South Dakota Game Wardens


Does Anyone Design for Game Wardens? We do

The primary role of a game warden is to monitor a geographical territory and ensure that hunters and anglers have the appropriate licensure, and depending on the time of year that procedure could occur several hundred times in a single day. For the State of South Dakota this process was entirely analog — as officers were physically verifying that licenses matched the individual’s identification. Wardens may be checking a group of 20 hunters at a single time, and every minute that went by was time lost for both the wardens and the hunters.The bigger problem was that hunters and anglers were cheating the system. There needed to be a way to instantly verify that a hunter or angler had a valid license.

Actual Field Research

The Spire team spent two days in South Dakota observing and interviewing a handful of game wardens, to better understand their work environment, process, problems, and goals. The guiding question that we sought to answer: How could we make the license check process as efficient as possible?

A few design takeaways from the interviews and observations were:

  1. Thumb dominated tasks. Being able to use the app with one hand is a priority, as wardens are often holding other items.
  2. Big Font, easy choices. These users are not tech savvy, and many of them have difficulty seeing size 16 font on a smartphone.
  3. Hide or layer secondary information. Only show what is absolutely necessary during license checks, and make choices easy for the users.

The Right Tool for the Job

The app we designed and built allows game wardens to confidently scan hunting and fishing licenses out in the field quickly. Because the user feedback and architecture was first structured around the license checking process, the interactions and functionality solved the unique requirements for the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department. Game wardens carry and operate an array of tools, and the app feels like another piece of dependable equipment in their arsenal.

We built the system to work with limited or no connectivity to cellular or data networks, by enabling data transfer while Game Wardens roll into cellular zones, updating the local database with the most recent license data, secured through SSL.  Based on a latent need that emerged during user interviews, we even designed in an emergency feature within a hidden drawer accessible by swiping left on any screen. This gave officers access to this highly important feature without needing to look down at their phone.


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