A mobile app that helps users better manage their food inventory and develop more sustainable consumption habits.
Every year, approximately one third of the global food supply is wasted, a proportion that is staggering but also potentially avoidable. Zero is a project that aims to help users manage their individual food supply, and take the necessary measures to ensure that food items are consumed in their entirety before any form of waste is even generated.
With no clear direction yet, I decided to create a diary study to get a better sense about the consumption habits of users. I was most interested in understanding:
1. How knowledgable people are about where to keep food items for optimal longevity.
2. What measures (if any) users take to actively prevent food from being wasted.
3. User’s values and attitudes towards consumption, why users consume the way that they do and what they wish they could change.
Over the course of 5 days, I asked 10 users ranging from students to young professionals to mothers to make note of the net gain and loss of food items in their kitchens.
Environmental Observations and Interviews
While I had a better sense of user motivations and habits, I wanted to observe user habits in contexts that actively promote the consumption of food. I visited 2 supermarkets to understand how users make purchasing decisions, as well as what kind of initiatives supermarkets have in place to prevent food waste.
I also talked to store employees and a customer using Karma, an app that allows users to buy unsold meals, at various cafes and eateries to understand how food waste is dealt with by service providers.
I consolidated all of my findings from my diary studies, observational studies and interviews and created an affinity map. The key areas of opportunity that emerged from diagramming were finding ways to tackle overconsumption, preventing stored items from being disposed of and extending the longevity of food items.
In order to better cater towards the needs of my target audience, I created two personas to guide my design decisions. I decided to focus on busy individuals who want to ensure what they already have doesn’t go to waste, but might have less expertise managing their personal inventories.
In reference to my key insights, I began by brainstorming and wireframing on paper to determine what kinds of key featured I wanted to include. I toyed around with ideas such as food donation and exchange, grocery lists to control what users are buying and assistants embedded within smart kitchen appliances.
In the end, I gravitated towards ideas that were technically feasible, would help users manage what they already have, and had a higher possibility of being followed through by users.
Mid Fidelity Prototype and User Testing
I was able to gain a number of insights after user testing with my mid-fi prototype and loose screens:
1. Flexible Inventory Management
Users found it inconvenient to access the edit menu every time they wanted to move an item from one section to another. Since their inventory is constantly changing, it felt more natural to be able to drag and drop items from one section to another.
2. Simplify Process of Adding Ingredients
Users noted that they often add multiple items to their inventory at a time, and filling in every field for each listing is inconvenient. Simplifying the process would save time and incentivise them to log items more regularly.
3. Incorporate More Educational Resources
Users felt like information such as how to use all parts of a ingredient, how to extend the longevity of food and how to make better use of what was in their inventory should have a stronger presence throughout the app.
4. Brand Language and Personality
Conversations with users revealed that some of them felt embarassed by the amount of waste they were generating. I wanted to work on refining the visuals and language of the app to feel more encouraging, so that users can feel more confident and positive about realising their goals.
Color and Type System
I wanted to create a visual system that felt motivating and approachable. I chose colors reminiscent of fresh fruits and vegetables, and san serif typefaces that felt clear but approachable. Prior to selecting the final color system, I showed swatches to users to better understand color associations.
I would like to explore this process in my future explorations to better understand to what degree do all items in a user’s inventory have to be logged, and what integrations with IoT could simplify the process.
2. Further Rounds of User Testing
Since I only conducted user testing with my mid-fi prototypes, I would like to see how my high fidelity prototypes resonate with users, and validate my assumptions with regards to visual and interaction choices.
3. Catering for More Users
I want to explore how this service could be applicable to a wider range of stakeholders. I would like to explore how household size, the presence of children, and geocultural factors could inform recipe suggestions.
4. Delightful Interactions
Delightful interactions that ‘reward’ users when they clear items could be added to enforce the warm and encouraging brand language.