Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Niamh Hughes 

MSc User Experience Design

Hi. My name is Niamh Hughes. I’m a Visual Communications graduate, experienced in graphic design, journalism, and marketing. What I love about this Masters of UX Design programme is the balance between art and science, strategy and creativity, research and intuition. Thanks to this course, I have developed a great interest in interaction design and user research. I also particularly enjoyed learning about universal design, psychology, and speculative design. My final research project explored human-animal interaction and design for motivation and wellbeing. It involved creating an app prototype for dog owners. You can see some highlights of my work below.

Thesis title – An evaluation of the impact of interventions on intrinsic motivation towards increased engagement with dogs:

A human-animal interaction and UX Design for wellbeing study.

Research studies in human-animal interaction have found much evidence in support of the beneficial aspects of dog ownership. The human-canine relationship has also been found to be mutually beneficial. Innovations have been sought to promote increased engagement, for health and wellbeing. Dog walking and general pet-care are chief forms of engagement between the owner and their dog.


This study explores whether design techniques utilising motivation treatments, within an app for dog owners, will affect their intrinsic motivation towards increased engagement with their pet. A mixed-methods, user-centred approach was taken, consisting of user research, ideation, and testing. A user survey; subject matter expert interviews; diary study; and practice review of current market apps, were conducted. Exploratory exercises were completed, including development of a primary persona and a canine secondary persona. Non-human centred design practice was explored, as canine welfare needs were also considered. An iterative design process was followed.

Analysis and results

A between-groups user test, evaluating two prototypes, compared a strategy with motivation treatments, against a neutral control. Results from statistical analysis found that an increase in intrinsic motivation was detected. This suggests that design for motivation would be effective in terms of promoting human-animal interaction and engagement. The thematic analysis of post-test interviews supported a positive reaction to the concept. A longitudinal study is suggested to measure ongoing behaviour.


This study has indicated that the impact of design and technology on motivation and engagement, based on psychological needs satisfaction, could encourage flourishing by supporting human and animal wellbeing. Providing dog owners with a tool, such as an app, to aid pet-care management, can lead to their intent to increase dog walking and general engagement with their pet, and thereby ultimately benefit the dog, and the owner. Strong participation numbers throughout the study and positive feedback indicates that Irish dog owners are interested in an app of this nature, and there could be market demand. Of note is that most participants were of an older age demographic. This study’s actionable practice of wellbeing-supportive design, also promotes Positive Design, which, as supported by the literature review and the positive outcome to the research questions, is a desire to design for deeper meaning, happiness, and wellbeing.