IXD303: User Research

Understanding the users

Firstly, I wanted to research why the users do what they do. The users of my app would be panda caretakers, health care professionals, and researchers. These will be people of a wide age range, with different backgrounds, knowledge, and abilities.

Why their job is important:

  • Giant pandas are no longer endangered but they are still on the vulnerable list. This means, the species still need as much support as possible to continue growing their population.
  • There are many threats to the panda population: Their food source and homes are being taken by climate change and human development. Although there are laws in place, some pandas fall victim to being poached for their fur. Some are also killed accidentally in traps intended for other animals.
  • Pandas have low reproductive rates: This is usually 1 cub every 2 years. Pandas usually only give birth to a single cub. Occasionally, twins are born, however, the weaker of the 2 rarely survive.
  • Panda cubs: Due to the poor diet of giant pandas, panda cubs are born very small, 1/900th the size of their mother. They are very dependent on their mother for the first few months of life as they are born blind and unable to defecate without assistance. For all these reasons, panda cubs can be difficult to keep alive.

Getting a better knowledge of my users’ jobs has been beneficial as it has shown me the importance of their work. This will be valuable when deciding which features, I should include in my app. It also helps me empathise with them and inspires me to design an app that will allow them to do their job easier.


Their current method

The current method of panda tracking is one that I would assume is frustrating, time-consuming, and difficult.

In the past, the most used method was to walk through their habitat looking for chewed bamboo, droppings, and scratch marks on trees. The issues with this are that it would take a long time, there is a chance of not finding any pandas, they can’t track specific pandas, and they can’t track their health. It can also be hard to get an estimate of the whole population because they are so hard to find. Therefore, it requires a lot of guessing and inaccuracy.

More recently, they have started using GPS tracking collars. This has allowed them to track the location of pandas and gives them a better understanding of their movement patterns. However, they are still unable to track their health.

In a documentary that I watched, they are still using pen and paper to work to write notes on their findings. This could be time-consuming; they could get lost or some of it may not be readable to others. They also use walkie-talkies to communicate and share their location with each other. However, this could be inaccurate and, once again, time-consuming.


Considerations for my app

  • Heart rate monitor: This could be beneficial because, if a panda’s heart rate was abnormal, this could be an indication of distress, injury, or illness. Users would receive an alert and be able to assess the situation.
  • Users could track mother pandas: This ensures the mother is in good health so she can take care of the baby. They will be able to track their location and ensure the mother and baby are in good health.
  • Users could register pandas who are being released to the wild: It is a concern that pandas kept in captivity for so long won’t know how to survive in the wild. However, this app will give users peace of mind and allow for more pandas to be released as they can be closely monitored.
  • Each panda will have a unique name and number: This way users can track specific pandas, their medical history, etc.
  • Notes section: After finding out that they are still using pen and paper for their notes, I thought a notes feature may be beneficial. This way, they can write any findings or concerns and have them in one place for everyone to have access to.
  • Colleague location tracker: Instead of using walkie-talkies, they will be able to track each other’s location through the app. This will be much more accurate and takes less time.
  • Must be easy to use: The users will be on the go with limited time. Therefore, the app must be quick and easy to navigate. For example, I want to make my navigation buttons big and easy to access. I also want there to be multiple access points to the users’ alerts to make them quicker to find.


Overall, I have found doing this hugely beneficial. It allows me to see things from my user’s perspective instead of just making assumptions. I have come up with new features that I hadn’t thought of before and have a better understanding of my user’s jobs and their needs. This will enable me to add things to my app and improve what I already have.

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