UX Wellington: Designing a theme park for dogs

“Adoption, nostalgia, VR, drones,’’ Words I wasn’t expecting to hear at the end of our last UX Wellington meetup.

“Adoption, nostalgia, VR, drones,’’ Words I wasn’t expecting to hear at the end of our last UX Wellington meetup. Surprisingly, these words described the theme parks we had designed, catering for either dogs or the elderly.

UX Wellington events allow designers to meet with others in the community, share new ideas and discuss industry insights. The ‘Design Play’ event was an interactive design challenge, where everyone gets creative and collaborates on ideas. The theme for the event was to design a theme park, either for the elderly, or for dogs.

The Process

The challenge kicked off with a discussion on how we could design a theme park to be more user friendly for dogs. We followed this with a post-it-note session to identify ideas and pain points.

We created a set of personas — fictional characters to determine who we are designing the product for. Once we knew the ‘who’, regardless of how many legs they had, we knew we’d be able to determine their needs and design specifically for this persona.

We decided the best way to understand how to find a solution, was to conduct user interviews with relevant stakeholders — the same way we approach UX work at PaperKite. By interviewing the end-users of the solution, we are able to design a more customised and tailored experience for their needs. What did their dogs enjoy doing? What concerns would they have with letting their dog loose in an open environment?

We approached the small handful of designers at the event who owned dogs for our user interviews. In just a few minutes, we had a lot of ideas. Rides with open windows for dogs to stick their heads out, a scented maze, and treats at the end of each ride! All of these added to improving the experience for our doggie theme park!

Designing The Theme Park

Our persona was a dog owner with a very energetic pet. We set an overall goal of providing the owners with a space to allow their dogs to have fun and burn energy, without needing to worry about their dog. We wanted to design a theme park that would allow dog owners to drop their dogs off for the day to explore the park, as well as being able to join their dog on rides if they wanted.

Our user interviews proved invaluable – we were able to design an experience catering to all of our persona’s needs based directly on the information gathered during user interviews.

Our theme park had a tower in the centre with a cafeteria for the adults to relax in while their dogs were playing. The tower was surrounded by a ring of attractions which were considered gentle and might be enjoyed by dogs that were older or those with a little less gusto than younger pups. We also designed more intense theme park attractions which would cater to the dogs with more energy and that could be enjoyed by both dog and a more thrill-seeking owner.

Accessibility is important, in both mobile and theme park design, and we wanted our park to be as accessible as possible. We recognised that not all dogs and owners have the ability or energy to run around the park all day; to cater for this we added a mono-rail which runs around the park, to help guests quickly and easily access all the park had to offer.

Each group shared their theme park ideas and what we’d learnt through this design play exercise. Heaps of ideas were presented; theme parks with dogs available for adoption, nostalgic theme parks with sections themed for each decade in the 1900s, theme parks with virtual reality for those less able, and drones for dogs to chase.

Final Thoughts

It was a fantastic Meetup and I would highly recommend attending if you are a UX Designer or are interested in UX design. It’s important as a designer to be constantly growing, so attending events like these which are focused on an exercise, gives an opportunity to learn from others and solve unique, interesting and fun design problems together, with the user front-of-mind, wagging tail and all!