BiteShare — a food social media app

Introduction

Food has always been a way for people to connect but the number of options available and trying to make plans around a location has been driving a lot of people to start to hate making plans to eat out. Not to mention the amount of time people spend looking at a loaded menu wondering what to order based off of text.

I already knew that my goal was to make a pleasant food searching and sharing experience in the form of social media. But in order to define a brief, I started looking at how the apps I already use can be handy in the search for new dishes to try and this is what I found:

Instagram users often feel uncomfortable posting pictures of food, unless that is the purpose of their profile. Plus, Instagram does not provide a good system for discovering new dishes and knowing where to find them. Also looking at Google Maps, Local Guides provides great tools for users to contribute photos and reviews about restaurants, but the food is not the only focus. When it comes to finding certain dishes, Google Maps fails to provide enough information for the user to know what to order besides trying to show the waiter a picture of that dish (which doesn’t always work, I found out).

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Instagram’s “Saved” with lists of many subjects VS Google Maps restaurant profile

From this quick analysis, I determined that my brief would consist of improving the user’s experience with dishes by focusing on the following points:

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Research Stage #1

The first stage of my research consisted of learning about social media (its patterns, what is familiar to users, etc) and about foodie culture (the audience I had in mind at the time).

I looked into existing apps performing a competitive/comparative analysis of direct (focus on dishes) and indirect competitor apps. While looking at both social media and competitors I kept an eye out for how people may use them for any type of interaction with the dish and I tried to think of the gaps in the experiences as opportunities for my solution to grow from.

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When learning about foodie culture, I looked at a study on Millennials’ behaviour and how they integrate eating as part of their lifestyle. Along with the rest of my user research, it opened my eyes people outside of the pool of self-called “foodies”, and how they go by eating out, and taught me the importance of reviews and opinions to some users.

Reading about both social media and foodie culture led me down spirals of blog posts with raging content, which was interesting at times, but would often have me asking myself “Why am I reading this again?” or “How did I end up here?”.

While I was navigating those spirals, I managed to send out a survey and execute a few interviews which kept me entertained (asking people about food is hilarious) and led me to great findings.

Findings

I got great insight from doing the survey and interviews. In order to make sense of it all, I did an affinity diagram of the most relevant points I found.

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Current apps have a review system that relies on both impressions on many things beyond the food and the impressions of people with different tastes and experiences. We are not sure of where the search results come from if it’s from review writings, or lists (“10 Best…”), etc.

Food is part of daily conversations of 97% of the people who took the survey. These conversations can range from just mentioning what you had for lunch to a full discussion on why one should try that burger at that one new place. People will trust recommendations from others they know, and save those recommendations in whatever way they are used to. Unfortunately some times they will lose track of what and where they saved that food or place, or don’t even remember they saved it in the first place.

Research Stage #2

After finding out a lot of great things about people and how they look for food and their experience with it, I felt like the next thing to do was to put in the hand of the users a sample of what this social media app would look like. I created a quick design and started testing a lo-fi prototype to see users in action, which helped me quite a lot in informing how to complete my planning assets with some valuable data.

With my quick prototype going and getting me great functionality insights, I looked at my domain research and still felt like it needed something else. I wanted a close to it and wasn’t sure how to do it. Looking at other case studies examples, I decided to set some research objectives and only keep researching until I reached them. This is what I defined as objectives:

  1. Understand how users are currently finding where and what to eat, and engaging in their eating out experience
  2. Analyze direct and indirect competitors and see what they are making available for the user

Not long after setting these two objectives I was able to make sense of my research and see it as a whole thing with an accomplished purpose. I was able to complete my user personas and inform how I could continue with my other planning assets.

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User Personas

Planning

As I mentioned earlier, there was a point in the project where I didn’t feel like I had what I needed to be able to complete the planning assets I had started to draft as I went along with my research. It took me six interviews and seven lo-fi usability tests to really get what sort of struggles and successes my users have in their food-finding experience and how they picture themselves using an app to help them with it.

Now with a clearer path, I wrote down a few user stories in order to create tangible tasks and start to visualize the features I would work on.

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The feedback from interviews and testing enabled me to learn that location is a big factor for users when deciding where to eat. For example, if they had plans to go to the theatre they would want to be able to see good food options near the theatre for a meal before or after. This allowed me to generate a few more user stories which would be key for the MVP to be successful and differentiate from competitors.

With the stories concluded for the MVP, I had what I needed to put together as a seamless social media experience, a checklist of features:

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With the features and users in mind, I drafted a few paths for the user and the expected journey they would go through while using the app.

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Design & Testing

Having BiteShare’s features defined and tested early in the project helped solidify the functionality of the design and the user flows for discovery, tracking and sharing.

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User Flow

For this project, I decided to create a script for testing so that I had a guide and was able to look out for specific interactions I needed to focus. Doing this went really well and helped me look more into the why’s of certain things I had done before even putting it in front of the user.

I got great and constructive feedback from testing low, medium, and high fidelity prototypes, and after assessing it every time, I implemented those changes and improvements into my final prototype. Here are some of them:

Branding

Creating the branding fro BiteShare took me a while. Even coming up with the name didn’t happen until I was well into my last few user tests for the project. After getting some inspiration from the current trends and what I thought made the food look great without getting in the way, I got this final result and couldn’t be happier with it.

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Prototype

Takeaways

Doing this project solo after working in teams for a long time I was able to learn a lot about my preferences of how to work and where I need to improve. The biggest insights I got from doing this project was the following:

  • Being lost in research taught me how I should approach it more purposefully in the future. Have a goal and make a research plan.
  • It’s great to test early to get answers to questions you might not even know you had. Though this may not apply to all cases, it certainly helped me see the bigger picture in this project.

Thank you for reading!

UI/UX Designer

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