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Meowthouse

Cats are adaptable creatures, and so are humans. So why have cat owners adapted to a common problem instead of resolving it?

Product idea and case study

68.4% of cat owners have a problem that they've been working around.

If you have a cat or have been in home with cats, it's likely you've dealt with loose litter sand scattered throughout the space or near the kitty indoor outhouse.

Pain points

  • Litter scatters around the vicinity of the boxes, and some even spread throughout their entire living space
  • It’s a daily chore to clean
  • A “big eye sore” within living space
  • Odor is strong around the litter boxes, which is an issue for users living in smaller apartments

Initially, the problem was the litter scatter, but then I realized, working around the issue was the issue!

Initial problem statement:

Cat owners need a new litter system (litter sand, litter box, any accessories, etc.) because despite the current offering in the market, there’s no one ultimate solution for easy effective cleanup.

User research

"Cleaning the litter box is a necessary evil" - User #3

I interviewed 3 cat owners who have indoor cats that use litter boxes, with some variance in types of litter system used. All users have noted that their current system is messy and unsatisfactory. If there was an alternative option available, 2/3 users said they’d gladly switch, however have not found such solutions in the current market’s offering.

That's when I realized I needed to shift my problem statement to:

Revised problem statement:

Cat owners need a new method of preventing litter scatter because current litter box offerings require workarounds that leave users feeling unsatisfied and wanting more.

The solution

After conducting a competitive analysis of litter containment products currently offered in the market, I learned that most products were expensive, not aesthetic, and scored low in reviews due to faulty quality. I also found a handful of articles on how to DIY your own containment unit, which was not only time-consuming, but also required set of skills and tools the general public don’t have access to.

The Meowthouse

In a nutshell: A mini outhouse that contains the litter boxes.The general idea of the MeowtHouse was built to solve some of the pain points while maintaining aesthetics. I wanted to design it with a glass top, opaque customizable exterior walls, porous ramps with bottom tray to catch extra litter. Entrance/exit will be on a higher elevation so that the upward movement will catch any litter stuck on paws.

Since this case study was done for a personal project, I did not have access to an actual product to test or create. So in order to solve this problem for cat owners, I had to access what the minimal viable product for this project would be.

Minimal viable product

The MVP before committing to creating a physical prototype would be a Responsive Website.
The User Experience of the site and user feedback will dictate whether this product is the proper solution to this problem and satisfy possible stakeholders’ needs. So then I mapped out the Customer Journey Map and created a Prioritization Matrix to determine what features were needed versus "would be nice to have".

Sketch and wireframes

To breathe life into this project, I started with a hand-drawn sketch and expanded it into wireframes.

First wireframe

Second wireframe

Usability test findings

Prototype was created using InVison. I tested 3 users, some who were not cat owners, to gauge whether this is something that they would want to purchase and whether the flow through the site to checking out was easy and intuitive. These are some of my findings:

  • 100% of users clicked on the video thumbnail first on the home page
  • This highlighted the importance of having the video element front, center, and informative to draw customers in
  • 70% of users did not navigate through all the pages before checkout
  • There was no flow between the different pages
  • This made me realize that links to other pages need to be embedded within each page's content to guide the user to the other pages. The navigation bar wasn’t enough to flow through.
  • 100% of users interacted with the 3D preview of the customization page
  • Since this was a prototype with no functioning 3D customization, users were unable to use the 3D modeling tool. The action of each user attempting to interact with it, however, demonstrated that this feature is necessary.

So I updated the high-fi wireframe and responsive web prototype to have CTA buttons within each page that guides to the other pages.

Post-test modifications

On the “Home” page, I added excerpts with buttons to guide the user to other pages because being that this was the first page of the site, users scrolled through the entire page. I also shifted the original “Build Your Own” page’s informational content into the “Product” page after learning that users didn’t scroll down past the 3D rendering.

Complete redesign

I feel that the redesigned look is much more modern and on trend. I went with a colorful, quirky design with arcs and odd shapes because this theme is popular in interior design (as of this posting). I replaced the "Reviews" page with "App" because AR (Augmented Reality) is becoming more commonly used in the furniture industry, making it an essential feature to have. The overall user experience is improved when users are able to visualize it within their home before purchasing, and I'm very happy with how it's turned out!

Results and takeaways

In the end, if I had to present this to shareholders, I believe that a large survey will need to be done to further determine if this is something that cat owners need on the market. As a solution to the work-around issue, I think the final product would be a great addition to any cat owner’s home.

Some of the key takeaways from this case study were:

  • User testing doesn’t end after development.
  • In addition to improving the responsive website to better inform and sell the product, we would need to continue listening to feedback in order to improve the user experience of the physical prototype and to address any issues or pitfalls.
  • Working around the issue is the issue.
  • This case study made me realize there’s a real need for user experiences in many areas of our everyday lives where users will work around the issue rather than have the experience improved to resolve common pain points.

As a cat owner myself, I could really use a product like this. Although through this case study, I've discovered a new type of litter box system that uses pine pellets that turn into sawdust as soon as liquid soaks in and doesn't track all around my living area. But it still doesn't solve one of the pain points: Being a home decor eyesore.

Overall, I think this case study was a great way of applying UX into a real life, physical product. This case study was done for my User Experience Design class at General Assembly. After continuing on with learning more about UX/UI after the program ended, I decided to redesign the site using current UI design trends and think it's a great modernized version of the original drafts especially with the added augmented reality feature, which is a growing trend in the furniture industry.

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