design for ACRES (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society)


This article is meant to be a descriptive account of my entire project walkthrough. So, it would be a rather lengthy read. I might write a shorter version sometime later, but this should serve as a good read for some of you who enjoys the process just like me!

Doing work for non-profit organizations have always been something on the back of my mind. Having the opportunity to collaborate with ACRES (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society) Singapore, was truly an amazing experience. The team we worked with, had one of the most determined, passionate and motivated individuals I have ever seen in my professional career. There were four of us with a diverse set of skills, and I was the lead UX for this project. We had the most enjoyable time of our life working on it. Before most of my project kick-offs, I would always make sure the team and I have internal alignments. We set our goals, what we hope to learn from one another, and at the same time, build new competencies amongst ourselves. In most of my past UX projects, my role has always been a strategic generalist since I have skills across the field, but a strong focus on ideation and strategic business to design thinking.

Project Overview

The project scope is to redesign the website of ACRES. Keeping in mind the target audience and the purpose of the website. We must narrow down the key focus areas through research. The final delivery would include a responsive website prototype, content & UX strategy as well as a usability report on the overall performance of the existing site against the new one.


my icon looks exactly like me 😉

Although I was the lead UX for this project, I could see every teammate working equally hard towards our goal. We did our best in the area we are good at. In the process of doing so, we were all contributing cross-functionally. I wanted the team to stay agile and be able to take on each other’s responsibilities. I have always felt the lack of strategic competency in a lot of UX projects. Hence, I instinctively took on the strategist role.


ACRES (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society), is a registered charity and Institution of Public Character (IPC), founded by Singaporeans in 2001. ACRES is an animal protection , driven by their concern for animals. They adopt research projects on the use of animals in various fields. Research findings are then used to educate the public to promote active community involvement in the animal protection movement, as well as strive towards synergistic partnerships with authorities and related parties.

Focus area of ACRES

We conducted our research on several areas, these include combing the web, social and also forums. We were able to map out the key focus areas of ACRES work.

Focus areas of ACRES.

Defining our research methodology
Now that we have a rough idea of ACRES, it is time to get our research methods in place. Gathering our thoughts and toolkits, we drafted out our research process in 3 key phases.

Heuristics evaluation
We went through ACRES’ website and did our heuristics evaluation based on the LEMERS approach. In order to get a better understanding of the whole experience, it is vital that we also capture the experience on mobile. Here are some of the key findings:

Inconsistent design layouts can be quite a problem for new users. People got confused by the change in font sizes, image and font proportions etc.
The navigation bar had sub menus which were not clearly visible to most users. Its menu is actually pretty long and scrollable. However, the scroll bar is missing.
Users are actually clicking into many filler pages before they get access to the information they want.
There is a significant amount of broken links.

Content audit
We map out the current site’s content, to have a better understanding of the breakdown of the site. It was not as intensive as we thought. This is mainly because the site wasn’t as deep and also the content was mainly spread across the site’s pages. While doing the content audit, some of us were already working on the content strategy.

Client data validation through Co-creation

Co-creation allows us to work with the client together to understand their operations and back-end processes.

I always make it a top priority for all the data collected to stay as accurate as possible. To do this, a meeting with the client is always a must. I am extremely grateful to be able to set up meetings with ACRES client and have them give us so much of their time on this project. So we met up with Anbu, the deputy chief executive of ACRES and did an interview together with a walkthrough of some of our processes. In this co-creation exercise, we discussed several important aspects of the business. In a co-creation exercise, it is not just about trying to work towards a goal with your client, it is how good you facilitate it to elicit the right information required for your project. In my opinion, it was definitely a meaningful discussion both for my team and ACRES. Here are some key areas of our discussion:

  1. Business flow (includes: business flow, plans, KPIs, value propositions, vendor relationships etc.)
    2. Current issues with the brand (includes: public perception, the role of the organization, fundings etc.)
    3. Current issues and expectations for their online experience (includes: web, mobile, social etc.)
    4. In-depth understanding of key major issues (includes: donations, volunteering, corporate partnerships etc.)
    5. ACRES service delivery (includes: design of user journeys, touchpoints, back-stage processes etc.)

From the meeting itself, the team was able to validate the raw data collected. We did the first round of synthesis and was able to get something to proceed on. The next step was to get more data from the public.

In summary, our key take away was:

Key learnings from our meeting with Anbu.
Anbu was amazing. She was helpful and passionate about the cause!

Quantitative and Qualitative data
In order for us to work on a higher level of accuracy, we did several rounds of interviews as well as collect both qualitative and quantitative data. There were really a lot of data compiled, but to cut to the chase, below is a snapshot of some of the important findings:

One of the few shocking revelations.
There were many conflicting findings especially this one.
There issues pretty much all over but we can see information not easily accessible for several key areas.
In general, these were the areas affecting the UX of ACRES website.

Data synthesis through a multi-level paradigm
The response I got from my teammates when I introduced this process to them — “This was so intense!”. 🙂 Have you ever watched detective movies where he would gather all the evidence and have them tacked to a huge board? He would use threads and linked up all possible trails? I had the team worked this out with me after they compiled their data respectively. Through this approach, we break away from the norm of sequential data synthesis. At one glance, I gave them a bird’s eye view of what we have collected so far, and the team was able to understand the complexity of the problem we are solving here. We managed to pull possible similarities and synthesize all possible routes of experiences. Following this, we identify where the key problem areas were. Then, we would map these problems with the business needs and the user wants. This process, albeit a long and intense one, was able to help the team move forward, and eventually reach a point of conclusion.

Our multi-paradigm board!

Prioritizing our needs
This helps to map both the organization’s needs against the user’s needs

The sweet spot for both ACRES and their USERS.

User Persona and Customer Journey mapping
From here, we came out with the user personas for both Rachel and Kiran. The two personas were designed to illustrate two key issues we want to tackle: donations and volunteers. Both are indirectly a problem due to the general lack of awareness and poor content optimization within the site itself.

Rachel is our persona of someone who enjoys volunteering.
Customer journey for Rachel and her pain points highlighted.
Kiran is our persona for a donor.
Customer journey map for Kiran’s donation experience and pain points.

Features prioritization

Using the features prioritization matrix, we tally all the different problems to tackle. And to further filter them, the MOSCOW approach was used to enable us to break down even more in-depth the issues to resolve.

When impact meets effort, we got a lot to work on.
Using MOSCOW, we further break down our priorities.


I’m a strong believer that strategy should always start during the discovery process. There are several areas to look into before the commencement of the project. As a team, we do stand-ups almost every day and we try to keep each other aware of our progress.

Our work process

Our team’s process and the steps we took to the finishing point.

The new I.A

The new information architecture after our changes.

Content strategy

We needed to make sure all 4 core areas of content strategy is crafted. I worked with Brenda on getting the content properly audited and how it should be placed and broken down into.

We decided to have the faqs in one page instead of bits all over the site. We moved donations and volunteers up to the first page to give more attention to the page itself.

Two-sided markets

What if real value is made possible through two distinct users in the service or product experience? ACRES’ value proposition not only helps the public, but they are also responsible for the wildlife animals. Because of this unique situation, it affects the UX strategy. In order to really understand ACRES, we could first look at the organization by digging deep into understanding its entire service model. I’m not exactly using a business model here, because it is essentially still a non-profit organization. However, the canvas is still effective for us and can be adapted to understand the organization from both the beneficiary and user perspective.

The business model canvas used twice

The business model canvas was one of the few tools that I have chosen to understand the business. Due to the nature of ACRES being a non-profit organization, we must understand the business from both the beneficiary perspective as well as the users. Below are two canvas derived from both sides:

How might we …

We discovered two issues after mapping out both canvas. While ACRES have got really good value proposition as well as provide other services and corporate partnerships, this information is not immediately accessible or optimized to the site users. The three main things we need to help ACRES achieve was:

  1. Increase Donations
    2. Increase Volunteers
    3. Increase public awareness
Our problem statements.

service journey

In order to understand the flow and connection in the journey, we mapped out the digital eco-system. This was essential for us to plan the service design journey. It allowed us to see the entire process from end to end. Since the main problem lies in awareness, there is a need to build the solution around helping users to understand ACRES a lot better. To do this, we must look outside of just the UX of ACRES’ current digital experience.

The digital eco-system depicts the entire service journey, stemming from the core of the product.

Service design blueprint

Using the service design blueprint, we could map out the entire journey of the user. We were able to work collaboratively with Anbu to understand ACRES’ back-end processes and using this first-hand information, built this blueprint. In order to make the service blueprint even more comprehensive, mental experiences of the users we tested were added into it.

The service blueprint for the volunteering process for ACRES.

Redesign Strategy

The redesign strategy focuses on improving the UX experience, the digital service experience, towards service design. These 3 levels of experience are derived from the digital eco-system. As a UX designer, there are times we have to look further past just designing screens while as a service designer, there are times when one must look into the digital aspect of the user experience. The end result is the digital service design happening between both UX and Service. this redesign strategy addresses all 3 levels of experience, giving the user an integrated experience across the entire product journey.

The three sectors of the ACRES experience.

By addressing current content strategy both on the web and mobile, we help ACRES realize existing possibilities of a better user experience. We could push this further by addressing the digital service delivery and improve what they could have done better. Lastly, if we tap further into service design, there are even more potential in terms of improving the service delivery of ACRES. People get more engaged with the ACRES brand, not limiting to just digital touch points but through the entire brand. They walk alongside the brand like an advocate!

On each sector, we have plans to improve the experience to realize the values ACRES could get from each phase.

Value innovation

Using the four actions framework, I’m looking at improving the value for both ACRES and users.

The four actions framework.

Behavioral economics

In order to improve the sign-up rates and to push overall engagement across all content touch points, the approach used in the copy taps on several cognitive biases. We set trigger points across our entire service journey. Below is an example of the volunteer digital service delivery.

Taking into account the digital service for volunteering.

Using behavioral economics on the copy

We wanted to experiment with the effects of how human’s cognitive biases can affect them, especially in areas where we could trigger better donation and volunteer rates.

Authority bias works very well with sympathy bias.

Given more time, we would have made a lot more tests to verify the results of our work here. We wanted to see the impact of behavioral science on people’s decisions.

Brand audit

The team and I conducted a brand audit across all the touchpoints and highlighted several important areas to work on.

Brand audit on the guidelines.
Most of the pictures can be inconsistent in terms of its visual direction.
There is different styling for the fonts being used.

Lo-fi Prototype (1st iteration)

We proceed with the lo-fi prototype and did one round of user testing. It helped us understand what the current prototype is not addressing. This was version 1 of the prototype.

2nd round of user testing vs 1st round

Our second round of testing was significantly more successful than the first one. We timed the speed of how fast the users finished each task and realize a huge drop in getting the task done. The overall sentiments of the users were also very good. Many rated the new experience to be much better than the last one.

Users express more liking for the system during our second testing.

Improvements made

We were overall very happy with the improvements made during this short 10 days sprint. The donation process and volunteer process were now made much much easier. We made several key improvements to the overall experience.

  1. Better donation experience online
Improved donation flow.
Improved volunteer flow.

2. Emotional visuals were placed on their google sheet

A comparison of the volunteer sign-up form between the old (left) to the new (right).

3. Using cognitive triggers to help us craft a more engaging UX across the board.

4. Improved navigation menu.

One of the many changes: a navigational bar that is much easier to use now.

These were some of the improvements we made. There were so much work done, and we were elated to see how much we have covered in such a short period! 🙂

Hi-fi prototype

Hi-fi prototype
Donations page was redesigned to make it easier to see and more intuitive.

In summary, I think we had a long time working on this project and there were many things we want to improve on. There were also a few things we wanted to add to our future plans.

I wished we had more time to do more user testings on the results and impact of human behavioral science. There were many things I felt we could dive deeper and build for ACRES to achieve better service delivery for their users.

It was an awesome project still!

I’m glad you made it this far! Clap if you like it! Thank you for your support! Feel free to drop your comments and thoughts!

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