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Helping American Households Tackle Food Waste Through

Research and Mobile Experience & Interface Design

 Part 1 - Research & Ideation 

PASSION PROJECT

Role: Research & UX UI

Timeline: October - December 2019

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fridgee logo
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Fridgee! is an iOS mobile application that helps busy individuals and families efficiently manage their food inventory through an inventory scanner, auto-generated shopping lists, and recipe suggestions based on their inventory and preferences

Snapshot

One day, after tossing away several bags of rotten vegetables again, I felt so guilty and reminded myself, "This needs to stop. "

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The average U.S. household wasted 31.9% of its food. The total annual cost of the wasted food was estimated to be $1,866 per household.

--

Environmental Protection Agency | Food Waste in America

in 2019

Discovered Problem

People want to reduce food waste at home, but so often without proper management and knowledge, they find themselves throwing away produce that's spoiled or expired, ultimately wasting food and money. 

 

How might I help people manage food at home more efficiently so as to reduce waste?

Product Vision

A food management app allowing people to fight food waste at home by keeping track of their fridges, shop smartly, and have a more diverse meal plan.

Long term goal: less waste, less hunger, and a more honest commitment to the kind of world we want to create every day.

Outcome

Designed a mobile app MVP and a marketing website to learn how the target users of the product experience and respond to the app’s core features and business purposes.

Area of Focus

This page is Part 1 of Fridgee!'s whole design process, which covers the UX research and design ideation.

My Roles

User Research

Market Analysis

UX Design

UI Design

Usability Test

*received weekly remote design critiques from a senior UX mentor

Deliverables

Domain Research

User Survey & Interview

Competitive Analysis

User Persona

User Stories

User Flows

Sitemap

Sketches on Paper

Specifications

Part 1 Timeline: 3 weeks

Software & Tool

Figma

Photoshop

Google Forms

Whimsical

Skype

Usability Hub

Pen & Paper

Design Process

The MVP solution was built in 6 weeks by following  IDEO's Human-Centered Design Process to make sure my design would be based on research and user feedback. 

IDEO's human-centered design process

IDEO's human-centered design process

Project Scope

This solo project entailed all parts of the product design lifecycle:

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Constranits

There were some constraints that influence this project's scope and design decisions:

The user research was only conducted in the U.S.

Other countries could have different socioeconomic disparities, confusion, and ingrained beliefs that influence people's behaviors and habits of consuming food. 

This is a passion design product.

I didn't collaborate with engineers to eventually launch this product, so I'm curious to know how they think of my solutions.

During the entire design process, I shared my ideas and received weekly mentorship from a senior UX mentor through Skype.

6 weeks to get it done.

I set a goal to finish the design process within this timeline to avoid imposter syndrome. Research results and design fidelity could go deeper with more time. 

Inspiration

I was never taught any of these "food management lessons". It was eye-opening to see the "Inventory Checklist".

Fridge Inventory Checklist
Pantry Inventory Checklist
Freezer Inventory Checklist

Kitchen inventory checklists (source: SHELFCOOKING.COM)

While following the checklists, I cleaned, labeled, and rotated stuff. Many expired or repetitive items made me overwhelmed.

 

When I was done, I felt tired but more confident to make a shopping list and meal plans for that week.

The inside of my fridge

The inside of my fridge after organizing  :p

I guess I am not the only one who let food goes there to die. If tracking kitchen inventory of food can help me get the full use out of your food,

Does keeping track of kitchen inventory also help other people reduce food waste?

Hypothesis

A tool that helps people keep organized, get the full use out of food, and stay on top of the grocery shopping without much effort on their part will support busy people reduce food waste at home.

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

Provide premium service for users to enjoy more customized features, such as syncing data to the cloud, sharing inventory with families and etc. 

Challenge

  • Understand the top drivers of discarding food in American families

  • Discover product features & market opportunities to fight food waste based on users' pain points and needs

  • Have an insight into my users' interests in premium features

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1 Empathize

Domain

Research

To set the foundation for my research, I reviewed some food-waste studies online to have a glimpse into the fridge in American homes, which reveals trends behind discarded items:

cause 1
cause 2
cause 3
cause 4

Major causes of food waste in the U.S. (credits: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency & the U.S. Food & Drug Administration)

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Takeaways

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The purchasing of food, the management of food within the home, and these household routines ultimately increase or decrease waste.

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People lack knowledge in understanding the physical signs of food safety and quality.

User Research

I focused on the participants who are more likely to try a kitchen inventory tool to reduce food waste by following these criteria:

  • The eco-conscious: My product aims to help people reduce food waste, so I believe it could attract customers who appreciate eco-friendly products.
     

  • Millennials: They are conscious both about the environment and their consumption habits; they tend to be more open to change their habits.
     

  • Busy individuals: Considering the users do not have time to check their food inventory regularly, I assumed they are busy with work and other chores.
     

  • Low-income citizens: Assuming my product would help people avoid food waste, I believed it would appeal to people who are on a budget.

User Survey Preparation

With the user groups in mind, I created a user survey in Google Form and sent out 45 surveys to my email contacts, friends, and connections on social media.

fridgee interview question

2 Highlighted Results of the Survey

Have you ever used a tool to help you reduce food waste?

research result 1
research result 2
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Top 4 pain points of when using a tool to reduce food waste

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Top 4 expected features of a journaling app

research result 3
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Takeaways

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The domain research and hypothesis were validated:

  1. My users prefer a digital food inventory tool

  2. Inventory tracking works better with shopping list preparation and recipe suggestions. 

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Some big families might need premium features:

By sharing and syncing the data, families/roommates would be able to join to update inventory and shopping lists. 

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Users wouldn't use the tool if it requires too much manual work:

An automatic way to track food items is necessary.

How do other products make their tracking process easy?

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Most of the food management products in the market haven't jumped in popularity:

How do these competitors approach their users? What works well? What doesn't? 

Competitive 

Analysis

I analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of three top food management apps that target similar user groups like mine to find a gap in the market that I could step in.

The competitive analysis of the three apps

The competitive analysis findings of the three apps.

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TAKEAWAYS

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Ways to attract users:

  • Pantry Check & Yummly: Having an online user community to update the database 

  • Fridgely: Sharing inventory and shopping lists with families and roommates

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Barcode scanner and AI recognition: 

They are absolutely time-savers; however, their performances are not consistent. That's why some users quit using the products.

 

If barcodes or AI are not working, I need to provide users with an easier way to add items manually.

Personas

I created two personas based on my user research results: Sean who lives alone, and Effie living in a family of four.

Sean  Griffiths

Age 22 / Fresh Graduate Engineer

Sean's Picture

Living alone

Goals

  • Quickly add the food I crave to my shopping list

  • Receive food expiration reminder to avoid waste

  • Get recipe suggestions according to his preferences

Frustrations

  • Don’t know what to make with the ingredients in hand

  • Forget to check fridge during weekdays

  • Forget to buy what I need but buy things actually I won't eat

"Taking care of myself is hard. I don't want to eat expired food without noticing again. 

Effie Masano

Age 38 / Accountant

Effie's Picture

"Sometimes I'm just too tired to think of what I should make for dinner."

Goals

  • Quickly check what are in stock, running low on and what has spoiled

  • Generate a shopping list based on the routines 

  • Share shopping list with my families

Frustrations

  • Too much manual work in the app made me tired

  • Recipe suggestions are too fancy and complicated

  • UI in the app I'm using is not appealing; Too many texts make me bored and lost

Living in a family of four

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How might I help Sean and Effie?

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User Goal: an all-in-one solution for people to keep track of their fridge, suggest recipes that match existing ingredients, and reduce personal food waste

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Business Goal: Motivate people to subscribe to premium family syncing service so as to increase user retention and revenue.

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2 Define

User Stories

I prioritized tasks by following Pareto Principle to satisfy early users' needs and collect feedback for iterations.

User Story
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3 Ideate

User Flow

Based on Sean and Effie's stories, I created flow diagrams in Draw.io to show how the users will navigate through onboarding, inventory, shopping List, recipes, and family accounts.

0. Sean & Effie - Onboarding

User Flow of Onboarding

1. Effie - Add an Item to Inventory

User Flow of Add an Item

2. Sean - Restock Suggestion for Smart Shopping

User Flow of Delete an Item

3. Sean and Effie - Create a Shopping List

User Flow of Creating a Shopping List

4. Sean and Effie - Recipe Inspiration

User Flow of Recipe Inspiration

5. Effie - Premium Feature: Family Sharing

User Flow of Family Sharing

The 6 user flows based on the user stories drew by using Whimsical

TITLE OF THE CALLOUT BLOCK

Sitemap

The sitemap includes 4 main screens: Inventory, Shopping List, Recipes, and Setting. It was also used as an outline to create the content strategy.

Sitemap

The sitemap includes the four main features drew by using Whimsical

Sketches

When sketching the potential solutions for the key features, I took the following scenarios when using the app into consideration:

It is a mobile app: users can easily carry cell phones to their kitchens and grocery stores.

Using one hand: Considering users may walk, carry items, cook or push the carts when using the app, I tried to make sure most of the common tasks can be done by using one hand. 

User Scenerio

Grocery shopping with a cell phone in hand

(source: Unsplash)

The pictures below are the low-fidelity wireframes based on user flows. I always start with pencil and paper to allow for rapid iterations. 

The wireframe sketches of the potential solutions.

 

With the sketches in hand, I was excited to move on and see 

how these features play out in digital wireframes. 

Want to continue reading? Please click the Fridgee! (Part 2) below.

See you there. 😊

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Next...

Fridgee!

  • Wireframe

  • UI Design

  • UX Prototype

  • Usability Test

  • Iteration

  • Outcome & Reflection

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