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Developing an Augmented Reality App to Promote Detroit Zoo Engagement



Our team's goal was to create a mobile experience for the Detroit Zoo that allows users to interact with animals when they are not physically present at the zoo. By understanding the unique challenges faced by different demographics of zoo-goers, we aimed to create a design that would keep users engaged with the animals they love, improve in-person experiences, and help the Detroit Zoo serve a wider audience. We conducted interviews and developed personas to better understand our target users' needs and pain points. Our final mobile app design incorporated features such as finding animal profiles, taking live pictures of animals, participating in games, asking zookeepers questions, redeeming prizes, scanning touch points, and donating to support the zoo's animals during the pandemic. Throughout the design process, our goal was to enhance the zoo experience for users both at the zoo and away. Our design evolved from sketches and wireframes to a polished digital prototype that included a map, the ability to ask zookeepers questions, and other features that would make it easier for users to locate certain animals and engage with them. Usability testing helped us understand where users got stuck and allowed us to make revisions based on real people's experiences. While there were some limitations due to the pandemic, our final design incorporated tasks that met our users' needs and goals.

Click here to download our final report >>

Tools Used: 
  • Adobe XD, Unity, Personas, Sketches, Scenarios, User flow charts, Wireframes, Prototypes, Usability testing

My Role: 
  • UX Designer, UX Researcher, Designer, App Developer


  • Creating a mobile app that incorporated tasks such as finding an animal profile/bio, taking live pictures of animals at the zoo for safari journals, participating in games, asking zookeepers questions, redeeming prizes, scanning physical touchpoints, and donating to support animals at the zoo during the pandemic.

  • Designing a mobile app that meets the unique needs of a diverse user base, including children, families, couples, young adults, and the elderly.

  • Conducting interviews with potential users and developing personas to better gauge their characteristics and pain points.

  • Incorporating tasks and features that would appeal to a wide range of users.

  • Usability testing played a critical role in shaping the final design.


  • Designing a mobile app that would meet the unique needs of our diverse user base.

  • Making the app accessible and affordable by all users with little or no limitation.

  • Needing the design and environment (i.e., at the zoo or away) to synchronize to promote intended use and function.

  • Added titles on each landing page, text label of game progress, increased readability of texts, articulated ‘learn more’ on the animal page to echo ideas related to animal facts, increased the navigation bar and its icons.

  • Expatiating the idea of the physical touchpoint and adjusted the app to simulate the existing app for Detroit zoo.

  • Using the current Detroit zoo app to inform ours.

  • Wireframe development helped the team to easily generate different design concepts by consolidating our different ideas and tasks from our paper prototypes.

  • The principles of our design aligned with the universal design principles such as accessibility, affordance, and flexibility-usability among others.

  • Adobe XD for digital prototype was primarily informed by the possibility for team members to collaborate, its compatibility with multiple computer systems, and flexibility for converting low to high fidelity prototypes without hassle.

our paper prototype used for usability testing


Usability testing played a critical role in shaping our final design. By observing users' interactions first-hand and listening to their reasoning, we were able to understand where users misunderstood or got stuck, and make revisions based on their experiences and tendencies. Through usability testing, we gained a fresh perspective on our design and discovered issues that we hadn't previously thought of. While the pandemic prevented us from conducting tests with the most accurate group of users, we were still able to make significant improvements to our design based on the feedback we received.

Overall, I'm incredibly proud of the final product we created. Our mobile app, if used, would enhance the zoo experience for users, whether they are visiting the zoo in-person or engaging with the animals digitally. By using a variety of tools and approaches, we were able to create a solution that meets the needs of a wide range of users, and I believe this app would help the Detroit Zoo serve and profit from a wider audience.

our final presentation of our prototype

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