UXDi7 Project 1: A Week in Retrospect

A review of my first project and how it can be improved.

UPDATE: Now that I’ve graduated from General Assembly’s UX Design Immersive course and re-read my retrospectives, I realised how naive I was when I first started. I am keeping my ALL my entries unedited to remind me of the growth I have gone through and that growth is an important part of a UX designer.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

The first project I worked on fell under the category of “food”. The topic was picked by my partner and I had to develop an app that would address the needs of users. The topic was very general and there are a thousand and one ways to create an app under that category simply by assumptions alone. However, having assumptions is only the starting line. Just because we think we have a great idea, doesn’t mean that it will be what the users need. That’s the first lesson I learned in class.

Understanding My Users’ Needs

The idea for a meal planner app for the health conscious didn’t start with an assumption. In fact, that wasn’t the original plan for the app. During my first interview with my partner, I discovered that she has a food allergy and it hit me that that would be a potential pain points for many users. So I continued to interview more people, still starting with a broad topic such as, “What was your eating habit like in the past year?” Through different interviews, I realised that different interviewee has different behaviours, rendering my prepared set of questions into nothing more than a guide. I had to craft most of my questions in response to each user’s answers in order to dig deeper. I learned to remove myself from the equation during the interview to remove any potential biases that I might have subconsciously established.

A sample of interview questions for one of the participants.

Affinity Mapping and the Search for Common Behavioural Patterns

So collated all the raw data from the five phone interviews I conducted and started to organise the information via a process called Affinity Mapping to observe if there are any common behavioural patterns that could lead to pain points and their potential solutions.

Affinity Mapping helps to bring common themes to the surface and reveal behavioural patterns.

Common themes started to surface upon closer inspection of responses I received from my interviewees.

  1. Five out of five interviewees are/were motivated to eat healthy due to the health benefits.
  2. Four out of five interviewees have/had meal plans to help them eat healthy.
  3. Four out of five interviewees find meal planning a hassle because they have to search for recipes online and then write them down on paper.
  4. Five out of five interviewees view discovering information on the health benefits of certain food as a pleasurable experience.
  5. Four out of five interviewees keep a record of their favourite recipes.

Based on these findings I drafted out the following:

Problem Statement

I find the process of keeping records of the recipes I found online, meal planning, and researching for benefits of healthy food a hassle.

Solution Statement

I want information of healthy food that are beneficial to my health and an easy way to record my recipes and plan my meals.

Drafting Out User’s Flow

Another lesson I learned in class was to expect to fail, and through failure we learn. Excited about the new idea, I started drafting out the user’s flow for the whole app with all the bells and whistles. However, I realised (too late) that for the first phase of rapid prototyping I should really focus on the features that would directly address a user’s needs. And I had to scrap the first user flow and create a simpler version that solely highlights the features of the app that would solve the user’s problems.

A simpler version of the user flow which highlights the features that would make meal planning a breeze for users.

Time to bring out the exploratory sketches of the app

Sketching allowed me to experiment and explore ideas of how the user interface would be designed to ensure that it achieves one of the goals of the app stated in the problem statement; to make meal planning easy for users. It also helped me to quickly determine what worked, and should be further developed, or what didn’t, and should be discarded.

An initial collection of Lo-Fi sketches to explore various UI design solution.
A higher definition of the original wireframe sketches is now ready for prototyping in InVision.

Prototyping the App to Show How It Works

Why create a prototype? It’s simple really, a prototype helps us to ensure that all the navigation works as intended and the user’s flow isn’t interrupted due to a broken flow. But most importantly, it helps us when we present the app to the users to determine if the users find it intuitive or difficult to use the app.

Does the App Provide a Solution to Address the Users’ Problems?

At this phase, I believe so. The app allows users to plan their meals in advance by simply tapping a date on the calendar. Doing so will lead the users to a library of recipes of healthy food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even desserts. Users can also record their own recipes with the app. And finally for this phase, the users can set daily reminders that would appear in the form of a notification that presents factoids of the health benefits of eating certain types of food.

Notifications pop up as a gentle reminder. Factoids about eating healthy helps to motivate users to continue doing so.

However, further research and interviews is required, including user’s testing to see if the app can be improved.

What’s Next?

  1. Custom notifications where users can customise their own messages.
  2. Find buddies.
  3. Users will be able to purchase ingredients directly from the app via partnered grocery stores.
  4. More usability testing.

What I Learned While Working on This Project

I discovered my strength and weaknesses during every step of the project.

  1. I learned that I needed more practice go dive as deep as possible while interviewing target users and to remember to time box in order to manage my time.
  2. I could improve on organising my thoughts while creating an affinity map so the process could be smoother.
  3. I could learn to be better at identifying problem statements.
  4. My previous experience as a designer comes in handy when it comes to prototyping and sketching, but it should never stop me from learning new tricks.

This first dive into a proper UX exercise has made me realise I have made the right choice in picking up this course. I’ve learned more in the first week than I ever did in my whole entire career and that’s exactly what I was hoping to get out of GA’s UXDI course.