San Diego Zoo App



Initial Timeline: 2 weeks (September 2018)

Role: User Researcher, Designer

Team: 1 person

Tools: Invision, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop

Problem Space

How would we create an app that allows someone to plan their visit to the San Diego Zoo ahead of time? Although the zoo currently has an interactive map application, there is limited support for helping a user prepare for their visit beforehand.

The Current System



User Research

I wanted to find out common pain points of zoo visitors that could have been solved if they had planned their visit before hand. To do this, I trawled through Google Map reviews of San Diego Zoo. My hypothesis before conducting research was that most SDZ visitors would have issues with navigating through the zoo despite having an interactive map. I believe that the experience of navigating a zoo is completely different from regular navigational experiences users encounter in their daily lives.


  • The zoo is huge; visitors sometimes have trouble navigating.

  • The visit requires more walking than what was expected; proper footwear is essential.

  • Animals are sometimes sleeping or not outside.

  • The navigational map is not rotatable and does not match the physical map.

High-level Sketching / Brainstorming


feature Evaluation


Realistically speaking, a Zoo Conditions Dashboard would most likely be too much effort to implement for the value it provides. It would require real-time monitoring of the weather and animals in order to report it on the app. However, a Trip Planning assistant and a schedule of the current day’s schedule are of reasonable effort and value. I will be focusing on the Trip Planning aspect from here on out.

Trip Planning User Journey

Trip Planning Flow copy.png


I decided to choose a mobile application since there is already a mobile interactive map developed for San Diego Zoo. It makes a lot of sense to stay on the same platform. A physical interactive map would be too in demand and guests might be forced to line up to use one. A mobile application provides compactness and portability, as well as GPS tracking. A real life employee acting as an assistant would be too costly, not easily accessible, and time-consuming.

The existing Interactive Map system would be located in ‘Zoo Map’ tab in the navigation bar.


Final Design

Here is an interactive prototype of the design:, created using InVision and Adobe Illustrator.

Design Decisions Explained


San Diego Zoo branding is fun and funky; Landor, who rebranded SDZ, describe it as being able to ‘surprise and [engage] audiences’. To stay consistent with the company’s branding, I stuck with green and dark cyan (the main colours featured in their marketing material).

Being a family-friendly and fun institution, I included cute artwork of zoo animals to surprise and evoke a sense of playfulness in users. (Art credit to - Buttons and squares are rounded to keep consistent with the fun and funky vibe. (Don’t want those kids bumping into sharp corners!)


Potential Improvements

User Research for Informed Decisions

Many of my design decisions were made based on assumptions. For example, I assumed that for most parents, the date of a trip was a secondary decision to who was coming on the trip. With more resources and time, I would delve deeper into user research and conduct evaluations on the existing system and the prototype.

Fleshed-out Prototype

Due to feasibility constraints, I was only able to implement the trip planning function for a 1-Day pass. As there are multiple kinds of passes, it would be helpful for usability studies to fully implement functionalities for different kinds of zoo passes.