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Designing for a leader in zoology, and increasing user engagement beyond the zoo’s walls.



3 UX designers, 2 week sprint, about 100 hours


Lincoln Park Zoo


UX/UI, Project Management, Contextual Inquiry, Design system, Usability Test facilitator and Research presentation.

The Problem

Client's Perspective

The zoo website has Conservation and Science prioritized as a global tab, but people did not feel motivated to further their learning beyond plaques at the zoo itself where they could see the animals they were learning about at the same time. 

The zoo feels people would be excited to follow their ongoing research beyond the zoo gates, but feel they could do a better job creating the same experience as when people are seeing the animals in person.

User's Perspective

Despite making small efforts whenever possible, they felt too busy to be constantly mindful of nature and conservation. They were excited to see animals up-close, but they had mixed feelings about them being kept in captivity.

Often, they resorted to docuseries as the more scientifically accurate, ethical source of learning - but docuseries are a highlight reel, meant to feel dramatic and fast paced. They need a more realistic and ethic way to engage with wildlife.


The Solution


Recent Sightings: taking better advantage of the zoo’s global partner rescue sites

We provided a better way to watch animals in their own, natural setting, without the constraint of watching an empty live camera. The Lincoln Park Zoo’s global partner facilities will have video cameras that get updated with the most recent, real sightings of animals posted on the zoo’s website.


Partnerships with Chicago Parks: encouraging visitors to experience local wildlife, in person

We want to encourage activities in the parks of the Chicago area, like scavenger hunts, not only to get people outdoors, but to immerse kids and adults alike with the wildlife available locally in Chicago. Find all of the animals listed, and submit your completed hunt to get rewards at the Zoo.

Our Process

Our Process



• Survey

• Interviews

• Contextual Inquiry
• Comparative & Competitive Analysis



• Ideation Sessions


• Sketch



• Affinity Mapping (over and over again...)

•"I need" statements
• Persona
• Problem Statement



• Lo-Fi Prototype
• Usability Tests
• Hi-Fi Prototype
• More Usability Tests




Find out what makes people excited to learn something new, how do they learn it, and get a better understanding of what’s preventing people from engaging more with wildlife.

Survey Highlights

• People enjoy watching animals in their natural habitat, they find animals to be beautiful.

• Overall, they enjoy zoos, but are concerned about the well-being of the animals kept in captivity

• Wildlife conservation methods: making donations or by making efforts by reducing their impact on the environment (recycling, diet changes, reducing energy consumption etc.)

• People seemed to mainly use the internet to learn new things, but watched docu-series to learn about animals.

Number of Participants: 41

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Interview Highlights

Number of Participants: 5 (2 biologists, a voice actor, a homeschooling mother and one of her kids).

• Participants felt a sense of peacefulness when outdoors and in touch with nature.
• Some said they are often too busy to prioritize the way they care about wildlife.
• They believed that exposure is what helps drive someone's interest in a certain topic, even better when done early as a kid. That interest can then be easily turned into a passion.
• they agreed that the internet was a good source to learn new information from, but there's also an overload of information.
• They enjoyed watching docuseries, but they felt that those didn't necessarily reflect an accurate representation of an animal's day to day.

Contextual Inquiry

Since unfortunately, no one in our team was near Chicago, I volunteered to visit the San Diego Zoo to watch people engaging with the zoo animals in real-time. The goal was to see how much more we can find or to at least get a real life example of what our previous research has proven so far. 


San Diego Zoo facts

• The San Diego Zoo is a pioneer in the concept of open-air, cageless exhibits that recreate natural animal habitats

• One of the oldest zoos in the world, it was opened in 1916

• Visited by 3.2 million people annualy

We were particularly interested in finding if the concept of more naturalistic enclosures could make people feel less uneasy about wild animals being in captivity, or if the animals at least seemed to feel more "at home".

And for the most part, it seemed that they did. People enjoyed it when animals were active. A big, fascinated crowd gathered with their phones ready for videos when a leopard was being teased by the monkeys from the exhibit nearby, or when a baboon roared very loudly. However, there were a few animals that were clearly very stressed no matter how great their setups were, and most people did notice it, too. 

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One of them was this honey badger. Its enclosure was very large and beautiful, and yet, it has been pacing for hours if not longer. I sat around that enclosure for a good amount of time and wrote down the quotes I was able to hear. While the adults made a lot of statements, kids always asked questions (and these aren't quotes of them talking to each other). Most sounded a lot like this:


"He looks like he wants to get out."

"He's stressed being in front of people."



"Is he trying to get out?"

"Why is he pacing?"


Conclusion: During this study, we settled that it doesn't matter what the conditions of the enclosure are like, there will always be a chance that wild animals will be unhappy while in captivity - and many visitors will remain uncomfortable with the idea.


"I need" Statements


We got so much information that we had to create massive Affinity Maps multiple times, for both the survey and then the interviews. We found that the best way to summarize the trends on those maps was to create "I need" statements from each category.

• I need to spend time outdoors because it helps me disconnect from the stresses of my daily routine.

• I need to find more time in my day to prioritize caring about wildlife

• I need to be exposed to something in order to develop a passion for it

• I need to watch videos of animals to feel connected to them because of the lack of opportunity to engage otherwise

• I need a more accurate representation of the animals day to day

• I need a better way to get up close and personal with animals without feeling guilty about their confinement

These statements are what helped truly synthesize our research and create our persona, Jennie.

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And to help guide our next steps, we created the following statements:

“Jennie loves getting out in nature to find peace and quiet, but her busy schedule makes it difficult. She needs to find an easier way to engage with wildlife from home through sources that are trustworthy, so she can teach her children to find as much joy in it as she does.”

So how might we...:

• …
get Jennie easy access to wildlife resources so that she can more easily engage with the content and teach her kids about it along the way?


• Jennie find the right educational tools to make learning fun for her kids?


• ...make room in Jennie’s busy schedule to give her more time to explore nature?

Ideation Sessions



Using the persona, problem statement, and how might we statements, we hosted an Ideation Session with 7 participants and asked them to envision solutions for Jennie. They were encouraged to think of solutions outside of just a digital option, and these were the themes that came up. The two highlighted boxes were the themes we hung onto after analyzing their impact and effort:









Competitive & Comparative Analysis

As we started to gather ideas, another way to help us go forward was to conduct a Plus/ Delta Style Competitive & Comparative Analysys. With that, we knew that we wanted to use video content to transport the user to a different place and provide fun and engaging activities that are kid-friendly. We wanted to avoid live cams that remain empty for hours or something that's too high-energy, since we wanted to preserve the feelings of calm that people like Jennie associate with nature.

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Feature Prioritization/ MVP

After further discussing how we can help both our clients and their visitors, we settled on two key features that should be added to the LPZ website:


Access to real wildife sighting videos provided by the Zoo's Global Partner facilities.


Develop local partnerships with Chicago's Parks and encourage outdoor activities such as wildlife scavenger hunts, with prizes that can be claimed at the zoo.



Moodboard and Style Guide

The Lincoln Park Zoo made it clear that they wanted to keep their current branding, and to help my team, I put together this mood board and style guide to ensure consistency as we all worked on different pages.

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Prototyping and Testing

We started by designing the pages that would lead to those features. After a few rounds of sketching, testing, wireframing and then testing again, we noticed the participants consistently having trouble finding those features on the website's menu. We reorganized and renamed it multiple times until we got to a better solution, which was to have two separate categories: "Explore the Zoo" and "Explore Wildlife". This is how the homepage has changed:


Final Prototype

The tasks we tested were:

• You want to learn more about other animals around the world, like the blue monkey, from Africa. Find the blue monkey's information page.

• You want to explore the wildlife in the Chicago's Parks. Find and enter the Burnham Park page, and then find the scavenger hunt information.

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Click to view Prototype


It has been an amazing learning experience to work in a UX group for the first time, we got to conclusions and ideas I would never have been able to on my own. But it was also really challenging to keep the design consistent, and we didn't have a lot of time to make it perfect in the first round.

Looking back, I could have been even more helpful in making components and explaining how they were expected to be used, as not everyone had the same level of understanding of Figma and design, and setting up a grid for us to work within from the very beginning. Another of our biggest mistakes was not conducting a card sort and usability tests early enough, as we slowly started realizing how most people were getting lost on the website's original home page.

But I believe our research gave us an incredibly strong foundation, we reached the best possible solution, and from there we can iron out the website's design and Information Architecture more easily.

So for our next steps, we would:

• Conduct a card-sorting activity and revamp the Information Architecture
• Iron out any remaining design flaws
• Build and "Ask an Expert" feature
• Refine the search Engine
• Further build out the Scavenger Hunt Feature
• Continue with more usability tests


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