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Closeup of a Black Dog

New Friend

Reducing the stigma of shelter pets through design


Shelter pets have a stigma that something is wrong with them that landed them in the shelter. People don't want the animals to be destroyed but they also don't want to take the risk of adopting an unsuitable pet.

New Friend is a shelter that rescues cats and dogs so they can have a second chance. New Friend believes that when a pet and person are well matched, it creates a long-lasting bond that enriches both of their lives.  

Uncertainty about the pet and how to reduce it in the shelter pet adoption process was the focus of this project 


May to June 2022


Design services that New Friend Shelter can implement to fulfill its mission.


Create events for prospective adopters to reduce uncertainty in possible pet matches.

The Problem


Product Designer which included research, ideation, paper and digital wireframing, low and high-fidelity prototyping, conducting usability studies, accounting for accessibility, and iterating on designs.



The research highlighted that uncertainty of prospective pets’ behavior (38%), compatibility/personality (30%), and health (21%) are the top concerns in pet adoption. People had different expectations for their prospective pet with the majority theme providing companionship in varying ways.

Over 60% of the respondents said they have an interest in hiking and/or walking.

A remote web survey was conducted with 24 participants ages 18 to 64 to determine what they want out of a pet relationship, their lifestyle activities, and their concerns with shelter pet adoption.




Age:  40

Education:  MS, Computer Science

Hometown:  Pittsburgh, PA

Family:  Single

Occupation:  Programmer

“I want a dog that I can share my life with.”


  • Adopt a dog that I can take on hikes with me and be my companion

  • Easy adoption process with limited paperwork


  • It is hard to know the true personality of a rescue dog

  • It is hard to know if the rescue dog is healthy before paying for a Vet evaluation.

Mei works from home as a Senior Programmer. She wants a dog that is good-natured to not bark during video conferences but active enough to go hiking. She loves the companionship of dogs in all aspects of her life but doesn’t want to meet every dog to see which one is right for her. She does not want to appear unprofessional if the dog barks during a video meeting.


The respondents' concerns were reviewed and sorted by “Can be an icon” and “Must be determined by user”. Ideation focused on how to create interactions and activities that the user and prospective pets can engage in together to resolve the compatibility pain point.

The items that “Can be an icon” were matched to icons and shown on the pet's profile page.  The research help guide what additional icons to include in the design

New Friend ideation affinity diagram showing the ideas from the brain storming session

Ideation Affinity Diagram

The affinity diagram was created from a brainstorming session to come up with possible ways to solve the user pain points of personality and behavior, discovered during the research phase.



The desktop site was designed first. Paper and digital wireframes were created. 

Users' observations and comments from the wireframe useability study were incorporated into the high-fidelity prototype.

The designed flow of the desktop website made creating the mobile site easier because it was the same flow of information just narrower.

Findings from low fidelity usability study

Designed an overlay verifying that the user wants to book the visit before the confirmation.

60% of the participants wanted verification of the visit date and time before booking.

Wireframe showing added overlay verifying the user want to book the visit

Style Guide

New Friend Style Guide
High Fidelity
Style Guide

Findings from high-fidelity usability study

Labels were added to each of the icons and an overlay was created to provide more detail.

100% of participants liked the idea of showing the pets' ratings with icons.

50% of participants were confused by what each icon was supposed to convey.

High-Fidelity screen showing the icons with descriptions added

Web event sign up in action

Website in Action

Mobile pet scheduling in action

App in Action
Lessons Learned


Uncertainty about prospective pets was an obstacle to people adopting pets. This project created direct unique ways for users to interact with the pet to determine personality matches and created indirect methods by creating rating icons that were posted on the pet's profile page.

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