As Yogi Berra said, you can observe a lot just by watching. Watching how people do things is a great way to learn their goals and values, and come up with design insight. We call this needfinding. This assignment helps you train your eyes and ears to come up with design ideas. Your goal is to uncover user needs, breakdowns, clever hacks, and opportunities for improvement.
The design brief I have chosen is ‘Change’.
The mission: Design an interface that facilitates personal or social behavior change.
We’ve all been there: We know we should be eating more healthily, and generally we enjoy home cooked food – but after a busy day at work we just didn’t have time to plan dinner and come up with ideas, so we go for convenience food, the same old staples that we’ve always made, or even a take out dinner that’s neither good for our health nor for our wallet. If only we had thought about it in time, found a recipe suggestion and made a shopping list before we left the office – based on our personal preferences and dietary requirements of course – it could have been easy to pick up some ingredients and cook a healthy dinner at home.
So this will be my focus for the course: Helping people find healthy food choices and prepare home cooked dinners.
For my first assignment, Needfinding, I observed how people choose what’s for dinner, how they find out what ingredients they will need, and how to cook it.
The goal is to observe the successes, breakdowns, and latent opportunities that occur when computers are used, not used, or could be used to support your chosen activity.
Participants of my study:
User 1, who regards cooking his passion, and likes to cook dinner for his wife and daughter. His wife prefers low-carb food, so he needs to keep that in mind for his choice of recipes.
User 2 loves to cook with her friends and enjoys cooking healty and low-carb food. However she often finds it hard to make healty choices as she works long hours.
User 3 is gluten-intolerant, which limits her choices, so she is constantly on the lookout for tasty recipes that make her feel less restricted.
In addition to observing participants, I asked them to answer some questions:
- how do you choose what to eat for dinner?
- at what time of day do you typically start to think about dinner preparation?
- how much time do you spend researching options?
- do you like to experiment or do you prefer tried-and-trusted?
- how often did you cook at home last week?
- how do you create a shopping list?
- how important are step-by-step instructions?
- are there ingredients you try to (or have to) avoid?
- do you follow a specific diet?
- How important is nutrition info, i.e. calories, carbs, fat, protein?
- where do you find diet advise?
- Do you keep a food journal?
User 1 wants to cook a nice dinner for Saturday night. He starts thinking about options around lunchtime. Without consulting a cookbook or app, he decides to make some meat and vegetables but isn’t yet sure what exactly it’s going to be. In general, he is an experienced cook and knows that a small portion of meat and fresh vegetables will make a healthy meal if cooked the right way. He doesn’t follow a specific diet, and is not too concerned about exact nutritional values. “But my wife is.”, he says.
Overall, he spent about 10 minutes thinking about what to make, 30 minutes shopping, and another 10 minutes to find a recipe. Preparing the meal took another 30 minutes. He would love to follow the same approach on weekdays, but his time doesn’t allow that. He typically cooks at home on 5 days per week. He prefers spontaneous inspirations about what to cook, and goes grocery shopping without a list, but sometimes finds himself in the grocery store out of ideas and going for the same staple foods that he knows well. He would like to lose some weight, but finds following meal plans or keeping a food journal too tedious. Instead, he just tries to cook lighter dinners on weekdays and only indulges during the weekend.
User 2 cooks dinner at home about 4 nights a week. She typically doesn’t start thinking about food preparation before she drives home from work. Quite often, it is in the supermarket when she finally decides what she’s going to eat. She likes to be spontaneous and improvise with what her fridge has to offer or what she finds in the supermarket. If she does create a shopping list, it is with whatever means she has available – it might be her iPhone or it might be sticky note or even just a mental note. She follows a low-carb diet, doesn’t keep a food journal, but is interested in nutrition info, if it happens to be available. (Note: I didn’t have the opportunity to directly observe User 2 as she isn’t based in the same city as I am, but she kept a photo journal of the activity for me.)
User 3 and her husband take turns cooking dinner, but he’s not home today so she will be on her own. They get most of their groceries via a weekly delivery. User 3 is gluten-intolerant, so she eats a gluten-free, mostly whole-foods diet. She likes to try new recipes to bring some variety and make her feel less restricted. She also keeps a food journal, but finds it sometimes tedious to record her meals.
- On weekdays, User 1 doesn’t always have time to plan dinner in advance and sometimes finds himself out shopping with no idea about what to cook. He needs a way to get a dinner inspiration that doesn’t require planning.
- On weekdays, User 1 has not much time to shop for food. Sometimes he forgets to buy ingredients he needs for the meal he wanted to make. He doesn’t have time to write a shopping list, but would like to have one available when shopping.
- User 1 sometimes finds it difficult to remember and accommodate the food preferences of his wife and daughter. When looking for recipes, he would like a way to see only those recipes that match their preferences.
- On weekdays, User 1 likes to eat lighter dinners, but doesn’t have a large repertory of light or healthy recipes. He ends up making salads. He would like a way to find more low-calorie choices that are quick to make.
- When looking for inspiration, User 1 relies on reputable sources and appetising photos. He needs a way to visually select recipes when browsing online.
- User 2 is busy during the day, and only really starts to think about dinner choices after leaving work. She needs a way to find recipes without spending time searching.
- User 2 is interested in finding new, healthy recipes, but doesn’t always have the time to look through all options online. She needs a way to filter out the “noise” of irrelevant recipes when browsing.
- She finds that some sources are less trustworthy. She needs a way to decide whether to trust a recipe source.
- User 2 follows a low-carb diet. She needs a way to find recipes based on that restriction.
- User 2 was looking for „quick“ recipes. She needs a way to find recipes based on time it takes to prepare them.
- She just started her career and is still on a tight budget. She needs a way to filter recipes based on cost of ingredients.
- She also doesn’t have much time for lunch preparation at work, so she’d appreciate a way to find recipes that make good leftovers.
- User 2 has a good intuition about how many calories she takes in. She would still like to check nutrition info for her recipes.
- User 3 doesn’t always need to find recipes, but when she does, she might not be online. She needs a way to have suggestions available offline.
- Recording every single ingredient into her food journal is tedious. She needs a way to easily record nutrition info for a meal.
- She orders a weekly delivery of groceries and hence has most staples available generally. She would love a way to find new recipes based on what’s left in her pantry and fridge.