Description of The Problem
Training A Service Dog
Service Dogs are incredibly helpful and comforting to their handlers. They are irreplaceable life partners that can save a person’s life and safeguard independence. Unfortunately, they are extremely difficult to acquire and only a handful of facilities exist to train them.
The facilities that do exist only have the capacity to train dogs for those meeting very specific requirements. For example, there are facilities that provide soldiers with PSDs (psychiatric service dogs) to help them deal with PTSD but there are not many facilities that send out PSDs to those who suffered from childhood trauma. There are ways to acquire service dogs from specialized organizations but many of them have extremely long wait lists or cost huge amounts of money.
There is only one other option for those who need a service animal, and that is to self-train a service dog. This process is an option many find themselves undertaking but it is an extremely lengthy, complicated, and difficult journey. Trainr aims to make the process less complicated and more successful for those self-training their service animal.
How might we make the process of self-training a service dog more successful and easier to track so that more teams (handler and their service dog) are prepared and fit for public work?
Trainr is an app that helps individuals track and manage their service dog’s training. With tasks organized by age, category, or difficulty, handler’s can work through the vast amount of tasks their service dog is required to master in order to be allowed in public spaces.
Trainr contains outside support options that will provide easy access for individuals to get help and ask a question for unique problems they may have. The app also discourages fake service dog users by requiring photographic evidence once the service dog has mastered a new trick. Trainr proves the validity of their service dog as well as allows individuals to share and review their success through the app’s photo journal. Those are just some of the features Trainr will provide to take away the stress of training so individuals can spend less time researching and worrying, and more time working together with their service dog.
Holy *@#% that’s a lot!
This is the first app of its kind and that made for some interesting challenges. The biggest challenges with creating this app were how to present and include the vast amounts of information and requirements needed when training a service animal. There is a lot to consider when training a service animal and the laws and expectations change drastically from location to location. With that in mind, it was important to try to include as much as necessary without it becoming too complicated and without it deviating from the purpose of the app.
Where Do We Go Now
Through research, and several classes and group discussions, a picture began to emerge for what this app should be, and for what it should include. By doing many different exercises, I had many different ideas as to how to handle these requirements. Individuals using the app need to be able to record and review tasks learned, review what has yet to be learned, receive help learning how to train, and need a way to prove the validity of the training.
It’s Not an Accident
The design of this app gives an inviting, friendly feeling. It uses yellow to suggest a warm feeling, and pink to instill a sense of confidence and passion. The major audience for those self-training a service animal are women and for that reason, the app uses more feminine colours. The app is meant to be friendly and clear to its users, so it uses brighter colours and rounded edges. Raleway was chosen to be a friendly, elegant typeface with plenty of personality while still being clean and open. It is designed to be easy to use with plenty of capabilities without it being cluttered or overly complicated.
Upon completing the design of the app I was then able to begin user testing. I conducted a user test with 28 people, some of whom were fellow service dog trainers. Initially, there were some problems as some users had never user tested before but once they caught on it was a breeze. I found most of my issues stemmed from either the way I worded the mission or from the icons not clearly indicating each page. Overall, it was a very useful test and helped me to see where this app would need refinement in the future.
This app could be an incredibly helpful tool to service dog teams everywhere. I received many comments from the user test where individuals wished a product like this actually existed. In the future, this app would need further refinement to make it more accessible and to make it easier to use. The icons would need to be clearer and other navigations adjustments would need to be made to make the app have the highest possible usability.
Apps like this are not made in a day. Overcrowding can take away from the app so it is important to be concise and to align with the purpose of the app throughout the design process so that it can be truly successful.