Pawks is a mobile app that sniffs out ideal dog parks for the practical dog owner.


Solo Student Project for Springboard UI/UX Bootcamp



5 months

the challenge

rise of the dog parks

Finding an ideal dog park is challenging for the modern day dog parent. With an increasing number of dog parks around the country, dog parents are faced with the grueling task of scouring multiple websites for a mish-mash of crucial information that results in a half painted picture and a less than ideal park experience. The challenge I undertook was to create a streamlined way to help dog parents search for dog parks that fit their specific needs.

the solution

My solution is a mobile app called ‘Pawks’ that redefines the way dog parents traditionally search for dog parks.

the process


Dog parks: The great divide

To truly empathize with dog owners and understand their pain points, I began my research with a screener survey in preparation for user interviews.

user interviews

There was a clear divide on how people felt about the dog park, so I reached out to 5 participants and conducted user interviews about their own dog park experiences.

Participant Demographics

  • 4 females, 1 male
  • Aged 27 - 33
  • 4 reside in large cities, 1 resides in a suburb
  • All are professionals in their own respective fields


To understand the process in which they go through when searching for a suitable dog park, and the outcome--Did it end up in a successful or unsuccessful trip to the park?

HMW Statements

I knew that at the center of it, I had to create a tool that would solve the way people traditionally searched for dog parks. Referring back to my key insights, five significant design challenges were uncovered:

HMW simplify peoples’ search for authentic user experiences and reviews?

“I want a way to find specific information quickly and easily, instead of reading through every single review”

HMW simplify the user’s search for suitable dog parks based on their specific needs?

“I want convenience and efficiency when searching for dog parks by having all relevant information in one place”

HMW encourage dog owners to prevent dog fights?

“I want a way to keep track of problematic dogs at the park”

HMW help users predetermine whether a trip to the dog park would be ideal for them?

“Some park pages have outdated or inaccurate information”

HMW allow like-minded dog owners to connect with each other?

“I want to learn dog parenting tips from other dog owners who share the same values as me”

"You don’t want to make bringing your dog to the park more of a chore than it is, so finding out important information beforehand would save a lot of time and effort."


Through affinity mapping, I uncovered 3 themes and key insights from the data I gathered during the interviews.

1. Convenience

Dog parents had varying definitions of convenience. Some valued convenience in location or proximity while others valued convenience in park amenities such as on-site parking or waste bags.

2. Research & Decision  Making

Dog parents always conduct their own research before making the decision on going to a new dog park. They want to know exactly what to expect to avoid wasting their time.

3. Communication & Comprehension

Dog parents see value in connecting with other like-minded dog parents as they can relate with each other. They also share dog parenting tips and learn from one another.

Screener Surveys

Screener surveys were sent out to fellow dog owners via social media circles and 36 responses were received.


  • To gain quantifiable data on how often people visited dog parks
  • Uncover the ratio of people who like vs. dislike the dog park


key takeaways

  • 50% of respondents visit the dog park at least once every month
  • 50% of respondents rarely or never visit the dog park
  • 52% of respondents like the dog park (At least 7 out of 10 rating)


no such thing as a bad idea

The method I chose for brainstorming solutions was by sketching out my ideas onto paper. I then began to design the Information Architecture through user flows.

Exploring solutions

Through my research, I confirmed that the most crucial information people looked for were the following:

  • On-site parking
  • Busy times (park density)
  • Distance
  • Park conditions
  • Potential problematic dogs

user flows

Plotting out the user flows would help me identify the necessary screens and actions required to achieve the MVP. Additionally, it would help determine very early on, how to structure my future usability tests and hypothesize any possible points of friction.


Penciles before pixels

Sketching out the screens by hand with the intention of testing early.

lofi designs

The sketches were then used to conduct one round of guerilla usability tests with 5 participants in order to determine early on whether there were any points of friction that would need to be addressed before moving forward.

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Turning the sketches into wireflows solidified the information architecture and task flows. The major task flows were the Search & Filter Flow and Submit & View Flows.


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Necessary changes

Results of the usability tests created opportunities for improvements and changes through wireframe iterations.


Creating a balanced visual hierarchy as well as incorporating what I had discovered through my research proved to be a challenging iterative process.

4 major iterations


bringing it all together

Creating cohesive visual designs by revisiting the brand personality and attributes in preparation for user testing sessions.

I decided to go with this particular font face because the roundness is very playful and fun. The logo is supposed to represent a dog in the shape of a map pin.

hifi mockup

Delivering a delightful experience

In order to really drive home the playfulness of the app, what better way than to do so using animations and micro interactions! I’m designing for busy, motivated people who seek efficiency, but adding in one or two seconds of delightful animations during their journey can make the app just that much more memorable and engaging.

creating a clickable prototype

With the upcoming usability tests in mind, I began creating the predicted paths in which users would take to complete the following tasks:

Sign up for a new account as a first time user

Search for a dog park that is within your vicinity and bookmark it

Submit a review

Submit an incident

Submit a park update

usability tests

With an interactive prototype ready to go, I conducted the two rounds of remote and in-person usability tests with 5 participants.


  • Uncover any usability issues
  • Determine whether participants are able to work through the screens with minimal friction
  • Observe the initial reactions to the overall UI of the app
Usability testing using Maze

"If you use Google Maps, then you would feel really familiar using this."

usability test report summary

key takeaways

  • There are prototyping limitations which do not equate to genuine usability issues
  • With form heavy screens, providing a “clear next step” for users is imperrative to minimize confusion


never stop improving

Given the results of the usability tests, one major usability issue was uncovered which needed to be fixed before moving forward.

Start & End Date removal
  • Users found the end date to be redundant in that not all types of updates would require an end date
  • Users would prefer to write the end date in the description
  • Final: By removing the end date completely and having the current date set as the default would help reduce cognitive load. The addition of the confirm CTA would provide the user with a clear next step
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pawks in action

A walkthrough of the initial tasks

“I want to find a highly rated dog park within my vicinity that must have on-site parking”

"I want to write a detailed park review."

"I want to share information about a park closure with other Pawks users”

“I want to let Pawks users know about a aggressive dog I encountered at the park today”


learnings & takeaways

Test frequently and early on

Putting my primitive sketches in front of real users helped identify and correct usability issues early on in the process that would have been costly to fix later down the road.

Utilize different tools along the way

Although Figma was the most utilized tool for this project and could arguably be used for every step of the way, I also experimented with Miro, Marvel Pop and Maze. Being able to utilize these amazing tools throughout my project helped me work efficiently.

Don't get married to your initial designs

It’s easy to get fixated on initial ideas and designs, but it’s important not to develop tunnel vision. Creating designs is an abstract and intricate process that forces one to look beyond the obvious answers and instead, foster plausible outcomes based on a “what if” idea.

next steps

Refining the forms

Although the forms presented in this case study work as intended, I would continue to explore ways to make the experience more delightful and less mundane. Forms are infamous for being tedious and time consuming so finding a way to lighten the user’s load would be something I’d continue to work through.

Reworking the UI details

The app relies heavily on the animations and micro-animations to evoke a playful and fun characteristic, but it would be worth incorporating more colors and gradients to further establish this throughout the app.

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© Elaine Chan Design 2024