NYC Big Apps promoted “a software application challenge in keeping with New York City’s drive to become more transparent, accessible, and accountable.” In Chris Fahey’s Interaction Design class, our challenge was to work through a process to create an app within the guidelines of this competition. In sifting through NYC.gov’s Data Mine, I found the “Directory of Dog Runs and Off-Leash Areas.” As a dog owner constantly looking for ways to socialize and exercise my hound, this extensive spreadsheet began as the source for my NYC-based app.
FEATURED: “Designing a New Way to Interact With Your City” by Alissa Walker on GOOD.IS
The individual profiles of each dog run in NYC will allow users to post photos of the location, and rate the park on cleanliness, facilities, and any other factors they deem important. Other dog owners can use this feedback to decide if a run is right for them or not. Some dogs need a bigger area to run (large breeds) and other dogs might need a smaller area designated for small breeds because they are easily intimidated by big dogs. Some owners like a shaded area and benches, others may look for open, sunny spots. Reviews and photos will be very helpful in determining whether a park is right for their dogs.
Using the API from the social website Meetup.com (http://www.meetup.com/meetup_api/), See Spot Run! will use the “dog” category topic, as well as the New York City search specification to connect dog owners with other dog owners. Meetup.com groups such as The NYC Dog Park Meetup, “Room To Run” Dog Club, The NYC Small Dog Playgroup (just to name a few) could be followed with this app.
The camera will be an important part of the app. The ability to take photos of the dog run and post them to the site is be a great way for owners to get a sense of the physical space of the park, the types of dogs and humans that attend, and the surrounding landscape.
Gestures, like pull and pinch for map zooming, finger flicks to glance through photos and other locations will be tightly incorporated into the app just like they work in native applications, to allow for a simple interface that users already know from their other apps.
The users would be able to decide if the App is able to use in their current location to help determine dog runs in their area, or they could opt out and search the app by neighborhood, zip code, or keyword instead. Linking to Google Maps API (http://code.google.com/apis/maps/) provides the well-known Google Map interface right inside of See Spot Run!
It is very important that this begins as a New York City based application, where wireless internet availability is abundant, many New Yorkers have “smart” phones, and the streets of the city act as a backyard to its residents. In a city environment, close proximity allows meetups to be an important part of social life. This behavior makes See Spot Run! a good fit for New Yorkers, but there is evidence in the comments on similar products that suburban dog owners may also appreciate the ability to find another place to be outdoors with their pets to alleviate boredom from repetition.