Hi! I'm Abigail,

a Michigan based
UX/UI designer

How might we spark the curiosity of users to learn about animal species?

Project Background

Objective

Prompt: The University of Michigan Zoology wants to connect more users to their free species database. Design an experience that incentivizes people to explore animals and conservation efforts.

Consider the needs of researchers and students, including how novice and experienced users can use the data for species education.
Product Design

Timeline and Tools

I completed the project in two weeks (2023).

Tools
• Figma
• Adobe Illustrator
• Animal Diversity Web (Database)
Personal Project

Design Process

Approach: Reiterative cycle of empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

I performed secondary research to learn from existing products. I also conducted two rounds of interviews to uncover pain points and test solutions.
Research Methods
Competitive Analysis
Interviews

Impact

• Species information page
• Generate animal reports
• Interactive animal quiz
• Browse by collection

100% of users preferred the prototype over leading online encyclopedias
Deliverables
High-Fidelity Prototype

Final Design

Explore Species

• View photos and species info
• Listen to sound bites
• Find related species
• Explore research and news

Browse Collections

• Filter results
• View in list or card format
• Save favorite species

Ask AI to Help Research

• Find species you don't know the name of
• Ask questions about species' details and conservation trends

Take a Quiz

• Change the species and settings
• Get helpful hints on questions
• Save quizzes in progress

Approach

Understanding the needs of target users required a reiterative human-centered approach.

How Might We Questions

1. How might we spark the curiosity of users to explore and learn about different animal species?

2. How might we enable the discovery of lesser-known species to aid conservation efforts?

3. How might we empower users to leverage the database for professional advancement?

Initial Thinking

Recognizing my target audience was researchers and students, I first developed a list of probable assumptions and constraints:

Assumptions

• Users desire to learn more about species and have varying degrees of animal knowledge

• Novice users (mostly students) need an intuitive interface with exploratory browsing features

• Expert users (mostly researchers) need advanced features, such as querying and citations

• Users want accurate, up to date information

Constraints

• Limited bandwidth, affecting users' ability to browse the encyclopedia

• Different learning preferences (i.e. visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

Empathize

Competitive Analysis

To ensure my solution provided a true competitive edge, I performed a market analysis to identify product gaps and learn from industry leaders.

Insights

• The market lacks a product aimed at both students and researchers
• Most solutions lack an immersive, multimedia experience
• Fully responsive designs are rare

Limitations

• Lack of internal insights
• Personal subjectivity and bias

Interviews

I spoke with 4 people who have previously used Animal Diversity Web. Each completed a short survey and answered open-ended questions about their experiences with animal encyclopedias.

"I rarely visit Animal Diversity Web"

The participants only visited the website when they had a specific goal in mind, such as finding or fact-checking species information. The lackluster visual appeal and issues with the website's navigation were to blame.

"There isn't anything to help me interact with the data"

Users perceived online encyclopedias, like Animal Diversity Web, as databases rather than interactive learning experiences. The absence of quizzes and games were cited as potential causes.

Define

Affinity Map

I consolidated the interview data and identified three patterns in users' responses: pain points and motivations, features and interactions, and UX/UI requirements.

Insights

• Users liked the utility of product leaders but disliked the UI
• Older looking websites were perceived as untrustworthy
• Users felt most encyclopedias did little to engage learners

Limitations

• Limited user representation
• Potential for overgeneralization

Research Takeaways

1) Limited interactivity disengages users

Without interactive elements, like trivia and games, there is little incentive for nonacademic audiences to browse

2. Narrow search options discourage browsing

Existing solutions force the user to conduct a search, making it challenging to explore new species

3. Lack of customization limits discovery

The inability to filter results and build species collections makes current market products less useful

Problem Statement

There is no platform to support both students and researchers in finding trustworthy and interactive data on animal species.

Ideate

User Flows

Easy information retrieval is critical to building a better encyclopedia. Planning user flows allowed me to outline the ways users wish to discover species.

Insights

• Two routes: browse collections or conduct a search
• Timely error prevention is key to better searches
• Queries support new species discovery

Limitations

• Oversimplification of user behavior
• Static visual: users may take non-linear paths

Key Design Decisions

Platform: Website or mobile app?

Based on my research, I determined a website is best to support the features both novice and expert users need and expect. This includes species collections, advanced searches, and interactive quizzes - all of which are possible on mobile but more difficult to implement. Additionally, websites can be made mobile-responsive, meaning this option will reach the most amount of target users.

Designing for scale: Side menu or mega menu?

I can nest the browsing categories in a mega menu but the data is not likely to scale well on mobile due to limited screen space and small touch targets. A side menu is best because the categories can either be expanded or collapsed behind a hamburger menu, depending on the device being used.

Prototype

Species Page

View photos, play sounds, and explore data
Dashboard mockup

Browse Collections

Discover animals by category or search criteria
Dashboard mockup

Animal Quiz

Test your knowledge of one or more species
Dashboard mockup

Generate a Report

Create groups of species that match user-specified filters
Dashboard mockup

Design System

I opted to use Google Material 3 Design System to ensure the product followed best UI practices in typography, color, spacing, and icons. My goals were to establish a brand identity and build with reusable components in Figma.

Test

Interview Protocol

I spoke with 4 participants, who agreed to review the Figma prototype. I asked each to provide feedback on specific user flows, such as finding a species or browsing a collection, using think aloud protocol.

Results

The participants all agreed the prototype's interactive quiz and UI design were better than other leading encyclopedias. However, there were some questions about the placement and relevance of particular elements. I recorded these concerns and made the following reiterations:

Reiteration

Lessons Learned

1. Designing for Scale

Designing the right layout to support a dataset containing thousands of animals was challenging. I first considered nesting the browsing categories in a mega menu but ultimately chose to use a side menu because this would allow the data to scale on desktop and mobile. The categories can either be expanded or collapsed behind a hamburger menu, depending on the device being used.

2. Rich Media Interaction

It was tempting to want to gamify the whole website. However, my research told me this might deter users who simply want quick access to reliable data. Knowing this, I had to carefully consider how to leverage rich media, like images and sounds, to craft an educational experience that was still engaging.

3. Data Organization

This project pushed me to consider how data should be grouped to create logical schemas that match users' mental models. It wasn't enough to categorize the data by similarity. Rather, I needed to validate what users would find relevant and familiar in order to build an intuitive filtering system.  

I appreciate your time!

To everyone who has ever read, critiqued, or shared my work - thank you.