Website Re-Design:

Paws4Survival logo

About Paws4Survival

Paws4Survival is a non-profit animal rescue and adoption foundation located in Massachusetts. The organization rescues dogs and cats from the streets of Puerto Rico, dogs lovingly known as “satos” or stray dogs. Paws4Survival provides vet care, socialization and travels animals back to the states to be fostered until they are adopted to permanent homes.

The Paws4Survival Website Project

The Paws4Survival website contains a simple layout focusing on photos of rescued dogs and cats. The site features a very simplistic color scheme of orange and white to complete the organization’s logo. The homepage also features a short documentary following one of the team’s trips to Puerto Rico.

Excluding the homepage, contains seven tabs containing the following pages:

“About”: About Paws4Survival Rescue, Our Team, FAQ

“Cats Available”: Cats Available and Cat Application

“Dogs Available”: Dogs Available and Dog Application

“Happy Endings”: *A single page featuring a gallery of photos of animals who were rehabilitated and found permanent homes

“Donate”: *A single page featuring a list of ways to donate and a link titled “Donate Supplies” which navigates to a Paws4Survival Amazon Wishlist

“Contact”: *A single page featuring a contact form

“Fosters”: *A single page featuring a foster application and FAQ section

While the site is simplistic and easy to navigate, researchers felt that the website could benefit from a re-design mostly in regards to functionality. Paws4Survival uses their website for three main purposes: adopting, donating and fostering. Therefore, gathering information and performing updates to those three functions was essential when conducting user research.

Competitor Analysis

An important step in redesigning the Paws4Survival website was to first gain insight on how other local rescues in the Northeast use their websites. How do their functions differ? Do they have features that could be applied to the Paws4Survival website? Researchers created a competitor analysis table to show how Paws4Survival compares to other local animal rescues in a few key aspects.

Personas and Scenarios

Next, researchers focused on creating personas and scenarios generally focusing on two of the three of the most common visitors: adopters and volunteers. Researchers also added a persona featuring “Curtis Wright” compiling research from other adoption websites that was considered crucial for the Paws4Survival website redesign.


In order to find more information on the users, mainly the type of users who are either adopters, donors, fosters or a combination, researchers designed a comprehensive interview focusing on questions from each population. The research question asked: how might the functionality be improved?  After general warm-up questions were asked, participants were instructed to fill out a series of questions that related to their user activities on the Paws4Survival website as well as experiences on other animal rescue websites.

Paws4Survival Interview example from text

The PDF of the interview questions can be found here


Researchers also designed a survey to find out more about users. After asking a few general questions about the participant, they were asked to fill out sections that related to their user experience and were able to skip over sections that did not pertain to them. Questions were designed to focus on users who have adopted from Paws4Survival, fostered through Paws4Survival and/or donated through the website. The final questions in the survey asked participants their thoughts on, particularly what they thought of the design and if they felt emotionally connected to the website. Throughout the redesign process, users noted the importance of having an emotional connection to an animal rescue and adoption website.

Paws4Survival Survey example from text

The PDF of the survey can be found here

Diary Study

The next step in the redesign process was to focus on one of important audiences of the foster families. Researchers wanted to gather information on current Paws4Survival foster families to see if extra resources and features needed to be added to the website.

Paws4Survival Diary Study example from text

The PDF of can be found here.

Card Sort

Researchers now felt comfortable in using participation from users and participants to gain specific user insight. Therefore, a card sort study was conducted using three participants.

Participant Demographics from text

Using an electronic card sort provided by OptimalSort, participants were instructed to sort 30 cards with features included on the website and a few that could be added (highlighted in red). Researchers used an open card sort, meaning participants sorted features into categories that they individually created and titled.

30 features sorted into categoies

Results indicated that There were some similarities between how participants grouped features. Both Participant 1 and Participant 2 chose a category with the word “success” focusing on positive Paws4Survival stories. Some common features that Participants 1 and 2 sorted into a “success” category included “Rescue Effort Photos” and “Post Adoption Stories”. Participant 3 sorted both of those features into the same category but instead chose to label the category as “Product”.  

Participants’ backgrounds also seemed to play a role in how participants chose categories.  

Distribution of Participant Data from text

PDF can be downloaded here

Heuristic Evaluation

Researchers needed a clear indicator on how the Paws4Survival performs and supports users. Therefore, a heuristic evaluation was conducted with a researcher who was unfamiliar with the site. Graduate student, Stephanie Nizzari conducted the evaluation noting that 5 categories had “major” issues. The categories and features are indicated in the table below.

Screeshot of Heuristic Evaulation by Stephanie Nizzari

A full PDF can be downloaded here.

Usability Testing

Finally, researchers conducted a usability test with three participants. Due to a stay at home order, each individual session was conducted via zoom meeting. Participants were instructed to share their screens with the researcher and asked to sign consent forms for audio recordings.

Participant demographics from text (Names and locations have been covered to protect identities.)

 In order to best see how participants interact with the website, researchers designed five tasks for the participants to complete.

Results showed that participants found the website generally easy to navigate with participants ranking tasks an average of 3 or better for ease of use (1 indicating very difficult and 5 indicating very easy.) Participants also suggested improvement throughout the entire study which are reflected in the next section.

Data Analysis from text

Suggestion for Improvement

From conducting user research, researchers concluded that the following improvements could be added to the Paws4Survival website:

Functionality and User Design:

  • Add hyperlinks to adoption applications on individual dog/cat bios
  • Add hyperlinks to contact page with a link to preferred email platform
  • Add a “save” button to the to dog and cat applications
  • Add a search engine
  • Add a filter system on the “cats available” and “dogs available” page where users can enter criteria
  • Create a “volunteer” page for information on fundraising events

Layout and User Interface:

  • Provide more pictures and videos on each adoptable dog and cat bio
  • Change the banner to a photo that elicits more of an emotional response and make the banner more readable
  • Change the title of the “Happy Endings” page to “Success Stories”
Paws4Survival Logo

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