Every month, Americans throw out about 20 pounds of spoiled food. This means that approximately 40% of the food sold in the United States is thrown out. This has a significant environmental impact because when our thrown out food is sent to landfills to decompose and breakdown, they form methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide when released into our atmosphere.
To help support this global issue, my team members and I wanted to create an app that would encourage its users to cook and create meals with food they already have at home to promote non-wasteful food habits.
1. Create a design that fits seamlessly within different environments
2. Helps users throughout their cooking process
3. Provide connectivity between users
This project was done during a course titled Interaction Design. We were tasked to create a mobile app from the ground up surrounding a concept that was chosen by our team leader and applying the Goal-Directed Design process, a design approach that centralizes the user's needs, goals and behaviors .
You may be asking what Goal-Directed Design is, well I’m here to take you through our whole practice implementing this process during this project. But first, let me tell you the premise of this design process. Goal-Directed Design is an iterative process that utilizes qualitative research as a foundation to understand the user’s needs, goals, and motivations and synthesize them into design solutions. And why is this important? By implementing the methods within this process, as a team, we can understand what our prospective users want and who they are before we even think about designing an app screen.
Goal-Directed Design has six phases: research, modeling, requirements definition, framework definition, refinement, and support. The first stage, research, is employed to provide qualitative data about potential users using ethnographic field study techniques, such as competitive audits, interviews, and market research.
We then gather our findings and analyze them to create user models and personas, which are specific archetypes of the users we are designing for; this is the modeling phase. Next is the requirements phase, which is used to connect the users’ goals and the design framework. Using our findings from the previous phase, we then develop design requirements that balance the users’ needs in conjunction with the business and technical requirements. Takings these requirements, we then begin to form basic design structures using wireframes to explore key path scenarios; this is the framework phase.
Proceeding this phase is the refinement phase, where we take our wireframes and move on to polishing them by adding more details and focusing on implementation. This is usually presented as a prototype. At this point, usability testing has begun to ensure that our design decisions are well thought out and support the users’ goals. The last phase in this process is support, which is where we would support the development team in producing this product by answering questions about the design solutions we have formed.
A kick-off meeting is an initial meeting among the design team and important stakeholders. This an essential step in the goal-directed design process because during this meeting, the design team’s main objective is to gain an overall understanding of the scope of the project. This includes the who the current or potential users are, the goals, objectives, challenges, and limitations of the project. But because this is a class project, we don’t have any real clients. So instead of meeting with stakeholders during our kick-off meeting, we answered commonly asked questions with educated assumptions to get an understanding of what our product and its domain entail.
1. Who are your potential users?
2. Where would this product fit in their life?
3. Who or what are your main competitors?
4. What problem is your product solving?
5. Who is your primary audience?
Our team began or research phase by conducting a literature review to collect information surrounding our product’s domain. A literature review is an analysis of any information about our product and its domain. By completing this analysis our team was able to increase our knowledge around the effects of food waste in the US, the rise of digital assistants while cooking, and the current perspectives on at home cooking. Our findings helped us recognize the role that cooking takes in today’s society.
• 1 billion tons of food each year end up in landfills and are never touched or eaten by consumers
• In the United States alone, food waste generates the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as 37 million cars
• 82% of meals that Americans eat are prepared at home, which is a percentage higher than a decade ago
• 59% of millennials bring their smartphones or tablets into the kitchen to look up recipes to figure out what to cook
Our team then looked through and examined competing products for us to become familiar with the strengths and limitations of the existing products that users currently have access to. There were several different apps that we analyzed, but our main two competitors were SuperCook and Cooklist. We compared each app’s features and examined their reviews to evaluate what their users expected from their product. By researching products that are similar to ours, it gave our team great insight into the functional scope of each one and whether there was a need for our product within the market.
After completing the Literature review and Competitive Analysis, our team began user interviews. From the information we gathered, we made a few assumptions about who we thought our ideal users are and their potential behavior patterns. These assumptions are called a persona hypothesis. Our team also each came up with some questions that could be used during our interviews. Although, since we used a conversation-style format during our interviews, not all questions were incorporated.
We interviewed four participants in total, three Kennesaw State University (KSU) Students, and one KSU Faculty Member. Every interview was conducted in a neutral setting where both parties felt comfortable. To ensure a smooth interview process, we had one person moderate (moderator) and guide the conversation. At the same time, the other team members (facilitators) took notes on their observations and occasionally asked clarifying questions throughout the interview. There weren’t any set roles; we rotated roles when it was necessary for the comfortability of our participants and I have taken the role of both moderator and facilitator. When conducting our interviews, the moderator began with small talk to ease our participants into the questioning. We often asked open-ended questions to encourage honest, detailed responses and storytelling. This helped us identify the participants’ goals and needs, even if the participant doesn’t know themselves.
Proceeding each interview, our team conducted affinity mapping sessions to identify key observations. When an interview was concluded, we dedicated time to write observations that stood out to each of us on sticky notes and after grouped our similarities. We also discussed the differences between our observations and why it personally stood out to us. Affinity mapping was very beneficial in helping us identify behavior patterns and user goals. The data we found during these interviews will be used later to direct our design decisions.
Gathering all the research, that our team accumulated we created a detailed research report explaining our entire research process. View it below.Research Report
The modeling phase consists of analyzing behavior and work patterns that were uncovered during the research phase and synthesizing them into user models. User models, also known as personas, are detailed, complex user archetypes and are great tools for ideating and validating design concepts. These personas represent specific groupings of behavior patterns and goals we observed during our user interviews and research.
Personas help us breakdown our robust research into a precise way of thinking and communicating about how groups of users behave and think, what they want to accomplish and why. By using this tool, we are able to develop an understanding of our users’ goals in specific contexts. Our team created our primary persona by analyzing the similarities we found among the participants during our user interviews.
After establishing who our users were, we began the requirements phase. This is an important phase in the goal-directed design process because it creates a connection between the users and the design framework. To establish this connection, we created a context scenario which is a narrative that describes how our persona would interact with our product. Through the context scenario, we were able to identify specific aspects and points that our persona requires to be able to achieve their goals within our product. We then developed a list of design requirements based on our context scenario.
• Determine the ingredients users already have for a recipe
• Search for recipes using the search bar
• Save a recipe to view later
• View saved / favorited recipes
At this point, in our project, we gained a better understanding of our product and our users’ goals. The next step in this process is to begin wireframing. Wireframing is when a designer makes quick, simplified sketches of design concepts. Under normal circumstances, my team members and I would meet up to brainstorm and sketch design iterations. But, because of COVID-19, we had no choice but to explore other options. Our team decided to use InVision’s freehand whiteboard feature, which allowed real-time collaboration. We were also able to sketch out wireframes and edit our creations effortlessly and quickly using Invision similarly like we would with pencil and paper.
Using our context scenarios and design requirements, we then constructed key path and validation scenarios. Key path scenarios are the main pathways that our users will take when interacting with our product. While validation scenarios are pathways that are secondary or what is needed to ensure the functionality of our product.
After we constructed our wireframes, we moved onto prototyping. We decide to divide up the work, so the responsibility didn’t fall upon only one person. We each followed the guidelines we set while wireframing to construct our prototype to ensure we are designing with our users’ goals in mind. A few days after independently working, we came together to finalized and unify our designs. Typically, after completing a prototype, the design team would perform a few usability testing sessions to ensure the functionality of their product.
This is a vital step because it allows us to see if our product actually accomplishes the user goals. But because of the current circumstances involving COVID-19, my team members and I were not able to complete the usability testing portion of this process. Instead, we tried our best to see our designs through fresh eyes while we were refining our prototype.
This project was a long and exciting process, and it was my first time creating a product from start to finish using the goal-directed design process. I learned a lot about what it takes to be an interaction designer and what it means to work collaboratively. I know now that communication is the golden rule when working with a team.
This project was also my first time prototyping anything, and I learned that I particularly enjoy the visual design portion a little more than the others. Seeing that, I created a majority of the illustrations within our app. I am proud of the work my team members and I produced even though there are a few things that could use improvement. But as I learned, this is an iterative process, and there is always something that can be improved upon. Nevertheless, this project has been a series of “firsts” for me. Still, I do not doubt that I could complete this process again, even amidst a global pandemic.