📖 The Story
Role: Product Designer, UX Researcher
- Conducted user survey and user testing
- Performed competitive analysis
- Identified problem to solve, goals, and success metrics
- Created design system
- Product design (including wireframes, user flows, and UI design)
Tools: Google Forms, Figma
In 2018 alone, the United States generated nearly 300 million tons of waste, or close to 1800 pounds per person in a single year (Environment America). This made me wonder, “How can Americans be more conscious about the waste they throw away?”
To better understand this problem, I asked the following questions:
- How might we become more aware of how much waste we create?
- How might we reduce the amount of waste Americans throw away?
- How might we educate people about how to reduce their waste?
Next, I defined my audience. There were several potential segments I could target:
- Families — generate a lot of waste but faces time constraints and cost concerns
- Students/individuals in their 20s and 30s — high motivation and awareness, shared living spaces leads to shared decisions, lack resources, time, and money
- Business and restaurant owners — generate more waste than other segments (e.g., food), waste may be low priority due to time restraints, cost can influence business decisions
I decided to focus on students. Their location, high motivation and awareness, and tech-savvy potential were a good fit for a mobile app aimed at reducing waste.
🔬 User Research
To better understand the problem space and identify potential opportunities and underserved needs, I created an online survey about environmental awareness, habits, and challenges. I posted it to my Instagram account, a pool with a majority of college students. A total of 21 individuals responded to the survey.
The results revealed several potential problems faced by my target audience:
- “I don’t interact with sustainable businesses because I don’t know if they exist or how to find them.”
- “I’m less likely to purchase sustainable products because they’re more expensive.”
- “I’m very concerned with environmental issues but changing my lifestyle is not convenient because I live in a household where others are not as willing to change their habits.”
- “I would like to support environmentally friendly brands but I don’t know if the companies are truly ‘green’ or just green-advertised.”
Additionally, most of the survey respondents reported that they were:
- more likely to shop at a store that is known to be more enviornmentally focused
- willing to adopt a number of environmentally friendly habits in the next two weeks including:
- conserve water
- compost, recycle, and buy used items
- select eco-friendly products and/or packaging
The problem was now clear: Students express willingness to change their lifestyle to address their high concern for environmental issues but face obstacles such as high cost, low convenience, and uncertainty.
🐎 Competitive Analysis
To gauge what solutions already existed, I examined how other apps were potentially solving this problem and what gaps remained.
Good On You
- Purpose: Check fashion brands for sustainability ratings, discover alternatives, get exclusive offers
- Things done well: Favorites feature (save brands as favorites to hear about special offers and rating updates); Offers (discount codes for specific brands and products); Explanation of sustainability ratings to educate users
- Things to improve on: Missing a list of top/recommended brands without having to search for them or read the articles on the home screen
- Purpose: Trash and recycling reminders; calendar for special collections, events, and programs; sorting guide
- Things done well: Survey about habits, beliefs, and attitudes toward recycling
- Things to improve on: Confusing interface (e.g., items that look clickable are not)
Buzz: Support Local Business
- Purpose: Discover updates from small local businesses during COVID-19
- Things done well: Businesses can post videos for info (updates, background story, etc.)
- Things to improve on: Requires sign in with Apple ID or FB, which can block app usage
After conducting user research and market analysis, I decided to create a solution in the form of a mobile app. Survey participants unanimously reported using smartphones on a daily basis, with laptops a close second. However, since smartphones are more portable than laptops, and mobile apps allow for more personalization and notifications than websites, I ultimately chose to create a mobile app over a website.
Then I brainstormed a handful of possible solutions:
- An app that makes pro-environment habits a social process. Friends can hold each other accountable for their new habits in a supportive manner.
- An app that educates students about environmentally friendly habits and helps them track their progress. Bite-sized videos that encourage students to change their lifestyle by providing a way to track their environmental footprint.
- An app focused on connecting users with sustainable businesses, brands, and local pop-ups. The app would provide sustainability ratings and special offers similar to Good On You.
I decided to focus on the third idea because I felt that it had room to address most of the problems mentioned in the user survey results.
Rationale: Since the target users reported to be highly motivated in increasing their environmentally friendly habits but also sensitive to cost, convenience, and uncertainty, my app would:
- offer promotions to reduce cost barriers
- conveniently display local sustainable businesses
- explain why they are considered sustainable to reduce uncertainty
💼 Business Perspective
On the other side of the app, businesses have the potential to gain revenue, brand credibility, and a unique and direct channel to environmentally conscious consumers.
While users cannot purchase items directly through the app, they will become more aware of the business and therefore more likely to seek it out. By offering discounts and other promotions on the app, businesses and brands can give more incentive to users for visiting their store.
The sustainability rating of each business will also be a very prominent feature, which can significantly increase the credibility of a business if the rating is high. The app will also break down how the business can increase its rating, and to further incentivize sustainable practices, businesses will receive a listing boost when their rating increases.
Finally, in addition to official websites and social media accounts, this app will provide a direct channel to users who value the business’s environmental efforts. Businesses also have the opportunity to elevate their business and promotions on the home page through sponsored listings to draw in potential consumers.
📈 Success Metrics
There are several ways to measure the success of the app. The number of downloads can be a factor in gauging initial interest, followed by app reviews about users’ overall experience as well as any issues they face.
The number of daily, weekly, and monthly active users, the length of each user’s session, and the amount of time spent on each page (e.g., promotions, sustainability ratings, etc.) can be used to predict how useful users find the app and its different sections.
Additionally, engagement metrics such as how often businesses are favorited and how often promotions are saved and/or redeemed could demonstrate how successfully the app is connecting users to sustainable businesses.
⭐️ Low-Fidelity Wireframes
I began my design process by creating lo-fi wireframes. These wireframes served as an outline of each of the main screens I would include in my final prototype as well as a way to acquire early feedback before creating high-fidelity frames.
Some changes I made include:
- Replacing the leaf icon (not pictured) with a profile icon in the navigation bar: Originally, the leaf icon led to a sustainability page where users can learn more about sustainable business practices. Profile and other settings could be accessed through the settings icon on the home page. However, after receiving some feedback, I decided to remove the sustainability page because the leaf icon seemed to be more confusing than helpful (they could also learn about sustainable business practices on individual business profiles). I replaced it with a profile and settings page and removed the settings icon on the home page.
- Adding a search feature on the promotions page so that users can filter through promotions
- Enlarging cards on the home, search, and favorites pages so that information is easier to digest
🎨 Design System
Then I created a design system to keep the screens consistent. I chose a soft color palette with colors that are typically associated with the environment. The sans-serif font would also emphasize that the app is modern and friendly, attracting its target user demographic.
🌟 High-Fidelity Prototype
Finally, I designed high-fidelity frames and then identified the key functions of the app that I wanted to prototype for user testing.
🧪 User Testing
I created an interview guide for user testing to ensure that each experience was as consistent as possible. Due to time and resource constraints, I asked three classmates in the target demographic to test my prototype rather than selecting random participants.
The interview included a brief survey to gauge if they would be a likely user, a user scenario so that each task would feel natural, and a path that users could follow so that each key function of the app would be tested in the time alotted.
I made sure to clarify that since this was a prototype, not all of the functions would work. I also encouraged interviewees to think out loud as they carried out tasks and let me know if anything along the process was confusing to them.
While I have not yet iterated according to my findings, below is a summary of the changes I would make in the next iteration.
- Show users the difference between store and sustainability ratings.Some users may find it confusing which ratings they can influence and which ratings are determined by the app.
- Explain how sustainability rating works. Include more information on the profile page about how SecondHand determines the sustainability ratings of each store.
- Add a toast notification when a store is saved. Users want to be sure that a store they saved was actually saved to their favorites.
- Change the promotions icon. The icon did not accurately represent the promotions page. During testing, users reported that it looked like a shopping cart or bag rather than a gift icon.
- Make it clear how to use the promotions. It may be confusing that in order to use a promotion, users must save the promotion to activate a QR code that could then be used during checkout. Adding a brief explanation of what to expect on the promotion card may make it more clear to users that by saving a promotion, they would be able to access a QR code.
- Link the promotion to the store. If users are interested in learning about the store featuring a promotion, it would be helpful to directly access the store’s page through the promotion rather than having to manually search the store on the homepage.
- Include an option to add a profile picture. The optional profile picture would be displayed when users leave reviews on stores.
💭 Reflection & Next Steps
What went well:
- For the scope of this project, I felt well-informed about my potential users. I conducted research on potential users and their pain points through a user survey, competitors and the current market as well as what opportunities existed through a market analysis, and finally, usability through user testing.
- The app concept included a business side. Unlike my previous projects, I tried to make the app appealing to both target users and businesses.
- Users (from user testing) noted that the app feels familiar and helpful.They would even recommend the app to friends and family.
What could be improved upon:
- Certain aspects of user testing were confusing for users. While I attempted to create a scenario that was easy to grasp and applicable to many users, I realized during testing that functions I was testing did not match the scenario I introduced.
- I could have done more research on the business side. I made many assumptions based on concepts I learned previously, but reaching out to a handful of prospective businesses would have helped validate my assumptions.
- The users I tested were not randomly selected. All of the users I tested came from a similar demographic, which likely led to bias in the feedback I received. For my next iteration, I hope to interview users from a more diverse pool.
Next steps: More user testing and more iterations!