Losing a pet can be one of most awful experiences someone can go through.
Yet, the methods of searching and rescuing animals are far from ideal. People unfortunately lack training and skills in how to find animals and how to rescue them. On top of that the dangers the animal can go through makes it extremely stressful for the owner.
Petfinder aims to solve that, ease the burden and help people find their lost pets easier and quicker.
This app is currently under development.
As with any dissapearances human either or animal, timing is essential. Each hour that the lost animal is away, the risks pile up. The owner doesn't know how far the animal can or will travel.
This becomes an even bigger problem when the place where it ran away from is a new walking spot. Most of the times the owner is paralyzed and untrained in what to do. How can the pet owner act quickly?
Claudia is a dog owner. She works during most of the day, so she walks her dog Joanna every night on the neighbourhood. She uses a safety collar, but not a dog tag. One day she is surprised by a sudden car turning and releases the collar.
The dog, scared, runs on the opposite direction. Claudia tries to catch it, but she fails. Now she is desperate and doesn't know what to do or how to search for Joanne.
How can Claudia find Joanne?
To understand deeply the complexities of finding a lost pet, I gathered data from different sources and animal care institutions. I managed to find information in two main fronts: the behaviour and patterns of lost pets and how people search and deal with them.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA) funded between 2010 and 2012 a study on recovery of lost animals. With a sample size of more than a thousand interviews the data is rich and very clear.
15% had lost a dog or cat in the past five years
74% of lost cats were recovered;
93% of lost dogs were recovered;
49% of dog owners found their dog by searching the neighborhood
30% found their cat by searching the neighborhood;
59% of the lost cats returned on their own;
38% of dogs were recovered because they were wearing an ID tag or had a microchip;
4% of dog and cat guardians found their lost pets at a shelter.
Another study, this one published in 2007 by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, focused into the rescue of lost cats. They used a shallower user base of 138 cat guardians, yet the data proved to be relevant because it delved deeper into how the owner found the animal:
68% of owners stopped searching after the first day;
53% of the lost cats were recovered;
84% of lost cats with outdoor access were found within a five-house radius of their home
92% of indoor only lost cats were found within a five-house radius of their home
The average time to recovery was 5 days;
66% of the lost cats returned on their own or were found in the neighborhood;
7% of the lost cats were found in the neighborhood;
11% were found due to neighborhood signs
19% of the cats wore some kind of ID tag
59% of the cats had outdoor-access
Takeaways from Research
After observing the data and digging into the studies, you can notice that the guardian role is a passive one. Most of the things that she can do lies in the realm of preventive. ID tagging is the only safe method to increase the chances of the animal being returned .
The animal follow its instinct and knowledge of the surroundings to guide itself. Some of them will find their way back naturally if not too far away. Cats are mostly territorial and don't travel far. Dogs tend to move according opportunity and temperament. This means that the behavior of the animal is crucial in influencing the distances that they travel.
Lastly, the owner in most of the situations didn't know what to do to find their pets. If the immediate search for the animal fails, the owner finds herself lacking knowledge in what they can do more. This information skewed the data, largely in favor of the animal returning by itself. This prompted me to develop ways to improve the preparedness of the owner.
To create an app that gives the owner quick actions to improve her chances of finding the animal as fast as possible.
The owner creates a profile for his pet and connects through Facebook to his other friends. If the owner loses the animal he can activate the app feature gernating a location tagged page with pictures and information that can be instantaneously shared on multiple social media sites and messaging apps.
Even non-friends within range of geo-tagged lost pet, can be notified of the disapearance. That way, the app allows the rapidly creation of a rapid response network of people that can help in the search.
Sketching & Prototyping
After all this research I couldn't wait to get my hands on the paper and sketch some ideas. I started doing a basic word mindmaps to understand where each part would lead. It got complicated very fast. The navigation was getting too complex with excessive back and forth.
It was easy to clean up the navigation without worrying about visuals. Using a pretty basic prototyping exercise I distributed named cards to people so they could test where each part should lead. It was excellent, because it proved that some functions were too deep into the app, while others were excessive.
Afterwards, I started to develop some simple wireframes on paper. Without aiming for alignment or perfection, I drew boxes and lines were I thought things could or would fit.
This process allowed to clean up and evolve my idea before going to a graphic software.
With the sketches and basic wireframes done, instead of doing a virtual mockup I prefered to create a cleaner and more structured mind map. This approach allowed to refine the plan before doing anything else. Once I got to the visuals, it was very clear what I needed to do.
Even though the app is based in complex relationship patterns and behaviours, it has to look easy to use. Bring even the most basic user in. The goal is to be a simple app that anyone can pick and use.
It has to stand out from other social networks with a proprietary color.
The typography needs readability in its core with friendly face and a big size.
An interface with a reduced number of options and buttons to reduce the visual complexity of the app.
The buttons need to be obvious and prove reaction to interaction.
The app will be used during stressful situations, so familiar positioning for the buttons is a good choice. That way we can avoid exploratory taps.
Most pet-directed apps have a visual that is too cute and colorful or sterile and humorless on the other. We aim to take the middle point, to inspire confidence and be friendly.
The app will use and abuse of colorful dichotomy in contrast with a more clean and modern interface. The colors will represent two states, with you or missing. This color-coding proved to be an excellent indicator of the functions of the app when tested with a group. We will use material design cards to overlay elements over one and another.
How It Works
The ideal use situation demands that the owner already has the app beforehand. Through Facebook Connect, the user can quickly create a network of friends who have pets too.
Afterwards, the user creates his account and quickly creates profiles for his pets. He fill information like species, breeds, personal ticks and can add photos. A medium sized text field is provided if the owner wants to add custom text.
After the first pet profile is created, the home screen provides quick access to the profile. According to research ID tagging is essential for improving the chances of recovery. That's why one of the key features of the app is constant reminder to put some kind of identification plate on the animal. This notification will only stop with the confirmation of the owner.
When the animal runs away or is lost, the user can activate the Find Me option. After a confirmation the pet profile is flagged and shared with the your friends inside the app. Non-friends with enabled notifications will receive a push if within range of the lost animal.
The app generates shareable images and texts that can be easily posted on Facebook, Instagram and sent through WhatsApp. Not forgetting the offline use, the App generates a printable PDF so it can be used and distributed as a poster in the local neighborhood.
It alsos creates a unique hashtag in the format #PetFinderNUMBER. Afterwards the app continuously monitors the hashtag for any updates on the lost pet. The owner is the only who can read all the information on his app and get in touch with whoever found any leads on the animal. The app primarily doesn't offer any messaging functions, letting the users use their prefered communication method.
Product Design: Ricardo Esteves
Developer: Carlos Zinato
Consulting: Mayara Molleis
Developer: Carlos Zinato
Consulting: Mayara Molleis