Design Research, Fitbit

Fitbit + Therapy Cat Owners*

*A therapy cat is a cat trained to help ailing humans in a medically beneficial way.
 Owners of therapy cats take their animals to hospitals, retirement homes, and schools to offer
therapeutic services to patients and students.


DESIGN RESEARCH: Fitbit, Stanford

Wearable Technology

I worked with two other designers.

Project Goal
Identify new opportunities for Fitbit to enter the pet care industry.

Research Approach
We scoped the project and selected a user group. We focused on therapy cat owners as an extreme case of a pet-owner. They spend above average amounts of time and money on their cats. Focusing on the extreme case allowed us to more easily uncover needs and insights that also apply to the average pet-owner.

Online research revealed scientific benefits of therapy cat programs but did not explain the "why" behind our users' behavior. So, we interviewed 12 people in person, including therapy-cat owners, feline physical therapists, and hospital therapy-cat program managers.

We visually captured key quotes, surprises, and emotions from interviews and formulated an insight statement. We defined the frame through which the cat owners view their relationship with their cats and created a large map outlining over 40 needs of the user group. Focusing on the core needs, we brainstormed solution ideas, created prototypes of 3 ideas, and formed 3 core design principles, guiding lights for whatever solution Fitbit might build for pet-owners.

Key Observation: In every interview, we noticed cat owners used strong language that asserted the cats' dominance.

We work for these cats. We’re the landlords, bankers, engineers of sanitation, and the transportation executives.

While pet owners are ultimately in control of the pet-owner relationship, many otherwise confident cat owners construct a narrative in which the cat is in control.

Key Insight: Therapy cat owners feel fulfilled by their strong relationships with their cats but fear how others interpret this bond.

So, they used language that put responsibility on the cats. "Guido was selected to be part of a TV cat game show, so we had to fly all the way down to LA and work long hours for filming!" Working from this insight, we created solutions and three design principles for Fitbit to carry forward when designing for cat owners. Design Principles:

1. Help owners explain that interacting with their cats is beneficial to their health by comparing time spent with cats with health metrics. 

2. Allow owners to channel the “obligation” of caring for a loved one by mirroring the action of daily check-ins.

3. Help owners make loving their cat seem normal by sharing the most rewarding parts of owning a cat.

Needs Hierarchy.jpg

We presented findings and documentation of our work to a team of 4 Fitbit designers tasked with exploring the possibility of creating Fitbit products for pet owners.

My Role
All work on this team was split evenly. Alongside my teammates, I led interviews and applied a number of synthesis frameworks to move from interview content to actionable insights, design principles, and solutions. I was responsible for selecting the user group and setting up all interviews.