Rocket Dog Rescue UX Overhaul

 Rocket Dog Logo

Rocket Dog Logo

While working at Epsilon, I was approached by Rocket Dog Rescue to redesign their services and web presence for dog foster parents.

Rocket Dog Rescue, is a well-loved Bay-Area dog recuse organization specializing in finding homes for the toughest cases - literally saving dogs from death row at high-kill shelters.  They are an organization with a strong brand, and a devoted local following, but the experience of their fosters needed an overhaul.  

The Challenge

Rocket Dog approached me with a specific problem: they needed help supporting the foster parents who house and rehab the dogs they pull from shelters. How could anyone turn that project down?  

Rocket Dog runs multiple well-attended adoption events around the Bay Area every week, but few attendees know that the rescue stories begin long before the dogs meet their new families.  Most people are unaware of how fostering works, how extensive it can be, or how absolutely vital it is to finding dogs forever homes. Rehabbing the dogs other shelters deem "unadoptable" is what sets Rocket Dog apart from other shelters and it's their biggest expense, but few are aware they're even doing it, and consequently don't know how to help.  This hurts Rocket Dog's supply of foster parents, but it also costs them revenue since potential donors aren't made aware of the fostering work RDR does, and the steep costs it can incur. It was our job to educate and empower potential foster parents to make the leap from animal lover to animal rescuer.  

The Solution

I joined forces with Epsilon's creative team to develop a targeted marketing campaign to drive awareness and interest in fostering.  In conjunction with the creative campaign I worked with a group of core volunteers to brainstorm and formulate a set of organizational changes to better serve the needs of fosters while forwarding Rocket Dog's main goal of saving canine lives.  In addition, I redesigned the fostering and volunteering sections of Rocket Dog's website to educate potential fosters and to provide support and tools to existing RDR foster parents. 



Competitive Analysis Takeaways

  • Online travel services and apps are common and varied, though few exist for private residences.  
  • Competitors focus primarily on transactions and locations.
  • Couchsurfing's nearest competitor is AirBnb.  
    • Hosts are often absent during guests' stays and thus uninvolved in the experience
    • Since hosts are paid, there is a financial incentive to "market" their location.

What sets Couchsurfing apart:

  • Primary focus is connecting people.
  • Hosts are integral to travelers' experience.
  • Events and meetups are part of the service.
  • Hosts provide accommodations for free and thus have no incentive to "market" their listings.
  • The experience is unique, authentic and personal.

User Research Takeaways

Since this project had such a short timeframe, direct user research wasn't possible.  Instead I spent time combing through the site to glean insights from profile text, neighborhood descriptions, and reviews.

  • A main pain point for hosts was surfers who didn't want to connect with them as a person.
  • Hosts in popular areas shared multiple warnings that their availability was very limited.
  • Many hosts showed their fatigue by requiring special procedures be followed by surfers in order to filter out spam requests.
  • Surfers' most positive reactions centered around the local experiences and insider knowledge generated by connecting with their host - the actual accommodations were rarely mentioned. 
If your only intention of a couch request is to find a free “crash-pad” for the night, SORRY.. I am not your host.
Couchsurfers tend to be the most interesting of all travelers. They are adventurous, social, and are looking to participate in community.

Key Changes to the App

My Neighborhood Section

It doesn’t matter if the neighborhood is -known- for great coffee, it only matters if the host knows where to get a great cold brew.

I added a new page to the site to showcase the neighborhood information supplied by hosts.  

  • Hosts are asked to choose the top three aspects that they love about their neighborhood from a list.  
  • Surfers can search by neighborhood aspects.  
  • Regardless of the actual location that the host lives in, surfers can find hosts who value the same experiences.    
  • Hosts are also asked to list their three favorite attractions in the the neighborhood.  
  • Surfers are able to see what they'll experience with a host.  
  • The area containing the attractions also provides the scale for the neighborhood map displayed in the profile.  
  • Host's home is not displayed on the map for privacy, but surfers can tell what they need to know about the hosts location.  

Event-Based Search

  • Surfers can locate specific events on a map.
  • Surfers can search for a host near the event's location.
  • Hosts attending the event are listed first.
  • Below attendees, hosts are ordered by travel time from the event, instead of by distance.  
  • Travel time can be shown for foot, transit, and auto.

Location-Based Host Search

  • Hosts are initially listed by references and response rate.
  • If a surfer desires a location search, they can select the map at right. 
  • Hosts are shown on the map by circles containing the number of couches available within their radius.  
  • Host addresses are kept private, but general location is revealed.  
  • If no hosts are available, then surfers are shown available couches in nearby neighborhoods with similar experiences according to the hosts who live in them.
  • Host results are color coded to match map pins for clarity.

Next Steps

  • User testing.  
  • Card sorting to determine what the list of neighborhood aspects should be.
  • Explorations to encourage hosts to supply the content needed for the design to function at its best. 
  • Integrating neighborhood search with activities and interests data in order to better rank host search results.  

Thanks for checking out my work with Couchsurfing.  I also worked on an app with the VA, created a service design for Life Alert, and co-created a workshop.  Or, you could go back to that great view of the Sydney Harbor on my home page.