Defining Our Vision

We exist to create a world where working students have the option to prioritize school over work because working full-time demands time and focus at the expense of academic success.

This is the vision for our Capstone group (Kay, Kim, and myself) and we aim to realize our vision through FundEDU. As a reminder, FundEDU is a crowdfunding platform that helps students leverage their support network to lessen the financial burden of school, allowing them to work fewer hours while undertaking their academic journey.

Over the last week, our team spoke at length about what value we are trying to provide and how we can achieve it. We iterated on our service blueprint — a design artifact similar to a timeline coupling a customer’s journey and the actions our business must take to support that journey — to create a visual representation of a user’s flow through FundEDU. Next week we will be increasing its fidelity to include in our pitch deck.

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 8.13.06 PM

One of the greatest values that sites like IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe provide is the ability to give funding campaigns visibility beyond a person’s immediate network. For example, GoFundMe has a ‘trending’ section for each category a donee can choose for their campaign (pictured below) which gives those seeking financial help a better chance of meeting their goal by advertising the campaign to a wider audience. This is something that we’d to emulate with FundEDU. 

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 11.38.21 AM

Our next step is to continue refining a minimally viable product we can test with real people. The main challenge we face is deciding which parts of the product should be included in the pilot and deciding how we will define success. Once a consensus is reached, we will move forward with implementation. We look forward to gauging how the market responds to FundEDU.

Taking Wireframes into Reality

Creating a vision and a visual representation of a screen is a substantially different skill set than the ability to code it into a working prototype. Working with a team is an efficient way to take an app to market; however, teamwork comes with unique challenges. Therefore, designers who are able to communicate with others in their ‘language’ have a distinct advantage in a project management role.

I started the process of product sizing by polishing my wireframes and making the flows more linear. Last quarter I spent a lot of time making my wires feel like a working prototype. However, this made it more difficult to show end-to-end flows. Once I was happy with the architecture of the flows, I began “Redlining” (annotating in red) the flows to better communicate my vision. This, I learned, is what takes the most time. And this makes sense because the more accurately you can communicate your vision (especially when shipping wires off to a developer in a different location, or even abroad), the closer the final product will be to what you want. With the wireframes annotated, I was ready to meet with my developer.



Log In Redline

Set Up Alerts Redline

Pay Now Redline

Auto Pay Redline

Rewards - Gift Card Redline

Rewards - Flight Redline

Deposit Redline

Budget Overview Redline

Scenarios Redline

Flagged Transaction Redline



Log In Breakdown

Set Up Alerts Breakdown

Pay Now Breakdown

Auto Pay Breakdown

Rewards - Gift Card Breakdown

Rewards - Flight Breakdown

Deposit Breakdown

Budget Overview Breakdown

Scenarios Breakdown

Flagged Transaction Breakdown



I met with Eric Webb, who will be developing my banking app, twice last week. He had loads of great insights especially around navigation, custom- versus stock-features, and estimates for how long it will take to complete the app. Below are my preliminary estimates.

Workdays Summary_AS

One thing I learned was how long coding takes. The estimates above are for front-end only (visual elements that the user sees, which excludes any of the behind-the-scenes code that makes the app function).

I also learned that designing for smaller screens is something developers like. Eric told me that you can always scale up, but getting smaller can cause some weird problems.

Reflecting on my developer meeting, I wish I would have pushed harder to get estimates for the back-end code which would have given me a more comprehensive idea for how long this app would take to complete.

The responsibility is on me as the designer to make my needs understood and in this case, I could have done better. To be honest, I was a little intimidated. Eric’s time is valuable and I didn’t want to take too much of it unnecessarily. This led me to not asking all of the questions I had and to not press-in when I didn’t understand something. Moving forward, I will be more cognizant of whether or not I’m communicating effectively.

Link to full estimate spreadsheet.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

The first time I heard this phrase was when I was a young adult. I overheard my mother and aunt (her sister) arguing about how I was raised. For background, I am the first born and the two sides of my family had competing ideas as to how I should be brought-up (religiously). My mother said something to the effect of: “we just thought it would be better to not pick a religion for him, and let him decide when he can make a conscious decision.” To which my aunt replied, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Reflecting on that conversation, I realize now that my aunt was judging my parents’ intentions, rather than the results. I’ve grown up to be the curious, empathetic, semi-normal (because who wants to be completely normal?) human that I am today. In no way do I think my aunt is ashamed or disappointed about the person I’ve become, but on some level, she clearly feels that my parents did me a disservice by not making that decision for me.

This phrase parallels much of what we’ve learned in the first two weeks of our Advanced Theory class at AC4D. Many designers (or anyone for that matter) approach problems with great intentions, but their ideas ultimately end up doing more harm than good.

An example of a well-intentioned idea that has gone awry is the PRODUCT (RED) campaign. Started by Bobby Shriver and Bono, lead singer of U2, in 2006 PRODUCT (RED) seemed like a win-win-win scenario for addressing the AIDS epidemic in Africa: business partners can demonstrate they care about social issues (without sacrificing profits), consumers can donate through purchases they would make anyway, and The Global Fund (non-profit partner) gets the funding they need to make a difference in the world.


While I don’t fault the creators of PRODUCT (RED) for the idea. I have a major issue with how it has evolved — which is not at all — despite criticism it, and a few of its partners, has received over the years. With little to no iteration on the concept, (RED) perpetuates the idea that by buying stuff, one is fixing the world.

… consumers will also gain self-satisfaction with their purchases because they will be a part of the “help” to Africa.

-Cindy N. Phu

This is particularly dangerous because it allows the consumer, thousands of miles away, to believe that they’ve done their part.


There is a cultural desire for a magic bullet or magic pill that will solve everything. Of course, this is not possible due to the nature of wicked problems but it’s a lot easier to self-serve ourselves nonsense than face cold, hard truth — there is no one-size-fits-all solution to societal problems.

Some believe technology is the answer. But they are mistaken or fooling themselves as well. Technology has the propensity to make things easier, more efficient, faster, etc… but technology is a tool. It is a tool in which we see our own reflection, for better and worse.

Take the internet, for example. The creators believed that the internet would connect us all, break down barriers, enable people a world away to communicate openly and freely. Indeed it has done those things, but it has also allowed for the proliferation of hate and racism, for the polarization of ideologies, and distribution of misleading news. Worst, it allows us to binge on the information that fits our view of the world. Believe your race or religion is superior to all others? There are plenty of sources you can find online to affirm that view.

All this is to say that intentions are not the criteria that should be used to judge policies or programs. Instead, we should objectively view results, form opinions on outcomes, and iterate on what works. The creators of powerful movements, such as PRODUCT (RED), have a responsibility to understand the problems they mean to address, embrace the good they intend to achieve without ignoring the bad, and learn from our collective mistakes.

Down-selection, Focus, Reflection

This was a pivotal week for Kim Nguyen, Kay Wyman, and me. We made the executive decision to focus our Capstone efforts on just one idea moving forward. That idea is Me Mentor, a system for creating, tracking, and reflecting on personal goals.

The Problem

Based on our research with post-traditional students (specifically, students that must hold a job to pay for both school and life expenses), we learned that the incredible stress of balancing immediate needs with future professional goals leaves students with little time to reflect on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of successes and failures. Working a full-time job while attending school part- or full-time is like living two lives with the time that’s allocated to one. Many tools exist that help people keep track of their aspirations, but these tools often focus solely on the goal itself and whether it was achieved.

Reflection is subjective. It requires a person to look at their experiences retrospectively, and hindsight isn’t always 20-20 between people who observe the same stimulus. Every experience is unique to the individual, due to the cumulative nature of experiences — new experiences are shaped by context and past experiences. To quote John Dewey,

“we live from birth to death in a world of persons and things which in large measure is what it is because of what has been done and transmitted from previous human activities.”

Our Solution as a Service

To illustrate our current vision of how the service will work, we created a service blueprint. A service blueprint is a diagram that visualizes the relationships between different service components — people, props (physical or digital evidence), and processes — that are directly tied to touchpoints in a specific customer journey. Shown below is the first iteration of a customer journey for Me Mentor, which involves a method for setting and reflecting on goals and personalized coaching on how to use the insights from reflection.

Lo-fi Service Blueprint

Pitching Our Idea

Over the past week, we have also been working diligently to create two cohesive narratives: one that appeals to potential investors and one to attract our target audience (individuals who are strapped for time, leaving little room to reflect on their goals if they even had the time to create them in the first place).

The most difficult element of our pitch deck to investors has been to figure out how to be profitable with the model that seems to bring the most impact to our target audience. We envision a coaching element, but a personalized touch makes scaling up a tricky task, especially in our increasingly digital world. Some of the assumptions we’ve made govern:

  • Initial customers
  • Customer growth rate
  • Subscription price
  • Website build and hosting
  • Labor costs
  • The rate at which we would need to hire help
  • Marketing/advertising

Under our current assumptions, we would need to charge a price that would potentially alienate our customer base, especially those in school living paycheck to paycheck.

We continue to test our prototype with two users.


One user has needed a lot of attention which worries us for a couple of reasons. First, it could possibly reflect the amount of coaching a client needs/expects. The more time an individual requires is inversely proportional to the number of clients we can manage without hiring help. Secondly, it could parallel the level of attention for a wider audience. If customers don’t see the value of our product (or simply get bored with it), we will have trouble with client retention.

Next week we plan to:

  • reach out to more people in our target audience to test the prototype,
  • continue to test our hypothesis that people find reflecting on successes and failures beneficial and will pay for a service that coaches them through a process of creating goals and chopping those goals into smaller, more manageable milestones,
  • refine our business plan to maintain the level impact we would like our product to have while increasing profitability, and
  • begin planning a pilot to test over the next eight weeks.

Testing Wireframes, Round 2

As a refresher, we have been testing wireframes using a method called ‘think-aloud testing’ in which participants are asked to complete tasks in our prototype banking app while vocalizing their stream-of-conscious thoughts. Over the last couple of weeks, we added financial modeling functions to help users better budget their money. The new functionality was the focus of our second round of user testing and I learned significantly more than I expected.

Participant Overview

Screen Shot 2019-02-13 at 3.50.52 PM

With the help of the four interviewees above, I was able to identify many problem areas with my prototype. If I were to elucidate all the issues the users found, this post would be a novel. So I will focus on the problem areas that were most common among all participants, and what I learned from their feedback.

Stay Away From Making Things Too Text-Heavy

The first bit of feedback was that some elements are too wordy. With banking and finances, there is a thin line to walk between too much and not enough confirmation. My prototype has several modals, which are windows that sit on top of an application’s main window (think, pop-up). Too many modals make the app feel burdensome and clunky while too few could lead to actions a user might wish to undo. Based on the user feedback, I used too many modals and the windows themselves are unnecessarily verbose.

Create Budget (pre-enter info)

The screen to the left shows information a user sees when manually creating a budget. One thing I noticed was that several participants were clicking ‘continue’ without reading the text. When Andrew came upon this screen he said,

“I don’t even read this stuff. I just click continue.”

Sam echoed this sentiment, saying,

“That’s kind of a lot of text for me right now. I can probably just figure this out on my own.”

One way to fix this issue would be to relocate this information. For example, I could make an info icon ( ⓘ ) that users could click if interested. Another way to address the issue would be to create a tutorial that walks the user through the beginning of the budget creation process.

My takeaway from this problem area is that the general public has come to expect simplicity. There is a certain elegance that comes with not having to explain something in a paragraph of text. Moving forward I will embrace a less-is-more mentality when thinking about how to introduce new functions.

Presenting Information in an Intuitive Way

The next problem area came from participants’ confusion when looking at the budget overview screen. Specifically, users did not find the pie chart that shows a high-level overview of their budget to be helpful or meaningful.

Budget Dash (new saved budget)Most people don’t think about their finances in terms of percentages. Adam summed up the feeling of several other participants when he said,

“I don’t think of spending 37.5%, I think of spending $2,000 or something, you know?”

This was something I overlooked while making design decisions for this screen. I personally like seeing what percentage of my income I am spending on different budget categories, and this is why testing with others is so important to the design process.

One way to address this issue would be to replace the percentages in the chart with dollar values. However, this could make the screen look too busy, especially if more budget categories are introduced. Therefore, I believe replacing the pie chart with another graphic that shows dollar values would be the best course of action.

I learned that what I think is interesting might not resonate with others (or possibly anyone other than myself). A good way to get a pulse on how others feel would be to make a list of assumptions and test those with users before putting a lot of time into building a product/prototype.

Screen Layout Should Do More Than Look Good 

It seems that where something sits on a screen is proportional to how much it gets used. How often do you look at the second or third page in a Google search? If you are like me, it’s not very often. Many users noted that the budget overview screen is too long and that important functions were hard to find.

The screen above allows users to create ‘what if’ scenarios and save the new state as their budget if desired. However, most of the participants had trouble finding the button, as it was near the very bottom of the screen. Andrew told me,

“Looking at this, I wouldn’t even know that a scenario analysis is available. It’s way down here at the bottom.”

For such an important function, a lack of accessibility hurts the product’s credibility. In fact, multiple participants worried they would have to calculate a budget scenario in their head before finding the tile that would navigate to the tool.

The fix for this issue is seemingly simple: move the important functions/tools to the top of a screen to increase their visibility.

The main takeaway here is that critical elements should be ranked hierarchically and the screen should reflect that hierarchy starting at the top. Gauging what is important to a user, and why, could also be done with a round of testing on the front end of a project.

In summary, I learned:

  • too much text is a burden, and that some users don’t read text when it pops-up,
  • presenting information (text, numbers, etc…) in a way the user is most comfortable with is critical to the user’s experience, and
  • design decisions around layout can significantly affect a product’s credibility

I have a lot of work cut out for me after this round of user testing and I intend to apply the lessons learned to future iterations of this product.

I’d like to sign off by saying a huge THANK YOU to all the people that helped along the way: the think-aloud test participants, fellow AC4D students, and the teachers/mentors that generously give their time to help us all become better designers.

Think-Aloud Testing Wireframes

Over the last week, I have been testing the banking app wireframes that I wrote about last week. I used a method called ‘think-aloud testing’ in which I asked five participants to complete six identical tasks while vocalizing their stream-of-conscious thoughts. As the facilitator, I observed the users’ actions and reactions, and audio recorded their thoughts in order to improve the app’s user experience.

Julie Test

High-level Takeaways:

  • While some sections of the app were easy to use, other parts were found to be unintuitive and led participants to feelings of frustration and inadequacy.
  • Some users found that a couple of functions, such as checking your credit score and referring a friend, would benefit the bank but don’t align with their needs.
  • Most users felt that alerts & notifications should be managed through individual financial accounts and not through the customer’s profile settings.

Problem Areas to Address:

  • After depositing a check, the amount deposited is not reflected in an obvious way.

Screen Shot 2019-01-28 at 5.06.01 PM

Multiple participants were confused by the lack of evidence that a check was deposited. Some expected the balance in their checking account to immediately reflect the deposit, while another didn’t identify that the deposit was a new line item in the transactions section. One participant said:

“Is the money I deposited in the account? I can’t tell based on what I see.”

There are a couple ways to address this issue. First would be to update the account balance after completing a deposit. However, every bank has its own rules governing how they handle funds deposited via check. Another way to allay this problem would be to show ‘pending’ transactions more prominently.

  • The home screen for the user’s credit card is both missing important functions and has sections perceived to be unnecessary.

Screen Shot 2019-01-28 at 5.18.07 PM

There are two problems to address here. To start, I will focus on the functions that seemed unnecessary. One participant didn’t see the value of checking your credit score or referring a friend to the bank within the app. He said:

“I don’t know that any of this – check credit score, refer a friend … why would I do any of that?”

Clearly, there is a benefit for the bank to seek customer referrals. However, in the app’s current form the benefits to the customer are not obvious enough to get them to take action. One such benefit, for example, is an award of 10,000 rewards points for every referred friend that opens a new credit card account.

To fix this issue, the bank should either move these functions to an overflow menu, clearing up valuable screen real estate, or change the verbiage to better align the bank’s goals with the customer’s. For example, “refer a friend” could be changed to “refer, earn rewards,” or something similar.

The second issue is that there are functions that a user would like to use, but there is no way to access them from the menu. While looking at the screen above, one interviewee said:

“There really should be a ‘dispute transaction’ button here.”

With hackers and scammers growing ever more sophisticated, it is a legitimate concern that one’s credit card information could be stolen and used to rack up a large debt on the customer’s behalf.

The bank should add this function to the credit card home screen. In a scenario where a customer is stressed about fraudulent charges, the bank could gain credibility by having a ‘dispute transaction’ function prominently displayed — showing the bank’s commitment to protecting customers’ financial well-being.

  • Managing alerts & notifications is difficult to find, and not associated with a user’s profile settings

Screen Shot 2019-01-28 at 5.46.06 PM

All of my participants struggled to find the section of the app that would allow them to toggle alerts on/off. Most tried clicking through their individual financial accounts (eg. credit card, checking) to find alerts specific to that account rather than looking in their profile settings. One participant frustratedly exclaimed:

“I’ve tried clicking everything and still can’t find where [the alerts] would be!”

One way to address this would be to make this information available in multiple places instead of only being attainable by clicking the profile icon in the top right of the screens above. The bank could link to the alert management section in the profile menu, hamburger menu, and in the home page for each account to facilitate ease of use.

Final Thoughts:

One design idea that I wanted to test was to list a user’s credit card rewards points above their balance.

Screen Shot 2019-01-28 at 6.10.04 PM

The idea is to see something positive before seeing how much money you owe the organization. Through the user testing process, I was able to see what users thought about the concept.

Some participants liked the idea but voiced that they generally only care about their balance. I also heard from the participants that they use reward points too infrequently to have this information at the top. One participant loved the idea, but offered this valuable insight:

“I absolutely love seeing all those points first!”

“But if I only had like 100 points, it might be a little depressing”

With this in mind, the bank should display an account’s balance most prominently. Listing rewards points first only benefits those that are happy with their amount of points, which is a highly subjective measure.

The ‘think-aloud’ method for user testing is a great way to get real-time feedback for design ideas. It was incredibly gratifying when a participant found a flow easy to navigate. It was similarly great to receive immediate feedback about problem areas and why something wasn’t working for the users. Ultimately, this process has given me a deeper appreciation for what makes a user’s experience positive or negative, and how my choices can impact a person’s daily life.

Banking Wireframe Flows

Over the last week, we’ve been building on our last deliverable which was a site map of a redesigned banking app.  After getting feedback from Chrissy Cowdry, I reorganized my site map to be more easily digestible and less cluttered.

Concept Map Redesign_v4

Using the site map as a blueprint, I have been creating wireframes to sketch the informational flow within the banking app. A wireframe is a quick and easy tool that product designers use to demonstrate the layout of a digital interface and to communicate that layout to developers that will ultimately build the app.

In contrast to the app I used as inspiration (Chase bank), I wanted the user to be greeted first by the amount of accrued rewards points when looking at his/her credit card information. The idea is to lead with something positive instead of the outstanding balance. This will be an interesting concept to test, as most are accustomed to seeing their balance first.

As an example, below is the flow for buying a $150 gift card from Target with credit card points:

Flow for Blog

The user can click ‘redeem’ to take them to the rewards home where they have a few choices of what they can do with their points. By choosing ‘shopping’, the user can choose to purchase gift cards and select from a number of partners. In the example above, the user wants to buy a target gift card for $150. After completing the purchase, the gift card will be mailed to the address the user has on file for the credit card.

The most difficult part of this process was deciding how much detail to put into each wireframe. If the fidelity is too high, the project will take an unnecessary amount of time to finish. If the fidelity is too low, the flow of information may not be apparent and the end user experience could suffer.

My focus throughout this process was to make the experience as simple as possible for the user. The next step is to maintain this focus while building out more informational flows and testing ideas with users in the field.

Below is a picture of all the flows I’ve built so far. As we continue on this path, I look forward to becoming more proficient in tools like Sketch and using them to communicate my ideas more effectively.

Screen Shot 2019-01-21 at 6.55.51 PM

Concept Map of a Working-Student

This year’s AC4D capstone project focuses on college persistence for post-traditional students. This week we created concept maps to express the post-traditional student experience. Concept maps are visual tools that show the connections between ideas (or concepts) and are used by practitioners to communicate informational structure.

Our group (Kim, Kay, and I) chose to focus on the experience of working-students which we define as students that work part- or full-time jobs while attending school. Working-students struggle with many of the same hardships that any other student may have. They have the same hopes and dreams. They have friends and families that can act both as a system of support and a source of distraction. However, there is a major difference between working- and nonworking-students: prioritization. For students that must work to afford tuition, work must always come first; work enables education. So rather than diving into the college experience, working-students must keep one foot out of the pool which makes their academic journey more fragile.

Concept Map_IDSE303


To create the concept map, I began by reading through our data for recurring nouns. Words like “school, work, motivation, graduation, better life, obstacle, money,” were prevalent. The next step was to group the words thematically. For example, “money” was often mentioned in connection to a “better life.” Whether or not this value holds true for you, the reader, it is a shared sentiment among many of our participants. Afterward, I connected the nouns with verbs (or a short phrase containing a verb) to create a flow of information. Finally, the information was ready to be laid out on paper.


Throughout this process, I struggled with defining a level of scope. Questions like, “which information is too granular?” and “when am I not showing enough information in the diagram?” gave me some trouble. I hope that as I get more opportunities to practice this type of sense-making exercise, these types of reservations become less frequent.

Reflecting on things I could’ve done better from the first semester of AC4D, I would like to more proactively seek-out feedback. Therefore, if you, the reader, have any feedback – I’d love to have a conversation with you about how I can improve this artifact, specifically with how the information flows and the level of detail that is present. I will leave my email below.

Site Mapping – Chase Mobile Banking App

This week we created a site map of one of our personal banking apps. I chose Chase because they have an app that I find intuitive and easy to use.

To start, I listed the goals and sub-goals one would have for interacting with the app. These goals came from both personal experience and what I believe a Chase would want a customer to achieve through their interface. For me, being able to check/pay off a credit card balance, view past transactions, and redeem reward points are the most important functions of the app.

Goals_Assignment 1

I then went through every page and jotted down notes regarding core, non-core, and non-functioning content. Chase has a lot of content. Way more than I ever use on a regular basis. So this ended up being a two-fold learning experience. Not only am I getting much-needed practice with concept mapping, but I now know significantly more about the options and functions available to me as a Chase customer.


After chronicling every page, I began making a low-fidelity layout showing the different areas in the Chase app. This provided a basis to begin digitizing a higher-fidelity graphic.


Before joining AC4D I had never heard of Sketch. So this assignment marks the beginning of a journey into a new tool, which I rather enjoy. I found Sketch to be very similar to Adobe Illustrator, which meant that it didn’t require major changes in terms of workflow.

The Chase banking app is full of functionality, which is reflected in the site map.

Concept Map_Assignment 1

During this process, I thought about changes Chase could possibly make to improve the customer experience. I mentioned earlier that I enjoy using this app because, in terms of its core functions, it’s intuitive and incredibly easy to use. However, I do believe there is greater opportunity for Chase to convert banking clients in the investment clients. This was noted by a red ‘!’ on the site map above.

In order to open a brokerage account, for example, you can only do so by opening a small menu in the top-left of the landing page and clicking through a couple of links related to J.P. Morgan, which merged with Chase around 20 years ago. Opening a banking account, in contrast to an investment account, is an obvious option on the landing page. So if it is a goal for Chase to convert banking clients to investment-account clients, I believe they could consolidate the investments section into the existing ‘Open an Account’ option and allow the customer to choose banking or investment accounts from a single link. In this hypothetical scenario, the site map changes, but not in a substantial way.

Future State_Assignment 1

I enjoyed taking a deep dive into the architecture and content of Chase’s mobile banking app and look forward to what’s next!

Insights – APA!

An insight is built by asking “why?” – and answering with incomplete data. Insights should be able to stand on their own and elicit provocation.

This was our focus over the last couple weeks – turning themes into insights and delivering the information to Austin Pets Alive!. Christina and I are nervous about presenting this content – and who wouldn’t be? To summarize, we are walking into a meeting to present problems without solutions. Our hope is that we’ve built enough credibility with APA! to be able to deliver ‘hard truths’ and not insult our client.

Our first insight is centered around the culture at APA!. All the departments within APA! march to the beat of their own drum. They record information their own way and make little effort to proactively share data. As a result, management, researchers, grant proposal writers, and all others at APA! that make use of shelter-wide data are forced to aggregate the data they need from all APA! departments.


“I’ve chronicled up to 35 different spread sheets across the organization.”   – Pete (line 2)

Through the empathy we’ve built while working with the great people at APA!, we’ve come understand the daily frustration felt by people who perform such critical functions to the organization. While a universal data tool would clearly benefit APA!, we believe that the problem is with culture, not with technology.

The nursery, which is where we spent the bulk of our time, is not ready for the tech solution that management desires. They understand what they are doing but don’t seem to comprehend how their actions affect the greater goals of the organization. They are so caught up with saving Austin kittens now that they don’t adopt the tools that could lead to providing better future care.

Additionally, having many siloed micro-cultures can (and has) lead to mistrust of the information that has been shared. The image below shows someone who had found a mistake and is hand-checking pages to make sure other data wasn’t entered incorrectly. To complicate the matter, the data-entry person who entered the information works anywhere between 10 PM and 3 AM, remotely.


Insight: APA! is failing to unify its siloed programs, allowing departments to record data in their preferred way. As a result, it is impossible to access complete, shelter-wide information at a single touchpoint. APA should address the cultural idiosyncrasies between departments before prescribing universal tools.

Volunteers, both feeders and fosters, are an essential component of APA! mission to save the lives of companion animals. Who doesn’t want to save cute, cuddly kittens! And, thus, we arrive at the problem! During our theming stage we identified that people don’t always understand that volunteering isn’t about playing with kittens. People volunteer because they love animals, but a love of animals isn’t enough to be a good volunteer.
During our synthesis, we identified that whilst both are volunteers, fosters and feeders are treated very differently. Below is a diagram illustrating the time volunteer feeders spend training compared to the time fosters spend training (in red), and the time each spends with kittens during a given week (shown in blue). The large blue circle around the fosters illustrates not just time spent with kittens but shows how crucial the fosters are in APA!’s life-saving model. Fosters accept kittens as soon as they are ready to leave the nursery and typically keep them until they are ready for adoption. Fosters open up space for more kittens to be rescued from AAC and cycle through the nursery.
Unreliable fosters and volunteers divert precious resources in the form of human capital. Feeding the kittens comes first in the life-saving operation and when a feeder is missing, paid staff is diverted from their duties. When a foster isn’t reliable, staff needs to find new homes or space in the nursery.
Insight: APA! Is so stressed for resources that any animal lover is considered qualified labor. As a result, they experience poor care, high turnover, and increased stress for those who can provide quality work. APA needs to begin incentivizing valuable, non-paid personnel and increase efforts to discharge uncommitted volunteers.