Designing my FIRST user experience.

Me trying to sketch a rough design based on user research with my bubble tea

Project Scope

The challenge: to design a clickable prototype of an app from scratch in four days. Must adopt findings from user research and testing. The app category is ‘food’.

Limitations & Resources: It’s a four days project. That means I cannot spend too much time conducting an elaborate user research (i.e. information may be skewed). The only digital tool allowed for prototype is Marvel and prototype should be black&white.

Side note: This is one of my projects for General Assembly’s User Experience Immersive Program. The purpose of the design is to learn the process, not to make an impressive app to show off or monetize. If there is a similar app out there, great! I wish I had known that too. ;) Findings in this post is purely mine although I got layout inspiration from many references.

My goals & roles for this project

Design goals:

  • Simple to build & functional to use
  • Something I will actually use even if it wasn’t my product

Personal development goals:

  • Learn to receive feedback with a poker face.
  • Learn to document a creation process

The roles I played: Everything but an user.

  • User Researcher
  • UI/UX Designer
  • Product Designer

Beginning the project

My initial Assumption: 40% of food in the United States today goes uneaten. Therefore we might need an app for better food waste management.

User Research

User Interviews: Two rounds of user interviews with total of five participants. First round is a free-style dialogue, designed to find out general habits & issues of participants. Second round is Q&A, designed to dive deeper into certain issues & find out preferences.

Real Problem: Through affinity diagram practice, I found very interesting insights

  • Even the risk taking users are risk adverse when it comes to cooking a new recipe at home in comparison to eating out
  • Users hesitate cooking a new recipe in fear for wasting ingredient/time
  • Users associate negative feeling towards ‘food waste management’

Based on this finding, I had to revisit my initial assumption and refine my problem statement to be this: I’m sick of cooking the same dish but I don’t want to waste ingredients I got’

My affinity diagram. Huge thanks to Trello for making this step so much easier

User Type/Target: Now I have the problem, I had to refine the people who can benefit from this app. Below are criteria I made for my target.

  • Users who are willing to try cooking a new dish
  • Users who are trying to save waste & money

Designing the project

Design Iteration & Sketch: To begin this stage, I categorized user comments into three sections: concept, layout, functionality. These then became the frame of my design. Once I was given the limitation to play in, it was much easier to begin sketching or ask more specific question back to the users. Below is my frame and initial sketch.

Another lesson here. Let’s get little prettier with the sketch. Who knew I would be posting this picture

Teseting the project

Paper Testing & Findings: Unlike what I had imagined, the first testing was done in a very manual manner, using good ole paper sketches and sticky notes. To be honest, I had not expected much from this test, however the findings were rather unexpected yet relevant. Changes in design were made based on findings here prior to my next test.

Me trying to simulate drop down menu in slow-motion

Linkable Prototype Testing & Findings: This step must have been the most tedious yet fun stage of them all. Seeing my design (sort of) run in a digital format was sure a surreal experience! Nevertheless, I found more room for improvement through this stage and also a future note to myself which is highlighted in yellow below.

Having my significant other to be my first tester was nerve breaking to another level


This project was interesting because it was the first time I was formally introduced to the UXD world and that meant everything felt new and refreshing despite my weeks of prior research into the topic.

As a former marketer, I made a mistake of overlooking the complexity of the process early on, as some of it felt familiar to me (e.g. user research). This misconception did not last long however, as I began trying to actually validate my designs. Nonetheless, I am grateful for this mistake as it triggered me to start noticing the difference between a marketer and UX designer. (I’ll write more on this in a future post).

Hard-skill Learning (Techniques): Through the process of research, below are some useful tips I found for future projects.

  • User’s history may not always align with what users describe him/her as. Ask numeric question along with general question to see the real picture. (e.g. Q: Do you like trying new food? A:Yes! I always do. Q:How many time did you try new dish in the past 10 meals? A: ah.. not in the past 10 meals..)
  • Two conflicting ideas can fit under same group in affinity diagramming (e.g. ‘I shop grocery once a week, so there’s a lot of item to carry.’ vs ‘I shop grocery once a month, so there’s a lot of items to carry’)
  • Don’t try to change their behavioral pattern by creating a problem and forcing a product (e.g. Fresh Herb Blender but people don’t really buy herbs that much to begin with)

Soft-skill Learning: Sometimes the best lesson to learn from a person is not what he/she knows but who he/she is. Some tips my instructor taught in this week’s class were truly heartfelt, offering me a chance to revisit who I have been and who I should be.

  • Yes, but vs Yes, and: I am a classic debater personality so I make this mistake A LOT. ‘But’ is a word that disapproves the statement of another. ‘And’ allows to add my opinion on top of another, not in replacement of.
  • Fixed Mindset vs Growth mindset: This is another one that came by surprize. I always thought that I am growth minded person but surely what I’ve been saying was clear indicator that I got big room for improvement. ‘I’m good at this hence I am going to focus on this’. ‘I am the way I am, don’t try to change me’ is a principle answers of fixed mindset. Think in lines of ‘if I put effort, things could change’ and ‘failure is another learning lesson’ , and I will learn to grow :)

Last but not least, have fun!

Run the prototype
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