Design, Technology, and Innovation Projects

We have finished the initial research for the Austin Animal Center foster form redesign.

  • Reviewed foster forms from other local organizations and successful programs nationwide.
  • Reviewed other cities’ and products’ forms.
  • Reviewed “best practices” books and articles.
  • Conducted usability testing on our current foster form with 10 participants, some of which were over 65, speak English as a second language, and use a screen reader.

Through these, we identified the top opportunities to pursue in new concepts.

  • Set expectations
  • Clarify
  • Streamline and remove barriers
  • Optimize for accessibility
  • Optimize for mobile

1. Set expectations

Test participants’ perception of the foster process:

An image of the perception of the foster process

“I’m super allergic to cats… so they’ll know our house is not open to fostering cats” - Test participant, age 36

Real foster process:

An image of the actual foster process residents will go through

We found test participants didn’t understand what would happen next and thought an animal would be picked for them. Incorrect expectations can lead to people dropping out of the program after being approved to foster. Data from the foster program suggests this may be happening - around 1,100 applications are approved a year but only around 450 people are in the system. We will better communicate the process and expectations in the form to improve applicant retention.

2. Clarify

An image of two forms- one with confusing language, and one with clear, action oriented language

We will use more clear, action oriented language and add help text to improve comprehension.

3. Streamline and remove barriers

An image of a form asking for the date of a rabies vaccination

“Aaaarrrgghhh I don’t know the day. I’m going to make a wild guess. Looking in records is onerous.” Test participant, age 48

Not only is this annoying for the participant, but the animal center only needs to know if the rabies vaccination is current; exact date doesn’t matter. We will remove unnecessary questions and only ask questions relevant to each user.

4. Optimize for accessibility

An image of an excessive form

“This is driving me crazy!” Test participant, age 35, using a screen reader.

Improper screen reader implementation caused the app to read out, “Collapse human household member” before every single field in the app. For him to skip over the fifteen irrelevant fields, he had to listen to that irrelevant command 15 times. Most participants faced issues here and there, but our participants over 65 and the participant who used the screen reader faced these issues more frequently and faced more difficulty overcoming them. We will improve the site by designing for all users, not just the highly digitally literate or people not using assistive technologies.

5. Optimize for mobile

An image of a form being viewed on a smart phone An image of a form zoomed out on a smart phone, showing it doesn't fit on the screen

The application is very inconvenient on mobile, meaning the 52% of Austinites who access the city website would likely abandon the application. We will design mobile first and responsive for all screen sizes.

We also raised some questions to explore in the redesign. How might we…

  • Set better expectations while maintaining simplicity?
  • Have a more helpful tone that doesn’t make people feel like they’re being weeded out?
  • Reduce anxiety and improve honesty, while ensuring they fill it out thoughtfully?
  • Better fit the foster process?
  • Encourage applicants to consider fostering their non-ideal animal?

“It’s like a reference for animals, like your resume” Test participant, age 27