UX design: MCAS

Employer: Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS), a governmental organization which manages a wide variety of services for the Portland, Oregon metro area including pet licensing, lost and found, animal rescue, abuse investigations, pet adoptions and more.

Role: As the Communications Coordinator, I was responsible for graphic design, web content, marketing, and social media. Both on my own and as part of a cross-functional team, I engaged in a variety of projects that improved customer experience (CX) and I gained experience in user experience (UX), user testing, information architecture (IA), and user interface design (UID). Although some of the more common UX documents of today were not in widespread use at the time, I developed skills in applying usability concepts and implemented changes that improved client experiences, increased productivity, raised revenue, and contributed to higher animal live release rates. (2010-2015)

Because I don't have the original planning documents, I will describe some of the improvements I contributed to and/or implemented.

Is the "new" website in need of another redesign? Absolutely. But I'll ask you focus on the features, IA and content, which were far beyond what most public animal shelter websites offered at the time.

information architecture

BEFORE: When I began working at MCAS in 2010, the web site had three menus, plus a footer menu.

AFTER: Working with the county IT team, I reconfigured the information architecture during the first of three significant web site upgrade projects. Slight changes were made to the menu during the next two upgrades after user testing provided additional insight.


call volume

When I began working for MCAS in 2010, call volumes were quite high and clients often waited 20-25 minutes on hold or hung up before being assisted.

In an effort to provide better customer service, I improved the information architecture of the web site, developed new informational content, made editable PDF forms available, and created web forms for various service requests. These process changes reduced call volume and made services more accessible for the community.




In 2010, pet owners using the online licensing system:

- Had to complete and submit a credit card payment form separately for every pet license renewal, which was time-consuming and bothersome for the many pet owners who had 2-5 pets.

- Had to fax a copy of their rabies certificates, which was problematic for people who didn't own fax machines.

- Could not purchase only a replacement tag.

- Could not request a brand new license and pay for it at the same time.

- Were often confused by the language referring to new licenses, replacement license tags, and license renewals.

- Would find no information about facility licenses, which are required by law for anyone breeding and/or selling animals.


- After working with IT to plan and implement a shopping cart feature, clients could purchase multiple licenses (either new or renewals). They could also request replacement tags and donate, all with a single transaction.

- A document upload feature enabled clients to attach rabies certificates, in a variety of formats, rather than fax.

- Through user testing, we identified more effective language to eliminate the confusion between new licenses, replacement tags, and license renewals.

- Information about  facility licenses was made available, and required documents in the form of editable PDF's were provided via download.


public records


- The web site had no information about public records.

- Clients had to call to request information and forms. Request forms had to be mailed (or scanned and emailed).

- Clients were billed by mail and had to pay fees by phone or mail.


- I created an informational web page about public records and a web form for records requests.

- On the back end, I created a dedicated email address for public records so that multiple employees could access request forms.

- Public records request fees could be paid online.


lost and found


- Lost and found reports submitted by members of the public lacked photos.

- Found reports for animals in the shelter lacked photos.

- Clients and staff had to rely on color, sex and breed descriptions alone to identify animals. This was especially problematic for cats and mixed-breed dogs. Owners of lost pets were told to visit the shelter every 3 days to search for their pets, even though the shelter closed at 6 pm on most days and was located approximately 20 miles east of downtown. Reaching the shelter during rush hour is extremely difficult. Getting there with public transportation is challenging for the able-bodied and impossible for those with mobility issues. As a result, return-to-owner rates suffered, especially for cats, which often aren't brought to the shelter for weeks or months.

- People who had lost a pet were confused by the terminology and unsure if they should search reports for lost pets or found pets. (Every pet that has been found is someone's lost pet.)

- The web site was not mobile-optimized.



- Working with our IT team, we transitioned to a responsive design. This allowed clients to post and search reports from almost anywhere, in many cases within minutes of losing or finding a pet. This  also improved access to services for lower income people who often use phones rather than computers for web access.

- The new lost and found system allowed pet finders and owners of lost pets to attach photos to their reports (from either phones or a desktop).

- MCAS began posting photos of the found animals at the shelter. (There was significant apprehension about this from staff because there was a concern people would "shop" the found reports and falsely claim ownership, but this never came to fruition.)

- As a result of this system, many pets were reunited with their owners without ever coming to the shelter. The return-to-owner rate increased, especially for cats and this contributed to a higher live release rate. As result, MCAS had one of the highest animal save rates in the country amongst public, open-door shelters.


Using Format