Rocket Dog Rescue UX Overhaul
While working at Epsilon, I was approached by Rocket Dog Rescue to help streamline their services, design a new section of their website, and to help create and support an award-winning creative campaign to let the world know about it.
Rocket Dog approached me with a specific problem: they needed help attracting and supporting 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 first 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 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.
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 augmented and redesigned Rocket Dog’s website to increase focus on fostering, to educate potential fosters, and to provide support and tools to existing RDR foster parents.
Throughout the course of the project, research was fundamental to understanding how the organization worked and what the foster experience was like.
Naturally the first step was to meet the organization’s internal stakeholders. I interviewed everyone with whom I could connect, from the kennel cleaners, to members of the board, to the charismatic founder.
The next step was to meet with the foster parents themselves. I was referred to some by the RDR staff, and spoke with them in their homes or via telephone, but others I ambushed at adoption events where I sat in conversation with them to get to the core of the fostering experience.
Finally I user-tested RDR’s web site using volunteers from a key demographic, twenty-something dog owners. I also conducted a competitive landscape audit to see what similar organizations had on offer.
It took a lot of time and note-taking, but in the end it gave me the insight I needed to help Rocket Dog change the foster experience for the better.
Key User Research Takeaways
Rocket Dog asks a lot of their volunteers and turnover is a big issue.
Fosters mostly came to the organization after finding a dog that needed help, it was a little furry face in need that motivated people to act.
Rocket Dog was organized as a network and not as a hierarchy. Connections and roles were very Ad Hoc and informal, and though it gave the organization great resiliency, it often led volunteers to feel lost - especially those who were new.
Rocket Dog’s website focused almost entirely on adoptions with fostering appearing as only a footnote, despite the fact that fostering is the majority of what the organization does.
Key Changes to the Website
New Content for Fosters
I created a new foster section with 7 pages of content geared toward foster parents.
Why Foster? - Describes the rationale for placing dogs in foster homes and the power of the experience
Fostering Basics - A nuts and bolts description of how fostering a dog works on a functional level - including a description of ways to progress in responsibility within the organization
FAQ - Provides answers to the most common questions an individual might have about fostering a dog
Bringing a Foster Home - Includes detailed instructions on each phase of the foster experience in the chronological order in which a new foster parent would be likely to encounter them
Foster Help - Provides links to support and information for foster parents from a variety of reliable sources
Tips for Photographing Your Foster Dog - A brief tutorial designed to help foster parents take photographs capable of marketing their foster dog to potential adopters. (This addresses a major pain point for foster coordinators who were being run ragged chasing down dogs to get better pictures than the ones that were usually submitted.)
Fostering Success Stories - A page to describe the rewards of being a dog foster to those who may be considering it and to demystify the process for those who may be confused.
Redesigned Foster Application
A major pain point that came up during research was the difficulty of completing the foster application. Working with the foster coordinators I was able to revamp the foster application form. I was able to collect the same level of useful information for the organization, but by changing the way the questions were formulated, and by hiding and then only revealing certain questions based upon prior answers, I was able to reduce the once-daunting multi-page application down to a single easy page.
Supporting Marketing Campaign
With Epsilon’s creative team, I was able to help create a marketing campaign aimed at driving potential fosters to the new sections of the website, and toward fostering a Rocket Dog.
After a few days of brainstorming with the creative team, we presented three different ideas to RDR. My idea for a guerrilla campaign used fake dog poop strategically placed at dog parks and pet-friendly events. Inevitably, a kind hearted dog owner came along to pick up the poop. They would find a message affixed to the bottom of it congratulating them on being the kind of person who cleaned up another person’s mess, and asking them to come by the Rocket Dog booth for a treat. The client absolutely loved the idea, so we set about creating a campaign that would get the attention of dog lovers all around the Bay.
The “S-bomb” campaign debuted at the Bay Area Pet Fair, the largest in California. On the rainy day of the Pet Fair, we placed pieces of fake poop around the fairgrounds and unboxed piles of t-shirts and stickers. Once people found out little surprises, they could bring them back to the booth, meet some amazing dogs, and trade their fake poop for a poop shaped cookie (and maybe a little sales pitch on fostering a Rocket Dog). As a result, Rocket Dog Rescue tallied up 700 adoptions while the campaign was in market and helped to find forever homes for 1,080 pets in one weekend. Not only did pet owners notice the campaign, but we were featured on Cesar Millan’s Dog Nation and were finalists in the 2017 Creative Media Awards.