Rescue Me! Site Redesign with Real Life Adoptions in Mind


Rescue Me! helps all breeds of animals find homes around the world. My challenge was to redesign the existing site for better navigation and usability. The initial focus was on dogs available for foster and/or adoption in NYC.


Discover & Define

(Design the Right Thing)


Before even beginning the analysis of the website itself, I took a look at the competitive and comparative landscape.

Competitive research


All large competitors had straightforward calls to action, and led with the ability to browse and search for adoptable animals.


Comparative research

BarkBox (dog toys/treats subscription company)
AirBNB (peer-to-peer, platform for booking homes to rent — no hotels or agents needed)

AirBNB was chosen because of their ability to make creating an account and booking a unique experience simple and enjoyable — this was a process I wanted to emulate in the foster portion of the website.

Regarding Barkbox, I wanted to understand how they capitalize on the emotional connection users have with pets, and use that to direct them to a specific action — signing up for a monthly subscription for something that is arguably a luxury rather than a necessity.


competitive & comparative analysis

Analysis of these websites determined that users are most likely to act when faced with clear and concise prompts that, upon completion, lead directly to the next step. The most enjoyable and motivational design should have clear progress markers and positive emotional appeal.


behavioral analysis

I also wanted to keep the site’s primary goal — finding homes for dogs — so I also conducted some research into the animal rescue industry via Faunalytics. I learned that the biggest barrier to adoption is actually getting potential adopters to visit the potential dogs in-person.

Once they’ve actually visited the animals, users are much more likely to proceed with the adoption or foster process.

The existing site features a large image map that allows users to click state by state to find available dogs. This is a clever programming feat but, for dense areas like NYC that are housed in large states like New York, may not be the best for users.

A Brooklyn resident is much more likely to visit a shelter in northeast New Jersey than in, for instance, upstate New York.

With this discrepancy in mind, I decided to design a search function focused on miles from an existing location — rather than on state lines. This would allow users to continuously narrow their search based on proximity, making it that much easier for them to visit the shelter in-person. Motivating people to physically visit the dog is the strongest factor in increasing foster and adoption rates.


Content Analysis

Following my initial research, I conducted a content audit to determine what should stay, what should evolve, and what should retire.

Some options, like a donation submission section that simply asked for a user’s mailing address so an invoice could be sent, seemed a bit outdated at best. The navigational organization seemed nearly nonexistent, and even the search function — crucial to a site that serves as a live database — failed to properly organize search parameters.

Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 11.03.16 AM.png

Unclear Search Parameters

When a user searches for “black dog,” the first organic search result is “Back in Black Dog Rescue.” There must be a better way!

Others, like the option to see success stories or browse available dogs by breed, were much more relevant to the primary objective of the site but still quite difficult to locate.

Design & Deliver

(Design the Thing Right)


Closed Card Sort test

To make the navigation more intuitive, I assembled approximately 30 items that I wanted to keep or develop for the site redesign. I then asked users to sort the cards into the following categories:

  • Adopt a Dog

  • Foster a Dog

  • Rehome a Dog

  • Success Stories

  • Your Account

The results were fairly consistent, with individual pages in the left column. The numbers indicate the percent of users that grouped the page in the category indicated. Blue cells indicate where a majority of users were in agreement. This information allowed me to reorganise the information architecture according to actual user logic.

Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 11.14.50 AM.png

Tree Test

The results were fairly consistent, and allowed me to build a tentative site structure for tree testing. This test took users through ten task prompts, in this case each building off the last in the form of an adoption and foster story, to determine how well the navigational structure worked for them. Overall the ten tasks were met with a 77% success rate and took approximately 7 minutes to complete. These were good metrics to start with but more work was needed.

Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 11.22.10 AM.png


The improved sitemap incorporated many features to direct users toward action, such as applying to foster, applying to adopt, starting a conversation with the shelters — and removed the sections that were a bit too specific or off-topic to be useful. The categories were renamed in ways that would be more obvious to the users, to minimize unnecessary searching. The “Success Stories” section stayed because of its strong emotional appeal, but it was overhauled with responsive design in mind as well as general navigability. Redesign Sitemap.png

User flows

I then designed new user flows, with the idea of minimizing steps and confusion. These flows focused specifically on NYC residents interested in fostering or adopting dogs, from those who may just be starting out to those who are actively waiting for an application to be approved.

User flow: adopt a dog

User Flows: Adopt.png

user flow: foster a dog


Usability Tests

After a lengthy research and synthesis phase, I was ready to begin wire-framing to build a prototype. The objective was to keep the frames low/mid-fidelity so as to focused on the key user flows, facilitating the fostering and adopting of dogs.

Home Populated.png
Adoption Detail.png

Usability tests were conducted in two rounds. My main findings were that users found it difficult to discern between sending messages to the shelter and applying for adoption, and that the additional search refinements for foster dogs had confusing wording.

Usability Test Results

In the second ideation phase I made some aesthetic and wording adjustments, but overall the original findings had provided a good springboard for the underlying website structure. My final usability test was quite positive, with all of Round 2 in the green except for one statement (which ranked the same as before). Users ranked each statement below on a scale of 1–5, with 1 being “strongly disagree” and 5 being “strongly agree.”



Prototype is designed to be viewed on a Desktop Device, and may be distorted on Mobile


Next Steps

  • Move forward with fleshing out the rest of the prototype

  • Building upon its listing search and saved alert capabilities

Once the basic site has reached its success metrics, in that users are more likely to use the site for adoptions and fosters than they were before, I would also like to explore some more innovative solutions including pet/owner personality matches, robust statistics to encourage more measurable actions, and an advanced system of letting potential adopters know when a new dog that meets their criteria has become available.


Thanks for reading!