Accessibility to Organic Produce (Wicked Problem) A UX Case Study

(Ironhack — UX/UI)

Sprint duration: 5 days

We started off as five eager individuals enrolled in Ironhack’s Miami UX/UI Design course. As our first task, we were assigned our very first group project — solve a “Wicked Problem.” We were given five problems to select from. As a group, we delegated which problem would be best to work on. Ultimately, our love for food influenced our decision and we chose the problem related to accessing organic produce.

Why:

We knew that organic produce was always a topic that came up when shopping for groceries or when discussing about one’s overall health. It’s evident that organic food has taken a very important role in many people’s lives to stay healthy. With our present era being so health conscious, we were eager to start the user-centric design process to solve our wicked problem.

Brief:

In the last decade, there has been a rise in consciousness on the importance of good nutrition and the responsibility that individuals have to provide themselves with good food. Organic food is not accessible to everyone, being restricted to those who can actually afford it.

Supermarket chains and other big companies benefit from the organic food market and conscious customers, but don’t actually solve the situation — they just make the gap and the impact bigger with unsustainable models. How Might We help communities access the seasonal produce of their region, fueling fair and honest relationships between producers and customers while ensuring food safety for all?

Objectives:

Our objectives were clear. We wanted:

  • To make organic produce accessible for the consumer
  • To make organic produce cheaper for the consumer
  • To connect the consumer with the organic produce farmer
  • To educate the consumer of organic produce

Design process?

Our design process implemented the five steps of the user-centric design thinking. Our main focus points are to Empathize, Define, and Ideate.

Step 1: Empathize

Understanding the Challenge:

Our first step was to undergo and gather any information we could on organic produce. We searched online for articles mostly targeting the value of organic produce and what exactly made organic, organic. We soon discovered that organic produce was priced anywhere between 20% to double the amount compared to their conventional equivalent. Time is money. Not only are organic farms typically smaller than conventional ones, but they also, on average, take more time to produce crops because they refrain from using the chemicals and growth hormones used by conventional farmers. Production-oriented government subsidies reduce the overall cost of crops. Also the demand for supply is huge. Organic produce sales rose from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $21.1 billion in 2008, as stated by the USDA. But to confirm this insight, we had to undergo our own research and determine what exactly was the public’s thought on organic based produce.

User Research:

The following user research assisted us with understanding who our users are and help discover what their needs, goals, motivations, and pain points. All the information would be used to help facilitate a better experience.

Survey:

Firstly, we used a Lean Survey Canvas to help us prepare and determine which questions to place in our survey. After much focus, we transferred our questions onto Google Forms and published our survey to be sent out to our friends, family, and coworkers. The survey was our basis for our quantitative data. This data helped us establish what were some of the pain points that people were facing when purchasing organic produce. We were lucky enough to have 72 correspondents.

Survey Takeaways:

Interview Questions:

Based on the results gathered from the survey, we created and refined our questions to further help us understand the users’ pain points. These pain points were within the realms of lack of affordability, not understanding what makes organic, organic, not trusting where their produce comes from, and the fact that major brands like Trader Joes and Whole Foods are so out of reach that they never have time to shop. And although users think eating organic is very important, because of these factors, they deferred to their local stores where conventional products are more affordable and within reach.

Our interview questions would then gather our qualitative data. This helped discover more in-depth the frustrations that the consumers are facing while trying to access organic produce. We were able to interview four correspondents and while some results were similar in reference to our previous data through the survey, the connection was more intimate and we were able to truly get down to the core and feel what they felt about the accessibility of organic produce.

Our survey data led us to ask the following questions during interviews:

  1. Why is organic food important to you?
  2. How do you feel about the cost?
  3. Tell me about your experience buying organic food?
  4. Are you loyal to a certain brand?
  5. Have you ever felt like what you were buying wasn’t the best quality organic food?

Data Insight:

We had a pile of data presented in front of us, but what did it all mean? To sum it all up, 80% of interviewees said eating organic is important and would be a priority if it were easy for them to find and purchase, 100% said having access to locally grown organic produce would entice them even more to buy, 100% said farmers markets is the ultimate experience because of the personability factor and trust in local produce, 40% mentioned ordering online makes their life easier and saves time. It was determined that price and distance were two huge factors that influenced organic produce purchase. And although this might not be such a surprise, we were intrigued at the fact that most people would want to purchase organic produce from local farmers markets if they could find one near them.

Motivations:

  • To be/remain healthy
  • Diet restrictions
  • Organic meal recipes

Needs:

  • Validation that their organic food meets all regulations to be officially certified organic
  • Variety of organic produce options
  • Accessibility to more local farmer’s markets

Statements received from our correspondents during the interviews:

“I guess that for organic, I need to understand why an organic tomato is better than a regular tomato.”

“Cost for organic foods is a barrier, but would love to buy only organic food all the time.”

“I’ll but anything that’s on the Dirty Dozen list.”

“I love farmers markets, I would go there all the time if I knew where they were.”

Step 2: Define

Affinity Diagram:

The affinity map was created as a result of compiling both our group’s quantitative and qualitative data. We had a rough start organizing our data at first but soon got right on track again and as a result knew our main focus was accessibility.

Affinity Map

How Might We’s:

During this exercise, we decided to focus on our own possible solutions and then regroup. “How Might We’s” helped us generate a variety of solutions through brainstorming. As a group, we had similar thoughts and grouped those together.

How might we’s

Empathy Map:

The empathy map is a tool that helped us develop what kind of consumer we would be solving for as a group. This exercise provided us with key insights on the following: who we’re empathizing with, what they need to do, what they see, say, hear, and do — as well as what their pains and gains are from purchasing organic food. This information would later become the DNA to our User Persona.

Empathy Map

Mind Map:

Mind mapping was a great way to share our ideas freely and creatively. Everything we thought of was placed on the white-board. Every word, doodle, and idea we thought of was not spared. This was an interesting brainstorming activity because it let us build ideas off of each other’s previous ideas.

Mind Mapping

User Persona:

Our group created Jackie — a young busy health professional interested in eating organic to maintain a healthy and productive lifestyle. Jackie is the accumulation of our data based off of our survey and interviews and the audience that is being targeted in this research. It is through this user persona that helps us identify the needs, goals, motivations and frustrations of our target audience.

User Persona

User Journey Map:

The User Journey Map was an excellent tool used to understand a typical day of the user. We created the journey map based off a typical day of Jackie being exposed to the application and the ability to attain organic produce.

User journey map

Problem and Hypothesis Statements:

During this exercise, we developed our problem statement and narrowed down our selection of hypothesis which would best help identify and confirm our solution.

Problem & hypothesis statements

Step 3: Ideate

Crazy 8’s:

The Crazy 8’s exercise allowed us to focus individually on what key features we wanted to focus on. Surprisingly we had similar ideas and compared aligned the screens we wanted to incorporate into our concept sketches.

Sarah Curtis’s crazy 8
Erick Velasco’s crazy 8
Jonathan Montalvo‘s crazy 8
Yecy Ramirez‘s crazy 8
Sarah Smith’s crazy 8

Concept Sketches:

The concept sketch that was developed was an accumulation of which ideas we created that would help the user access organic produce all while instilling trust between the consumer and the producer. We thought the best approach in solving this is to create an app that helps users locate nearby farmers markets while maintaining the ability to speed up the purchase process through the application with options for easy pick up or delivery. Another key feature we created was the vendor profile — which catered to enlisting trust between both parties by giving the user a back story on who they are, where they are from, and how they treat their products. Each product, when selected, would have a back story letting you know specifically how it’s been nurtured. We also included an indicator/rating feature letting users know which vendors are “Responsibly grown” certified organic vendors. Not all vendors are in the organic business, some sell conventional items. This feature would tie into some type of government approval system and through the NOP (National Organic Program) and FDA.

Concept Testing:

After our concept sketches were created, we set out to the streets of Brickell and began to scout for individuals who were willing to partake in our concept testing. We were lucky enough to gather feedback from three people — two of which were actually in a local farmers market; How perfect is that!?

Here’s some of the key insights we received from the testing subjects:

PROS:

  • Users felt this would solve the lack of universal data linking farmers markets to consumers
  • Users thought the interactivity was seamless because key indicators like buttons and icons as well as the information hierarchy led them down the right path.

CONS:

  • Users were delayed when visiting the landing/mapping screen. Every time we prompt them with a task they insisted on doing other things like zooming, moving the map around, etc, before actually realizing the map icons were a clickable feature.
  • Users noticed there was no path for directions to the farmers market

As a result, our concept sketches require some adjusting.

Conclusion:

Ultimately, we were able to understand the design thinking process as a whole. Each of us contributed ideas and we were able to help solve for our wicked problem by placing the user at the center of our design model. We were equipped with all the necessary tools and relied on our research in order to deliver a good user experience.

EXTRA CREDIT:

As a team, we decided to push ourselves a bit further and create a High-Fidelity Prototype. So we gave birth to an idea we called WayFarm.

Please Note: This high-fidelity prototype does not reference the UI design process and was just a way for our group to have a little fun practicing and designing a functional MVP.

WayFarm Mid-Fidelity Wireframe:

WayFarm High-Fidelity Prototype:

THANK YOU!

Research, Ideation & Concept sketches done by: Sarah Curtis, Sarah Smith, Erick Velasco, Jonathan Montalvo, and Yecenia Ramirez-Bonilla

Wireframes: Yecenia Ramirez-Bonilla

Hi-Fidelity Screens: Jonathan Montalvo

I am a UX/UI Designer bridging my love for people with technology.