Web Design: Adopt-a-pet.com 1999 vs 2009
The website Adopt-a-pet.com has been serving prospective pet parents and (more importantly) animals looking for a home for decades. The earliest snapshot of the website that can be found on the Wayback Machine is from the end of 1996. The website has had the same basic functions throughout the years, but that is not to say the interface and design of the website has not become much more sophisticated and interactive. These changes can be examined by comparing the website a decade apart. All screenshots examined were obtained through use of the Wayback Machine.
The 1999 version of the website, as seen above, was essentially a directory— it was a single page containing hyperlinks to other websites as resources for those looking to adopt. The header of the website offered PSAs about specific issues regarding animal welfare. For example, a hyperlink to “Help the Iditarod Racing Dogs” brought the user to another small website dedicated to rescuing racing dogs from Alaska.
The most prominent, and likely most used, feature of the 1999 version of the website was the list of animal shelters online, to which it provided hyperlinks. Adopt-a-pet.com recognized the power of aggregating all the animal shelters with websites in one place— people seeking to adopt could simply scroll through the list and check the websites of shelters in areas they may be able to adopt from. This likely exposed users of the website to shelters they didn’t previously know about. As shown below, the website also advocated that owners of shelters with a website contact them, as to also be featured on their list.
Although rudimentary, the 1999 version of the website certainly accomplished its aim of “Helping find owners for homeless animals,” as even this simple collection of animal shelters’ websites significantly streamlined the search for pets in search of a home by giving users a centralized place to access information about dozens of shelters across the country, in addition to drawing attention to other animal advocacy measures.
Looking initially at the 2009 version of the Adopt-a-pet.com, as shown above, one would likely not think it to be the same website from 1999. Rather than a wall of hyperlinks and text, the user sees brightly colored graphs and even a picture of Drew Barrymore and her adopted dog Vivian. The most prominent feature of the website’s homepage was its search tool. While the old website left users to search through lists of shelters individually to find animals, the newer website gave users the opportunity to search for pets directly.
After clicking to search for dogs, cats, or other animals, the user was brought to a page containing a multi-field search tool, as shown above, that allowed them to specify exactly what kind of animal they were looking to find. Advertisements for Purina can be seen on all pages of the 2009 version of the website, unlike the 1999 version, with text reading “This pet-saving service is funded by the passionate pet lovers at Purina & [Northshore Animal League America].” The newfound funding of the 2009 version of the website, along with advances in website infrastructure in general, is extremely evident in the site’s execution and likely did indeed aid greatly in pet-saving. Giving users the ability to search directly for pets would enable them to find the exact kind of animal they were looking for, even if it was being housed in a small shelter they would never have looked into prior to the website. The shelter search feature was not entirely lost on the new website, as a similar search found by a link on the homepage allowed users to search for shelters in their area, if that is what they were seeking.
In order to be able to provide those in search of pets with the specific results of the new pet search, the 2009 version of Adopt-a-Pet.com had to extend its interactions with the shelters that housed the pets, beyond just offering a link to their website. As seen in the snapshot above, the website now served as a listing site for the shelters. Shelters were able to create accounts with Adopt-a-Pet.com and list the animals they had available for adoption. The website leans into their website being extremely advantageous for shelters, reading “Log in to get your pets seens and saved!” and “Increase your adoptions for free!” The 2009 version of the website served as an interface for potential adopters and shelters to seek and post specific information regarding available pets, becoming like a free classifieds space, unbound by geographic location.
The new website also specifically advocated for people in areas still unreached by their website to get in contact with them, as so they might acquire information from shelter in those areas, as seen above. Not only did Adopt-a-Pet.com allow shelters to have a space where they could advertise the pets who needed to get adopted, but also advocated that potential adopters help ensure shelters in their area were utilizing the website’s convenient method of connecting want-to-be pet parents directly to the animals.
Through all its iterations, it seems that Adopt-a-Pet.com has really always had the interests of the animals at heart. Its 1999 version, while simple, offered prospective adopters a more convenient method of searching local shelters than they had in the past. As the website became sponsored and interactive media grew online, the website also grew in a way to further service the mission of finding pets in need of a loving home. Giving shelters the ability to directly list their available pets online, while giving the adopters the ability to search through the accumulated database undoubtedly helped to increase the rate of adoption for the animals. People looking for a specific breed, size, or temperament could now easily find the animal that was meant to be theirs without the tedious task of searching through newspapers and visiting many shelters, and likely reduced the rate of those in search of a pet giving up on their journey too soon.