Animal shelters have an overpopulation problem. The more pets that occupy a shelter, the fewer pets they can save. Potential pet adopters have their own problem, finding a perfect companion that fits in with their family or lifestyle before making a commitment.

Fuppy is a two sided technology platform that connects local shelters with potential adopters. By optimizing the check in process on the shelter side, streamlining the search process on the adopter side and embracing a seven day fostering plan between the two, aims to help more people find the perfect pet and help depopulate the shelters.

Role: Lead Experience Designer (UX)
Team: Shaun Conway, Ben Pedrosa
Deliverable: Detailed Wireframes
Tools: Sketch, Photoshop,, Marvel, Flinto, Sharpie & paper



Research drives design, and for this project we were going to need a lot. Understanding who’s in the market, what their interests and goals are, and where users encounter pain points, are the first steps in crafting a new product. In this case we also needed to understand how the animals, shelters, search engines and people intertwine.


Our first interview was with the founder of From this meeting we got a better understanding of the company's vision. Getting out of the studio we interviewed workers from local, private and city funded shelters as well as numerous potential, current and past pet adopters.

An in-depth look at the competitors in the market. First in regard to the company, next in relation to the product (mobile app) and finally a close look at the shelters' animal management systems (AMS). This gave great insight to who was doing what, and what was and wasn't working within the market.

While we were busy hitting the pavement, we had a survey running in the background too. With such a potentially large target user base, we wanted to receive as much information about the users process as we could. Results from the survey surprisingly indicated favorable experiences among adopters.

I quickly understood that a positive outcome of a users search, such as adopting a great family pet, nullified the pain points a user felt while going through the process. 

RESEARCH ANALYSIS's vision is to remove the fear of adopting the wrong animal by implementing a seven day fostering system. This not only assures the adopter of the right fit for their family / lifestyle, but also removes animals from shelters by getting them into homes. 75% of animals fostered end up being adopted by that family. If the animal is not fostered, information regarding the animals personality leads to better placement and an 85% adoption rate. 

Shelters have numerous problems. They are understaffed, underfunded and overpopulated. They register and list adoptable animals in their own unique ways, on the fly. Some use expensive management systems and some use free software with no common process to registration or adoption applications. This leads to incomplete and inconsistent listings, a major pain point of the adopter. 

Shelters employees aren't who you think they are. While some are registered technicians, the majority are volunteers with minimal training. They have problems during the registration process that include getting quality photos, breed familiarity, creating well written descriptions and naming each animal. "After 3 years working here, I'm out of names and so I name every dog Jack" said one tech.

Potential adopters like great photos and descriptions. They are extremely concerned about adopting the wrong animal and feel confused and overwhelmed about the whole process. They are let down by the lack of information in listings and get frustrated when each shelter requires different applications and background checks.


Understanding the pet adoption/shelter ecosystem was tough. It's a complex system of independent and government funded entities working on little budget and relying on many different factors including third party interactions. Our initial findings hinted that unlike a traditional business/customer relationship, there was a triangular relationship between and the shelter, the shelter and the user, the user and This is where we started to see the layers of problems for both shelters and adopters.



That's where Petfinder came in. As we found, nearly all shelters list their animals through their AMS and upload to Petfinder. Third party apps use Petfinder's free service to connect and search their database. To go around Petfinder, clean up the registration process and optimize listings, Fuppy would need to build an enterprise application that competes in the AMS marketplace. This would allow them to control the registration process and offer complete listings to adopters for better searchability.

Since we did a competitive analysis on this, we already knew that the competitive landscape for AMS' was saturated. Entering that marketplace bears high costs, long development time and isn't where Fuppy wants be. 


Instead of entering the AMS landscape we suggested that could disrupt the market by changing where they came into play. We reconfigured our ecosystem with the new found information and immediately saw the sweet spot in animal registration. can make the registration process easier, consistent and more searchable, adding strong value to the market. A registration app on the shelter side tied directly to a comprehensive search platform on the adoption side would change the ecosystem completely, without any additional burden, while producing better results.


Based off the research, I developed two separate personas. Our average potential adopter is ethical, wanting to "rescue" an animal in need. She is female with a family and between 34 and 38 years old. The average shelter employee is also a female in her early 30's and has worked with shelters for a number of years.

A 36 year old mother of 2 whose kids want to adopt a family dog. While she thinks it is a great idea, she wants to make sure the pet is a great fit to their busy lifestyle. It is important for her to rescue a dog from a local shelter as many great dogs need homes.

A 33 year old ACT who has worked for a private shelter in Los Angeles for the past 4 years. When a new animal is brought in, she has to get to know them, enter the vital information, take photos and write a compelling bio in a short period of time.


Telling Emily's story helps me to empathize with her needs and catch points of interaction I may have missed. In this scenario, Emily's kids want a new puppy and she turns to to foster Max, making sure he is a great fit for her family.


When It seemed that every step of the process opened a new pain point I made a decision to stop thinking about the problem and start visualizing it. Often when a situation can be visualized, complex problems become easier to understand and solutions begin to present themselves. 

I started by writing out the nineteen pain points uncovered and solutions to each. Listing out the problems and visually connecting them to solutions showed that many of the issues were connected, and the affect of solving one problem on the shelter side, solved three or four on the adoption side. This strategy led me to 3 main problems for which I crafted solutions, solving all of the nineteen pain points on both sides of the table (literally, I wrote it on a table).


  • There are too many animals in the shelters - overpopulation
  • Shelters don't have enough money - underfunded
  • Shelters rely on volunteers and light staff - understaffed


  • Move animals into homes via fostering and better "fit"
  • Optimize current staff tasks to create better workflow
  • The combination of the above, solve this problem


  • Implement a seven day foster period
  • Create optimized listings and foster reviews
  • Standardized online applications


  • Concern over adopting the wrong animal - adoption remorse
  • Lack of listing info, photos, animal history - Incomplete info.
  • Each shelter has unique process - inconsistancy


Our team worked in collaborative whiteboard sessions to ideate solutions to both shelter and foster problems. Keeping our users needs in mind we set out to create Fuppy's vision; connecting people and animals through technology. Our solution was simple: 


A mobile app that optimizes content into an AMS through a unified photo-capture and data-entry process with auto-generating, search optimized features.

Whiteboard ideation: An initial session working out the concepts followed by a second session creating use paths and ui patterns.

Sketching: Rough sketches with pen and paper followed by refined marker sketches for early prototyping.

Prototype + Testing: Many iterations on the shelter camera app, tweaking the icons and usability to create an intuitive, easy to use registration tool.


The idea is to remove decision making from a shelter employees tasks during registration. This removes inconsistency in the process and creates a uniform structure for animal listings. The user, Regina, taps and swipes through a series of simple questions regarding the animals breed, sex, size and age. The app generates an unused name from the shelters AMS and creates the next numerical shelter ID#.

Breed description is pre-written for search optimization and added to the listing automatically. This removes the burden of writing a detailed description from Regina, and allows her to focus on the animals personality as well as her tasks at hand. The optimized content is the connection point and used to generate better search results for the listing on the adoption side. 


A search-optimized mobile app with detailed filters, community support and an engaging seven day pet fostering experience.

Whiteboard ideation: Over a two day period we came up with unique ways to handle the fostering period. At this stage every idea was captured, from the must have to the impossible. 

Sketching: Many iterations to clarify the red routes and seven day foster engagement. 

Prototype + Testing: Using wizard of oz techniques and paper prototyping I was able to make changes to alert and notification concepts and gauge user satisfaction. Testing these early and often became a key to success of the app.


The user, Emily, opens the app and can immediately search for any trait or characteristic she desires. Searching for a "Large male dog" displays all the animals fitting that description within a 25 mile radius of her current location. She can view animals close by or she can set filters to help zero in on her specific needs. She does not need to log in to search, view or share animal profiles to her social networks. Once she does set up an account, she can create her own profile, connect with people in the fostering community and foster an animal.

Once Emily decides on an animal to foster, she connects with the shelter to set up a time to meet the animal in person. The shelter can approve her application online, removing the paperwork from her appointment and allowing her to focus on her time with the animal. As the animal is checked out of the shelter, is notified via the AMS and sends a notification to Emily's phone, prompting her to begin her engagement with the community. 

Much like riding in an Uber, Emily's app is changes to a "currently fostering" state which allows her to publish photos, share her adventures, check-in to destinations and write reviews about her week with her pet. These posts are published to her community and shared with She is also greeted with quick reminders and notifications each day requesting simple feedback about her foster. At the end of the seven day period Emily can choose to return her foster or adopt permanently through the shelter.

Emily maintains her profile on her app and engages with her community through postings, check-ins and real life meet-ups. She can access information on nearby parks, pet-friendly areas and a wealth of information on breeds, grooming, food and local vets.


As a result of the complete research, collaboration, and iteration process, we created two beautiful apps, solving all of our users problems for a streamlined experience to animal registration and pet fostering. Inspired by the freedom the animals felt leaving the shelters, I created a style guide for the visual design of the apps.

Each app has its own set of features to help our users' optimize their time, get better results, and have fun using it. Please note that the prototypes are currently built for specific task analysis and not full working applications.


Quick and easy-to-use, the shelter side app allows to pull from a consistent content data-entry experience for animal registration.

Quick registration -Selections that require little time during registration and provide consistent details and characteristics of each new animal.

Optimized content -Auto generated breed information that is optimized to provide better search results through the Fuppy .org's fostering app.


FOSTER MOBILE APP  > view the prototype
Designed to not only help people find the perfect pet but also to keep them a part of the community for years to come.

Quick results -Quick local results for members and non members.

Filtered content integration -Filters designed to read optimized copy from the shelters provides better pet to people matching.

Community minded -Strong community that offers information and support for new and experienced pet fosters.

Sharing the adventure -Robust member pages that allow fosters to socially share their adventures with their new family member.


As always at the end of a project I like to include ideas that we came up with but maybe weren't feasible at the current state. Out of scope or out of budget, these ideas could have big impact and could be considered as next steps. They are far from worked out at this point but good starting points.

It sounds futuristic and almost crazy doesn't it? It is in fact a real thing currently being tested (as of June 2016) to recognize an animal breed by using your mobile phones camera app. This feature would further prevent discrepancies in the registration process. It could also be a useful feature for the foster side, allowing users to see a animal they like but don't what breed it is. This would lead to better search and finding a better fit.

Why search for a pet when's concierge can search listings and find the perfect pet for you? As we enter the time of bot's we could implement one to search and find your perfect match. Adjust your filters and let the personalized components do their work. Then again, we wouldn't have to look through all those cute, funny pictures of animals ;)

Like what you've seen? If you want to know more about my work or discuss project/job opportunities email me at: marcwilczak [at] or view my resume