Our primary goal of our design process is to keep it simple and straightforward to use. We only add features that are necessary for what the AWGs need and will want to use in the software.
*Consistency and harmony of visual elements ( content, language, UI elements, fonts, backgrounds, colors, typography) are implemented throughout the dashboard.
*Tooltips were added to the dashboard to offer AWGs additional information and support when they are navigating around the dashboard.
2- Interactive principles
*Consistency of interactions were implemented throughout the software for similar operations and tasks. With this it would enhance the ease of using the software by the AWGs.
*Affordance are included that allows the AWGs to know how to use the dashboard. Buttons have defined interaction to give users a clue that they can be clickable for them to perform an action.
*Following the principles of interaction design, the amount of errors that the AWGs will make is reduced, by preventing these errors from happening in the first place. Functions that are not relevant to the users are disabled.
3- Accessibility principles
Following the P.O.U.R. principles in accessibility, we remove any barriers of using the software focusing on colors, typography and alternative-texts for non-text elements.
*Colours: Primary, secondary and extended colors are created to ensure sufficient colour contrasts between elements (4.5:1). This ensures that users with low vision can still use the software, especially since there is a group of elderly in the AWGs.
*Typography: A clear typographic hierarchy is critical to effective communication. Weight, scale and capitalisation also supports the message of relative importance within each section of the software. Easy readability allows all users to efficiently read and absorb information easily.
*Alt-Text: For non-text elements, creating alternative texts help all users to understand the purpose of the pages better, thus enhancing ease of use of the software. Especially important for users who are not familiar with digital platforms.
4- Dashboard Design Best Practices
Adopting some of the industry’s standards of dashboard design best practices, we have considered
*The 5-second rule : Relevant information is displayed in 5 seconds
*The inverted pyramid: A logical layout to display the most significant/important overview insights at the top/front, and granularly, more details at the bottom/back.
*The minimalist look: No more than 5–9 visuals, breaking information into filters and tabs.
: THE ENTERPRISE SOFTWARE PROTOTYPE IS BORN :
U p until now, we have overcame all the three obstacles, thus gaining an in-depth understanding of the complexity and fragmentation of the ecosystem, how did we consolidate all of these findings into designing the experience that AWGs desperately needs?
Entirely built from scratch, the enterprise software which is possibly never seen before in the market is designed to be
FLEXIBLE | SCALBLE | MODULAR
to cater to all sizes of AWGs and their partners, as well as their needs and services.
Designing The Experience
Sprints and Backlogs
With a product backlog, key features were prioritised and developed through three agile sprints, gathering feedback from our client with our paper wireframes during Sprint One and internal feedback during Sprint Two.
SNEAK-PREVIEW OF SCREENS OF SOFTWARE PROTOTYPE
Final Usability testing and Capturing Feedback
After two sprints, we tested the final hi-fi prototype with all major interactions with owners from two AWGs using six case scenarios.
Case scenario 1: You are the owner of the shelter. You want to have a quick overview of the services of your organization, and monitor how the organization rescue process has been over the past 3 weeks.
Case scenario 2: As a receptionist, you constantly receive calls from public on abandoned pets in need of rescue. You need to create an open file to start documenting the process asap…..this animal is named Chow Chow.
Case scenario 3: As an deputy executive director, you have rolled out a series of programs to get more sponsors to help support the AWG. You have managed to get 3 new sponsors. You are now ready to create a new Partner category for these sponsors.
Case scenario 4: You are one of the shelter staff and need to check the activity history of a pet dog named Hill Hill. You also like to check when Hill Hill was brought into the Shelter.
Case scenario 5: You are in charge of all volunteers. And you like to view the volunteers who have last login from 1st July 2018 to 10th July 2018.
Case scenario 6: You have a new volunteer in your team! Congrats. You have to create a profile for this volunteer to get him started helping out at the shelter.
A Feedback Capture Grid was used to synthesise the qualitative feedback gathered.
The main reason we used this method is because much of the feedback gathered by our target personas were very varied. The users were all very excited when they finally get to see and use the live prototype, and they were giving lots of feedback and ideas for future use and not fully sticking to the task scenario given.
The main feedback given by VFA owner was “ It is so idiot-proof for someone like me right?”
To the UX team, this is a jackpot moment where we know we are headed the right direction.
On top of them , as the owners were giving more feedback for future processes such as integrating with the TNRM program. This tells us that what was initially not a possibility for them, is now possible. We have ignited a spark in them, previously undiscovered, to go beyond just rescue and running adoption drives — now they can see how a system in place for their needs is coming to live.
Overall, what makes the Pet Widget Platform the best AWG management portal is that
(1) It truly is one-of-a-kind platform that is designed for the ecosystem. The sitemap is based on the services, goals and needs of the AWGs and their partners.
(2) Consistent use of design patterns ( buttons, colors, fonts, widgets)
(3) System is catered for different users without disruption
(4) Interaction levels to make it intuitive and easy to use
: The Future:
Moving ahead, we have proposed to go through a more thorough research , both qualitative and quantitative methods to align company mission with ecosystem real needs, focusing on
[a] Creating access level rights
[b] Data analytics and visualisation
to draw more support from corporate and individual sponsors, donors and volunteers.
[c] Notification and live update system for AWGs to get real time update of rescue cases
[d] Incorporating the TNRM government initiative
[e] Research and inquiry with more AWGs veterinary clinics and pet-related services
We believe that with this design system incorporated in the product it will
Unify the ecosystem, Breakdown walls of communication creating trust and accountability to ease the work flow so that
AWGs can focus on doing what they love most — Caring for the welfare of the pets.
In the non-for-profit space, what began as a passion and mission for the greater good, always end up as a constant struggle for the organisations and groups to survive and sustain. The animal welfare organisations and groups are not spared from this too.
This is often due to poor funding, sub-standard skilful management and lack of public awareness. The current non-for-profit model is clearly not working. It is time we collaborate, take actions and apply beyond just design-thinking alone. It is time we adopt a holistic and multi-dimensional approach to innovate the ecosystem at a profit level.
Starting from hearing these groups out, supporting their systems organization by creating a customised platform, backed by empathy-led behavioural research and data-driven insights, involving all participants and stakeholders of all sizes and levels, making a real valuable social impact for sustainable growth and development in all sectors could just be finally here.
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