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Strategy Design for Petfinder Cover.png

Strategy Design for Petfinder


This project was completed individually as part of a UX Studio Senior Capstone Class. Each student was able to focus on a topic of their choice for the semester-long course.

For this project, I researched the main pain points in the cat adoption process and then developed a strategy for Petfinder to use for their mobile app to relieve the pain points I discovered. In the end, I created a strategy for Petfinder to incorporate cat personalities into the matchmaking process.

Link to a PDF of my Documentation for this project.


UX Designer, UX Researcher // Research, Experience Mapping, User Interviews // Figma


January 2021 - May 2021 

Ready to Pounce

I knew for my capstone project I wanted to focus on cats or music somehow. Although I hadn't used digital adoption services like Petfinder, I was curious to find out if they were effective, and how I could improve them. Through this semester-long project, I was able to: 

🔁 Pivot and shift my deliverables/outcome for the project. I originally had the goal of designing a digital interface to integrate personality matching into the cat adoption process. However, after digging into the research, I discovered the Meet-Your-Match program by the ASPCA. Because there was already a solid, existing program that incorporates cat personalities into adoptions, I shifted my focus to incorporating the Meet-Your-Match program into the Petfinder app.

💻 Develop a research process. Because this project was a solo one, I had the opportunity to find my own groove and flow when it came to research methods. I conducted scholarly article research along with interviews with cat adopters. I discovered that a great way for me to parse down research results is to create an Experience Map with all the findings.


🎤 Present to my peers. At the end of the semester, we put on a virtual poster show for our friends and families to attend, in addition to a virtual presentation day for just the class to attend. I had the chance to defend my decisions and be proud of all I had accomplished not only in this course, but the entirety of the Purdue UX program.

People don't consider cats' personalities when adopting on Petfinder, yet it's the most important factor when deciding to adopt. 

Through analyzing scholarly articles, interviews with cat adopters, app evaluation, and even Reddit thread searching, this theme rang loud and clear. I answered three main questions throughout this project:

  1. What are the pain points in the cat adoption process?

  2. How do I create a strategy to incorporate personality into Petfinder?

  3. What will my strategy look like?

What are the pain points in the cat adoption process?

Investigating Petfinder

When looking into leading pet adoption apps, Petfinder was always at the top of the list. I downloaded the Petfinder app and identified some potential pain points for users.

Meet Gretel.png

Basic Traits Only

Users are able to view different traits about each cat, but these traits are basic like size, appearance, etc. These traits don't indicate what kind of lifestyle the cat is best suited for. The traits that most give a glimpse into what environment the cat would do best in are "good with children" and "good with other pets," but these don't give a full view of the cat's personality on their own.

Meet Tervis.png

Cryptic Pet Biographies

Some pets have more detailed biographies, but it's hard to extract and synthesize parts that mention the cat's personality. Most of the information in the bios is usually repeated in other areas on Petfinder. In the bio above, you can pick out phrases like "loving and friendly." However, "loving and friendly" could mean different things with different cats, but there's no way to calibrate the personalities with the current version of Petfinder.

Meet Your Match

I came across the Meet Your Match adoption program created by the ASPCA in my search for pet adoption resources. Meet your match is a research-based program that connects adopters with their best-fit cat. I didn’t find any explicit pain points with this service - I was more intrigued. This was a unique way of helping adopters find a compatible cat that I hadn’t seen before.


There are two parts to this program: Cat Evaluations and the Adopter Survey.

Cat Evaluation.png

Cat Evaluation

First, the cats at the shelters go through an extensive series of 11 tests including how they react to being picked up, or if they venture outside their cage once the door has been opened. These tests are completed no earlier than 18 hours after a cat has arrived at the shelter - this is to get the truest form of a cat’s personality, as most cats act differently shortly after arriving at the shelter. Their responses to these tests determine their placement on two scales: valiance (how they react to new environments) and social behavior. Their score along these scales will determine their “color” and also their superlative name, seen on the Meet your match personalities chart below.

Adopter Survey

The second part of the adoption program begins when the adopter arrives at the shelter. The adopter will take a survey that asks questions with the goal of finding the cat whose personality is the best fit by asking a variety of questions including adopter expectations for social behavior and the adopter’s current lifestyle. After taking the survey, the adopter will be given a color (purple, orange, or green) of the cat that they are a “best match” with and are directed to the cats who fit into that personality category, as indicated on the personalities chart above.

Adopter Survey.png

What Are the Experts Saying?

I looked into two articles surrounding pet adoption to gain a better understanding of what the research was saying.


Effects of Adopter's Lifestyles and Animal-Care Knowledge on Their Expectations Prior to Companion-Animal Guardianship.

One of the most important lines from this article is that “An understanding of adopters’ expectations prior to adoption will help animal shelters better match, educate, and prepare adopters for their lives with companion animals.” An adopter must come in having an idea of the lifestyle they live, and how they want their cat to fit that lifestyle.

Overall takeaway: It's important to gather information about an adopter's expectations of their cat in order to match them appropriately.

Exploratory Study of Adopters' Concerns Prior to Acquiring Dogs or Cats from Animal Shelters.

One of the highest concerns that adopters have prior to adopting an animal has to do with behavior. The article stated, “Animal behavior was the most common prior concern held by participants, specifically, unknown history, aggression, incompatibility between animals, and shy or aloof, destructive, or vocal behavior.” The more upfront this information is displayed, the better.

Overall takeaway: Display behavior-related information at the forefront to relieve any concerns related to this from the start.

First-Hand Experiences

I interviewed six individuals between the ages of 17 and 23 and asked them questions regarding their experience using digital pet discovery methods, their overall adoption process, and how they knew they found “the one.”


I began by asking when they had last adopted a cat. Two of my interviewees had experience adopting during COVID, which definitely had an impact on their adoption experience. I asked if they had used any digital discovery methods in the adoption process, noting their answer - if they said yes, I moved on to that set of questions. I then asked them to describe their adoption experience, probing more about what their expectations/desires were going into the process, and discovering if those changed or were met by the end of it. I closed out the interview by asking them to describe the most frustrating and enjoyable aspect of their adoption experience. 


The most interesting insights came from the answers to two questions:

Interview Table.png

These answers focus on traits like age or appearance, not personality. They don't reveal what type of lifestyle the adopter hopes the cat fits into.

These answers center around the personality of the cat, with responses like "she was laid back and friendly."

Although adopters may not realize it, personality plays a large factor in deciding which cat to adopt.

Experience Map

To further analyze the takeaways from my interviews, I created an experience map on Miro. Each different color sticky note represents a different interview. Along the top axis are the steps of the adoption process: digital searching, Set up an appointment, talk with animal shelter employees about desires, meet the adoptable cats, and finding "the one." Along the side axis are analysis points: actions, touchpoint, adopter thoughts, adopter emotions, and opportunities for improvement.

Studio 5 Specializations - Adoption Process Experience Map.jpg
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I'd like to callout one section of the Experience Map in particular. 

In the first column, two of the interviewees found that after meeting the cat they specifically had interest for from the website, they didn’t hit it off as much as they thought they would. Instead, they had found another cat that they felt more of a connection with.


In the second column, all of the comments my interviewees had when describing how they knew their cat was “the one” had to do with personality, despite three of the interviewees saying earlier that personality wasn’t a factor in their digital pet search. 


There is a disconnect between finding a cat you think you’ll love online and meeting them in person. Personality plays a large factor in determining compatibility, whether adopters realize it or not.

How do I create a strategy to incorpoate personalities into Petfinder?

Three Guiding Principles for My Strategy 

The adopter understands their own lifestyle and what they're looking for in a cat.

This goal is a general insight from all my research for this project, particularly interviews. Many of my interviewees went into the pet adoption process with a loose vision in mind but ended up choosing a cat based on a specific personality thing they saw or learned. Coming into the process knowing these things ahead of time will improve the adoption experience and make it easier to find “the one.”

The adopter is aware of different cat personality traits and how they translate into behaviors.

This goal comes from my Petfinder analysis and also article research on the rates of pets adopted from shelters. An article I read about how video surveillance can increase the bond between owner and pet brought to light the importance of knowing how the pet is likely to act in the home. A cat can be described as “friendly,” but this could mean many different things. Defining exactly how these personality traits will show themselves in the home is important.

The adopter can compare the personalities of different cats to make the best decision.

This goal was heavily formed from insights from my analysis of Petfinder. When viewing multiple cats online, one after the other, it can be easy to confuse one cat for the other or not keep everything straight. Tie in different wording of pet bios, and it becomes even more confusing. My strategy needs to give the adopter a way to compare the personalities of different cats easily.

What will my strategy look like?

My Strategy

I created my strategy based on the three goals I created from my research. There are three parts to my strategy: 

  1. Adoption Survey

  2. Personalities Tab

  3. Filtering Options

Adopter Survey.png

1. Adoption Survey

The first part of my proposed strategy is an adopter survey presented upon clicking into the Petfinder app. Below is the survey that the Meet your match program uses for in-person adoptions, but transferring it digitally would be beneficial. This addresses my first goal of helping the adopter acknowledge what they’re looking for in a cat. The survey addresses both valiance and social-behavior-based questions and causes the adopter to reflect on their expectations for the cat they adopt. After answering the questions, the adopter will be told which personalities of cats they are most compatible with, and will be directed toward those search results.

2. Personalities Tab

The second part of my strategy involves adding a personality tab to the app navigation bar. Upon clicking into the personality tab, the user will see the meet your match personalities chart. Clicking on a specific personality on the chart will give the user a more in-depth description of that personality, including how the valiance and social behavior of cats with this personality may be shown through behaviors in the home. This addresses my second goal of explaining how different cat personalities show themselves through behavior.

Personalities Tab Overlay Phone.png
Personalities Tab Phone.png
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3. Filtering Options

The last part of my strategy is adding personality-based filtering options to Petfinder. Users will be able to select the personality dropdown and filter out cats that way, just as they currently can with the breed, age, or gender. After clicking the dropdown, users can select any personality traits they would like to filter by and see the results. This addresses my third goal of allowing the adopter to compare cats by personality to help them find “the one.”

Check out my final presentation!

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