Patrollergen

A peek into my first design project

Objective

Get to know a user to discover a problem he/she has. Effectively implement research principles to design a prototype of a mobile app that would help solve the user’s problem. Acquire feedback to refine the design and finally present an engaging prototype.

The Problem

My user, Srida, suffers from fickle food allergies that have been occurring more often, especially during her most recent travels. She hopes to effectively document her allergies so that she can better track her allergens and symptoms. In addition, she lives a low maintenance lifestyle and prefers simplicity and practicality when it comes to her technology.

Solution

Create an easy to use allergen diary that can keep track of the variations in allergic reactions.

Process

Conducting User Research: I conducted an interview with Srida in order to find out more about what she liked and disliked and how I could help improve her life with a mobile app. The challenge I was immediately faced with was attempting to ask the most effective questions since before the interview, I had only known her name! In the end, I discovered her challenges with food allergies and traits about her that would help me design an app catered toward her needs and wants.

mySymptoms Food & Symptom tracker is one of the competing apps

Seeking (the Right) Inspiration: The next step was to research food allergies and any mobile apps that may already exist pertaining to allergens. This is important because I did not want to reinvent the wheel in my process. The difficulty I faced here was narrowing down my findings so that I would have the right inspiration for the app for Srida. After pulling myself out of the daunting depths of the App Store, there was one app in particular that I drew most of my inspiration from.

Competitive analysis: mySymptoms Food & Symptom Tracker served as my main competitor. It was a food diary and it maintained record of the symptoms you felt on a scale from low to high.

Comparative analysis: My comparative analysis included apps my user was familiar with. In this way, I was able to tap into features and functions she knew well. This was important to me in designing Srida’s app because she is very minimal in her app usage. The ones she uses are practical and efficient. When asked her favorite apps on her iPhone, there were only two that stood out:

  • Spending Tracker: It simply tracks her spending and doesn’t require her to tap into too many screens to get to where she wants.
  • Roadtripper: Again, very simple and easy to use for when she goes on road trips and needs to find places to visit.

Storyboard:

Sketching the storyboard really helped me solidify my user’s problem and how incorporating my mobile app would help her. I quickly learned that I do not hesitate to get my pen to paper to get the illustration going. However, as a perfectionist, I had to redraw my sketches before presenting them.

First sketch of storyboard
Final sketch of storyboard

Refine, refine, refine:

My initial concept for Srida’s app was quite different from what it ended up as.

My first concept :

  • Community based (for people suffering from food allergies to communicate)
  • Restaurant recommendations from users
  • Graphs of allergic reactions
  • User profile

The features were all over the place.

With feedback from Srida and at least six other peers, I reconstructed my app to focus on helping Srida keep track of her food allergies in the simplest, but most informative way.

With that said, Patrollergen was created! Patrollergen focused on the following features:

  • Simple recordkeeping of dishes Srida reacts adversely to (including a symptom tracker on an intensity scale of low to high)
  • Archive preparation style of known allergens to track how different ways an allergen was prepared affects reactions
  • See graphs of peaks and lulls in allergic reactions to track impact of lifestyle changes on allergic reactions (e.g., travel)
  • Receive alerts when known allergens are common in local dishes (suggestion from feedback speedating!)
Final sketch of user interface

Results: Srida challenged me to create Patrollergen, a mobile app that would help keep track of her allergens so that she could enjoy the freedom of being able to eat as she pleased when she traveled. Involving Srida early in my design process through feedback sessions allowed me to really cater to her needs for this mobile app. She even said she could see herself using this app in her day to day life, which is quite the accomplishment as there are not very many apps Srida finds necessary to be on her phone. At the end of the day, if my user is happy then I’m happy.


What went well?

Empathy: I found that empathizing with my user really helped me improve upon my designs. It was difficult at first to understand my user’s food allergy problems. However, after I put myself in her shoes, imagining it was me who had an egg allergy or a shellfish allergy, I realized how general the information on the internet was. This led me to the core of the issue and the design of Patrollergen.

Feedback: I greatly valued the feedback I received from my peers as they helped me gauge the learnability of my app. I was also able to practice my own communication of the app, which ultimately helped in my presentation.

What to do next time?

  • Spend more time coming up with effective questions to ask the user
  • Go more in depth as to how the app will learn allergens from recording eaten dishes that caused allergic reactions
  • Discover simpler way to incorporate sharing of food allergy remedies
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