The adoption tool designed to increase the number of adoptions and decrease return rates.

The following project was created to fulfill a capstone project for Springboard, an online certification academy. Students were instructed to build a project around something they felt passionately about - for me, it's pet adoption. 

According to the ASPCA, "approximately 6.5 MILLION companion animals enter U.S animals shelters nationwide every year." Of those 6.5 million dogs and cats, about 1.5 million are euthanized. and 3.2 million are adopted every year (this doesn't include pets that are returned). About 47% of dogs and 42% of cats are rehomed due to problematic behaviors or health issues.

These statistics have brought me to create this ideal project - one that perfectly matches pet and owners AND increases knowledge about pet adoption along with fostering. By incorporating all these aspects into one easily accessible website, users are able to gain knowledge about all the aspects of pet adoption and shelter/foster life. They can also take a quiz that provides pet matches! It's like a dating website but for pets, how awesome is that?!

Basically, the goal is to increase pet adoption, decrease return rates, and shine a light on the need for volunteers and pet heroes within the different types of animal shelters/sanctuaries/rescues.

Survey Results

Before finding participants, I created a screener survey; it was mostly meant to weed out people who only buy from breeders. This survey also helped me understand my user-demographic.


 have a roommate



 are age 22-25


 are older



live in an apartment/condo



 adopt from shelters



 buy from breeders



 look online before visiting in person

Out of





 strictly search local shelters (no more than 30 min away)

The Personas

After conducting interviews an reviewing answers on the survey, the following personas were created:

Eva - The Expert Adopter

"I feel like the value of having a pet is so rewarding - you have to make sacrifices but it's worth it."

Eva is 27 years old and has had multiple pets in the past. All her pets have either been adopted from shelters or taken from people who could not care for their pets anymore. She is very knowledgable about pet adoption and really believes that pets require quite a bit of sacrifice. In addition, she is adament on researching whether or not a shelter truly cares about the animals' welfare. Eva likes to know everything about a pet before adoption.

Her Needs:

  • A thorough pet biography with medical history and personality type.

  • A clear mission statement from the shelter and/or a link to the shelter website.

  • Accurate availability.

  • Needs to know if compatible with other animals.

Her Behaviors:

  • Will do extensive research on the shelter itself.

  • Will constantly call back about pet availability (obviously has a lot of time on her hands).

  • Will refuse to go out with friends in order to keep her pet company.

  • Hired pet-sitters when she is on trips.

  • Will cater to any behavioral issues.


  • Making sure her new pet feels comfortable.


  • Not all behavioral issues are brought to her attention prior to adoption.

  • Shelters don't update availability often enough.

Jason - The Anxious Adopter

"I've never had a pet before..."

Jason is 23 years old and has never adopted a pet before. He recently graduated and has apartment-hopped twice this year. He also doesn’t have a stable job. Jason has never had a pet before and is anxious about getting one. He’s not very knowledgable about the adoption process but is ready to do as much research as possible beforehand. He believes that having a pet is stressful but rewarding.

His Needs:

  • A stress-free way to adopt a pet.

  • As much knowledge as possible about pets and adoption.

  • The pet must fit the guidelines of the apartment complex.

  • Trial-run with a pet before committing to one.
    Guidance in pet care and adoption.


  • Successfully train a dog from puppy-hood.

  • Adopt a small dog.

His Behaviors:

  • He will ask knowledgable pet owners about their experience with adoption and how to care for pets.

  • He will also do his own extensive Google research.

  • Very active lifestyle and wants a pet that matches that.

  • Likes to party and hangout with friends outside the apartment.


  • He doesn’t know where to start in the adoption process.

  • Is afraid of that he will do a bad job of taking care of a pet even though he wants one.

Steven - The Minimal-Effort Adopter

"I don't want to waste my time or anyone else's time."

Steven is a 35-year-old with a partner and a 3-year-old daughter. He is a very busy man and believes that time is money and he doesn’t want to waste either. He lives in a house and has a steady career. His partner and child both really want a pet but he is mostly apathetic about adopting a pet. Despite his mostly neutral feelings, he still wants to take part in the adoption process but would like to put as little effort as possible in the search.

His Needs:

  • A convenient and quick way to find pets.

  • All information about the pet and shelter should be located in one place.

  • Website should be easy to navigate.

His Behaviors:

  • Work is his main priority along with the care of his child.

  • He will not spend more than 30 minutes on an adoption website and only looks through the first 10 profiles.

  • If there is no information about the pet, he doesn’t even bother calling the shelter and moves on.

  • He goes to the shelter with his family but lets them pick the pet.


  • Obtain a pet as quickly and stress-free as possible.

  • Put in as little effort as possible to find a pet (ie. not drive to multiple shelters to find a pet)


  • Hates when the shelter location and phone number aren’t visible on the same screen.

Card Sorting

I'm not going to lie, I had some expectations and hopes for how the cards should have been sorted BUT everyone had different ideas of what content went with what categories and so on and so forth. Not only did this activity shed light on specific arrangements, semantics were questioned as well. 

To my surprise, each person had a different meaning and expectation behind the concept of "adoption". Also, the assumption that all adoption topics should go under the same category was completely obliterated.

User 1

His participation was one of the most interesting. He decided to sort the cards into categories AND THEN subcategories. He felt that this was the most organized and easy to follow method if implemented within a website.

User 2

This user's card sort was close to my original idea of how the website should be mapped out. Her choice in labeling was colloquial which definitely took part in what direction I would go with my website.

User 3

This user's results lead to the re-evaluation of some semantics and groupings. As you can see, she grouped many items together and despite asking her if she could separate them into more groups (she wasn't pressured) she explained why this was the best option.

User 4

His choice in grouping also resulted in a slight change in semantics. This user ended up separating the "pet search" filters into different groups and the fact he has a "miscellaneous" section shows there is an issue with the choice of wording.

Site Map & User Flows

I found quite a few websites with similar aspects to mine, so I put together a competitive analysis. After reviewing the differences between other websites, and what made them successful, I created a site map (and came up with ideas on aesthetic design). The site map was further refined by the user flows and slowly my project started to take form.

The user flows were created based off the interviews and personas. After creating personas and targeting their concerns, I was able to form general interactions throughout the website which helped delegate what tabs went under which category and so on. 


Taking into consideration all the notes and observations from the card sort, I developed the following designs for the website. I inquired some premature opinions of my product before moving onto the actual prototype. I also found it helpful to insert notes within the wireframes to show the possible sequence of events.


I used proto.io to bring my interactive prototype to life. Although clickable, users had quite a few questions despite giving them tasks to complete.

Style Guide

In order to induce a sense of warmth and playfulness, these following colors seemed suitable. 


The orange hues are meant to set a tone of hominess and liveliness - having a new addition to the family should be an exciting event.


The blue instills a sense of trust and calm - since our site contains informational articles and assistance in finding the perfect pet, it’s important that they trust our platform.

User Testing

Main Tasks:

  • Start a Pet Search

    • Out of four participants, two were able to easily navigate the pet search - the other two tried to use the overall website search tool as a pet search tool and expressed their frustration when they were unable to do so.

    • One participant advised to guide the user through the experience through commands (ie. "choose your pet") rather than just placing options.

  • Take a Quiz

    • This was a very difficult task to delegate without leading the user - the overall task was executed easily by users.

    • The participants gave helpful feedback on the questions within the quiz that will be implemented in phase 2.

  • "Favorite" or "Like" a Pet Profile To Save For Later

    • Three of the four participants noticed the "favorite" button immediately and before prompting them to click on it, they knew immediately the meaning of it.

      • One participants had no idea what to do when I prompted him to "favorite" the pet profile - I even tried to change my wording and say "like" the profile but he still didn't understand. This resulted in frustration and his explanation that the Facebook thumbs up button was the only universal form of a "like" or "favorite", in his opinion.

  • Go Back to the "Home Page"

    • As mundane and intuitive this task may seem, a lot of participants had issues with this task.

    • Many participants would search for a "home" button or just click the "back" button on their browser until they reached the home page.

  • Log In

    • I told participants to assume they already have an account with the website and that they should log in. This task was pretty easy and didn't have any issues.


Overview and Future Plans:

Prior to user testing, I prefaced the experience by stating that the prototype was not fully functioning in the sense that certain elements were already "filled in" or "chosen" for them. Despite the forewarning, participants still had a hard time maneuvering the prototype and expressed their frustration. 

In the future, I plan to make a fully working HTML prototype with more interactive elements so the user is fully immersed in the actual experience. Due to the limitations of the prototype maker, participants were more distracted by the lack of functionality rather than the experience as a whole.


Additionally, all user input taken from this phase will be implemented in phase two along with the style guide. This way, we would be able to test the efficiency and efficacy of all the elements that would be hosted in the final product.