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WOODLAND PARK ZOO website redesign

Project Scope: iOS app redesign for the Woodland Park Zoo to enhance visitors experience.

My Role:  User Researcher

Methods: Surveys, User Interviews, Persona Development, Contextual Inquiry, Competitive and Comparative Analysis, User Research Testing, Affinity Mapping, Feature Prioritization  

Tools: Google Survey, Sketch, InVision

2 Week Design Sprint


About this Project:  In this two week design sprint, we were tasked with redesigning the Woodland Park Zoo iOS app to enhance the zoo experience for their visitors. As User Researcher I was tasked with creating a persona based on my research that the rest of my team will use to inform their design decisions.  Because of the timeline and this being a one time project, we decided to focus on one persona.  My research provided enough information for at least 3 different personas. In addition to Jess who you will meet below, we had considerable information for a young single person going on a date as well as retired people going with a group of friends.   If this was an actual client, I would encourage them to consider the needs of all three personas because there were a few differences that may prove impactful to their enjoyment of the app and of their zoo visit.  


How do you zoo?

Discovery: I started with a screener survey.  I wanted to know how often they went to the zoo, who they went with and if they used apps for planning their trip or to enhance their time while they were there.  Of the 26 survey respondents, 21 had been to the zoo at least once in the last year and agreed to allow us to interview them by phone.  

My team and I conducted 6 phone interviews and 6 in person interviews.  We took that information  and created and affinity map to discover how they enjoyed the zoo. We discovered people who went to the zoo did not want to rely on the phone as a source of information about the animals.  They were not opposed to an app as a source of logistical information, but there was  pushback  having to have their phone out to get information about animals.  The majority of people wanted to use the time at the zoo to look at the animals and  talking to the people they came with.  There was a strong consensus among people visiting with grade school and younger children that an interactive map with information about events, feeding, restrooms, dining and picnic areas.  

“When I take my 6 year old daughter to the zoo, we stay off the phone as much as possible. It’s about family time. She teaches me about the animals.”
— Jeremy R. 43

Meet Jess, our persona.

I synthesized the data from the affinity mapping into a persona.


What do users like about the current app and what are the pain points?

CONTEXTUAL INQUIRIES OF THE CURRENT APP I asked 4 people to use the current app to complete the following tasks. I encouraged them to "think out loud" through their experience as I took notes.

  1. Download the Woodland Park Zoo App

  2. Check the hours

  3. Buy tickets (don’t enter cc info, just get to that screen)

  4. Take a selfie and share it on your social media letting people know you are having a great time at the zoo.

They were encouraged to talk through the process and elaborate on the following.

  1. Have users use the current app to do a task and evaluate what their current pain points are.  

  2. What are their unmet needs?  

  3. What app improvements would help them enjoy the zoo more?


Key Take Aways

  • All users comented that they would not use the the “Send Post Card” 

  • All users would take a photo outside of the app and share it from the photo app on their phone or through a specific photo sharing app like Facebook or Instagram.

  • Most users commented that they would probably not use the app to research the animals at the zoo.  If they are at the zoo, they are probably going to use the app to navigate and find info about events

  • Most users commented that they would plan the trip on a tablet or desktop and probably would not purchase tickets through the app.

  • All users liked the map.

  • Users would like some sort of highlights of restrooms/events on the map.


My team and I took the insight gained from the persona and the contextual inquiry and set out to prioritized features so that we could focus on a MVP to complete during this 2 week design sprint.  All the participants in  contextual inquiry responded positively to the look of the map and a few commented that the map wasn't truly "interactive" as it was labeled in the app.  When asked to elaborate, one user commented that they would like to be able to search for specific destinations like restrooms and picnic areas.  Another user expressed frustration with having to go back to the animal show schedule to look for the time and then having to find it again on the map.  

What is the competition doing?


I surveyed the Seattle area for educational and entertainment institutions that Jess might go to with her family.  The three that most resembled the zoo experience were the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Aquarium and the Pacific Science Center.  All three venues lacked a mobile app.  Their mobile experiences were their responsive or mobile friendly websites.  All three of the sites had very complex websites full of information that Jess would find overwhelming to digest on a mobile phone.  Jess would not want to wade though in depth information on animals and exhibits and animals to simply find a picnic area.  She would not want to spend that much time distrasted from her children. There weren't any features in the local competition that would compel Jess to use their websites on her phone while visiting.  

In additions to the local competition, I surveyed highly rated educational and entertainment apps across the country to see how their mobile app was different than their websites noting what features Jess might find appealing.  Two apps that stood out were the Denver Zoo and the Franklin Institute.   

iPhone 8.jpg

The Franklin Institute lays out the tasks in a simple and attractive way. There are the four main icons that cover most of what the app would be used for and then there is a small main menu button if you scroll down just below those 4 keys. They also have a few cool features like virtual reality, a photo scavenger hunt and a chat bot for more information.

WPZ original app iPhone 8.jpg

The Denver Zoo event scheduler had a link to the map and a brief description of the event. It also had a tab on the segmented controller that showed special upcoming events like parties and concerts. The layout was simple and intuitive and the content was helpful. The visual design was a little pedestrian. The user had all the information they would need to plan their day, but it lacked something.

Problem and Solution

The comparative and competitive analysis, user interviews, affinity mapping and persona led us to the user's problem and a potential solution.


Users cannot easily find zoo event information or service locations in the app's structure, causing frustration and abandonment.


Using the research findings, we will simplify the current app to highlight the interactive map and zoo events.

What is our Minimum Viable Product?


As a team we set out to prioritize our feature options.  We gathered all the insights gained from surveys, user interviews and  contextual inquiries and competitive and comparative analysis and categorized them by impact and expectation. Most of the features found in the high impact/expected quadrant related to a map.  Pairing these results with the favorable feedback of the current Woodland Park Zoo app map, we decided to make a truly interactive map that was easy to use and targeted exactly what service you needed.  



How do we make our MVP meet the needs of our persona Jess?

SYNTHESIZING RESEARCH TO IMPROVE DESIGN FOR OUR PERSONA.   Jess wants to spend time with her children without everyone having their face in a screen all day.  She wants to use technology to make her time with her children better, she doesn't want it to rule her experience.  She wants to use it as a tool when it makes sense.  Giving Jess a way to easily access information about services and events offered at the Woodland Park Zoo without having to navigate though unnecessary content is the way enhance Jess's user experience.  We as a team set out to redesign the "interactive" map to simplify searching for individual services as well as events. 



How do we make a decent feature better?

DESIGN STUDIO  My team and I thought user interface of the Denver Zoo app was quite functional but the visual design was pedestrian.  It was a little cluttered and lacked style.  We conducted a Design Studio to improve it.  The result was consolidating a photo and the map pin icon to make a link to the event location on the map.  (1 below)


How did we improve the Woodland Park Zoo App to enhance Jess's experience? 

SIMPLIFY FEATURES AND IMPROVE MAP TO BE MORE INTERACTIVE AND RELEVANT TO USER'S NEEDS  We started user testing with paper prototypes, after each user, we tweaked the paper prototype to fix obvious pain points.  These rough sketches proved to be very helpful in quickly discovering weak spots in our overall design.  From there, my teammate designed some lo-fi wireframes to complete more user research testing.  


The lo-fi wireframe tests helped simplify the navigation and icons for services of the map.  From this testing it was obvious we needed tabs along the top of the map to highlight individual options for the map.  We also added icons to the tabs along the bottom to enhance discoverability.  


What did I learn?

Design Studios are Magical.  They are very effective at turning a bunch of half baked ideas into refined concepts as well as build consensus among team members and stakeholders.  This project was also a lesson in keeping a reasonable project scope in a short design sprint.  The time constraint really keeps you focused on your goal.