City Compost

UXDI: Project 4

For my Project 4 at General Assembly, we were put into teams of 3 and tasked with something different than what we were used to. We were told that this was a passion project, and told to make our own proposal to be submitted and validated. So we did a card sorting activity of our interests and landed on some common interest amongst ourselves.

We all seemed to like the idea of designing an app for a social cause. We then began thinking about different causes that we think could be supported with a mobile app.

We arrived at City Harvest, a non-profit organization against food waste. City Harvest has a fleet of trucks that collect leftover food from different food businesses around New York City, and donate it to homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

We began doing some industry research to see how we may be able to help. We looked at some of City Harvest’s competitors, such as and and found that City Harvest is the biggest and most used leftover food pick-up system in New York City. We decided they were the best company to base our product off of.

We still needed to find a problem, so we went out to restaurants around the Flat Iron district and asked to speak to the managers, or owners if they were available. When asked what they did with their leftover food at the end of the day, the answers were varied. Some restaurants donated it to the homeless while others just threw it out. One thing we found interesting though, was that all but one restaurant that we interviewed also threw out their compost.

So we went deeper in our research with compost as the focus. We found that City Harvest does not pick up compost. We also found two companies that did pick up compost, Action and the Department of Sanitation, and did a competitive analysis on them. We found that Action is not a free service, and the Department of Sanitation picks up mainly from residential homes.

We wanted to see how big of a problem this actually was. With further research into the Department of Sanitations Community Compost Report we were shocked to find that only 7% of organic waste at compost sites across New York City come from restaurants. With almost every single restaurant, cafe, and juice shop generating compost every day, we realized this was a bigger problem than we thought.

It was time to break out the post-its. We started by affinity mapping our interview responses to find some common themes.

We found that a large number of restaurant mangers and owners we interview cared about the cause, but they didn’t know what they could do to help. We landed at the problem statement: I have a lot of compost, and I don’t know what to do with it.

We then started ideating. How could we help to fix this problem with a mobile app? We wanted to give restaurants, in the easiest way possible, an app that they can use to schedule trucks to come and pick up their compost. City Harvest already has a system where a truck comes, picks up food, and moves it somewhere else, so we figured they were perfect for our idea. And thus, City Compost was born.

We started in the sketch book, and drew up quick rough drafts of how this app might function. We wanted to allow the user to go through the flow of requesting a pick-up in the least number of screens possible. As a secondary component to our app, we wanted to create an awareness page, educating people about what compost is, and why it is so important.

We then used some feature prioritization techniques to put into perspective what we thought the final product of the app might include.

We made a paper prototype and started usability testing. Our first iteration of City Compost was very bare-bones as we wanted to make it as quick and easy as possible. We quickly received feedback on many things we hadn’t accounted for, such as registration. Users also wanted to see a welcome screen and a home page rather than being thrown straight into a screen with a map asking them to choose a location.

We listened to our users and made the changes they requested for iteration 2 of City Compost. This version was a medium fidelity version that we tested using the prototyping tool Invision on our iPhones. Users were confused by our calendar, as some dates were set to 50% opacity to imply that they were unavailable.

In between Iteration 2 and our final prototype, we made minor changes and tested them over and over again. While each test brought new pain points to the forefront, we settled on a prototype that allows users to schedule for their compost to be picked up in the simplest way possible. While registration is a requirement, we allow the user to either register at the beginning, or test out the app and register at the end. We also added guidelines to help a first time user though the process. Every change we made throughout the process had a specific user in mind.

Check out our final prototype for the flow of scheduling a compost pick-up here.

Like what you read? Give Evan Krone a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.