UX Research - Fall 2019
Duration: 8 Weeks
Skills: UXUI, Interaction Design, User Research, User Testing
Collaborators: Angela Lee, Gretchen Kupferschmid
Role: Conducted surveys, peer/staff interviews, and behavior tracking studies. Designed, wireframed, and prototyped the Carnegie Kitchen app interface. My collaborators designed all the illustrative assets.
Throughout our time at CMU, my team and I have noticed how students ill-equipped are to achieve a balance between health and academics. To intervene, we designed Carnegie Kitchen, a nutrition and wellness app for Carnegie Mellon students to increase practicality of on-campus dining while building positive outlooks on eating.
Throughout these 8 weeks, my team and I divided our research and design process into three primary categories:
As second year CMU students who love food and prioritize our wellbeing, we wanted to better understand the lack of nutritional literacy among CMU students . Our curiosity lead to the question of:
Carnegie Kitchen, a nutrition app that subtly encourages behavior changes by integrating habit-building nudges with practical dining functions.
To unpack the stakeholders involved in our problem space, we mapped out our stakeholders, the relationships between them, and any hierarchy in the system. . Then, we started to categorize stakeholders based on whether they were internal or external in regards to CMU. From doing so, we realized that some stakeholders don’t fit into a specific category and should be treated flexibly. Deepening our understanding of our stakeholders revealed to us the wide scope of participants in the CMU food ecosystem.
Over the course of four weeks, we gathered a total of over +600 responses from over +150 unique profiles. Forms of research we conducted include:
To synthesize our research on students’ relationship to nutrition, we grouped responses by how high students ranked their prioritization of health. Overall, the majority had misconceptions about what it meant to have a positive relationship with food. Furthermore, many students didn’t care about their nutrition and for those who did care, they felt a lot of negativity and guilt when it came to being “healthy”. Many responses revealed a common hyperfocus on specific measures of nutrition (e.g. protein levels, fats) rather than looking at nutrition from a holistic perspective.
Through diary studies, my collaborators and I tracked what seven students ate everyday for a week. We documented details such as type of food, reason of choice, and satisfaction with their meal. For almost all of our subjects, we discovered that convenience played the biggest role in dining decisions, and this factor often trumped the taste or satisfaction of the meal.
We found that the top five dining options on campus were in the University Center (ABP + Entropy), Tepper Quad (Taza de Oro), Resnik (Taste of India + Innovation Kitchen + Melt Lab), and Posner Hall (The Exchange). Visually mapping the survey responses reaffirmed our finding that the most influential factors in how students decided on a dining option were location, convenience, and preference/taste.
From this survey, we found that people tended to be frustrated with the convenience of getting their food as much of the lack of nutritional information provided onsite. Many also felt like there weren’t enough cultural foods familiar to their background. All these frustrations contributed to an overall lack of trust in CMU Dining's ingredients and kitchen services.
In addition to conducting research on our the affected student body, we contacted three staff members working in both CMU Dining Services and Health Services to better understand their take on approaching nutrition. These three interviews played a massive role in the way we refined our approach to nutritional literacy.
By talking to to these individuals, we realized that nutritional literacy was so much more than just understanding the concept of micronutrients and macronutrients, that healthy eating was in reality extremely psychological. A more detailed understanding of our findings can be found below in our semi-final synthesis of our research.
With so much data to sift through, we synthesized it all into primary takeaways. Below is a chart with detailed summaries of all our finds up to this point.
Because we felt unsure of how to process the large amount of data, we went back into the field with one question:
Using the responses as a guide, we affinity mapped all our previous research into primary concerns expressed by students. This final survey reemphasized themes such as the significance of convenience. Another valuable insight was people's perception of food as binary in relation to physical appearance (eating “bad” food will make me “fat,” etc.), and the emotional baggage tied to that. Using our findings, we began listing out useful app features that could address each category of concern.
To create something that enforces habit building through subconscious nudges. This meant that our solution had to be extremely practical for daily use and subtle when it came to behavior-changing features. The primary features we decided to design for included:
Upon finishing research, we looked at popular food and lifestyle apps to understand where they excelled. We chose these apps because of their popularity, approachability, practicality, ability to categorize information, and convey/create emotion (particularly through visual branding).
For the next week and a half, my team and I met up two hours everyday to discuss, create, and share ideas about what we believed to be crucial for Carnegie Kitchen. Beginning with paper drawings in my sketchbook, I eventually transitioned to mid-fidelity wireframes on Sketch.
Over the next few days, my team and I asked 30 individuals to engage with our InVision prototype in various ways. We collected feedback in various ways including asking them to engage in timed tasks, explore the app freely, and to verbalize their joys and discomforts. Below are the five biggest takeaways we gathered from this experience.
From our user testing results, we developed our final app designs. In our final solution, we made sure to cater towards the wide spectrum of CMU students and their dietary needs.
The primary function for this app is the live dining calendar for on-campus restaurants. This already exists on CMU’s website as well as on a student-built site called CMU Eats, but the issue right now is a lot of valuable information on CMU dining is inaccessible because of how it is scattered across various digital services.
This feature is important to the app because it’s the practical feature that will keep students consistently using the app, and ultimately lead them explore our more behavior-changing features. From this page, users are able to explore individual dining locations and view individual restaurant items.
*After user testing, we included traffic tags that indicate population and traffic at each physical dining location.
Viewing nutrition facts can contribute to obsessive nutrient tracking behaviors, so we implemented a precautionary barrier that requires users to watch an educational awareness video before accessing the nutrition facts.
One of the biggest priorities we found among students was convenience and time. Introducing a pre-order system addresses this concern and creates a more efficient, stress-free dining experience for students.
*After user testing, we displayed estimated wait times for potential pre-orders.
For people who sometimes or fully eat off-campus, we designed a recipe viewing and sharing aspect. We were really careful, however, about not creating a social media platform where the number of likes influenced an user’s emotional state. After user testing though, we did find that some sort of feedback about the reliability of recipes was extremely important. Rather than hearts or thumbs ups, we decided to implement a "used tag count", which is my attempt at a neutral indicator that visualizes which recipes have been tested repeatedly.
Another tricky obstacle we discovered after user testing was how to make the Recipe platform feel more peer-to-peer yet still maintain the privacy of the students who post. Again, we really wanted to avoid the toxicity that comes from social media "clout."
*After user testing, our solution was to simply display the first name of the recipe publisher and their current year of study. Omitting the last name maintained a degree of anonymity and showing their school year helps reinforce that that these recipes are not externally sourced from the web.Furthermore, each individual recipe page, users can view relevant information such as time required to make, serving size, and difficulty level.
Obviously, nutrition is highly dependent on the individual and their eating tendencies. Because of that, Carnegie Kitchen allows users to save and share recipes, and access saved videos from the Tips n' Tricks page.
Because our research revealed that people don't have a positive outlook on proper nutrition, we designed a video resources feature for Carnegie Kitchen. This page provides practical videos as well as emotion-based videos that explore how food can shape and better one's emotional health. This feature is also meant to challenge existing paradigms about the appearance ideal and help people think about how food enrich their emotional lives.
Food has an emotional effect on all of us, especially for vulnerable eaters. Because this emotional influence of eating is often overlooked, we integrated occasional emotional banner check-ins. If Carnegie Kitchen notices that a user has reported feeling down lately, we help them process and respond to their emotions in a non-destructive ways. More specifically, the feature promotes talking to CMU services, watching emotional resources, and viewing an external link to some food memes. :)
From our interviews with both students and staff, we recognized a lack of relationship between CMU services. The app has an entire page dedicated to CMU Health Services in hopes of strengthening the relationship between the two parties through access and knowledge.
Our ultimate intention for this nutrition app is for university students to equip themselves with long lasting physical and emotional tools that will guide them past their time in school. The point of this app isn't just to provide a convenient dining calendar or recipe page; it's to help frame a more positive dialogue around what food culture should be like. We understand that nutritional health is something that may never be perfected, but we believe that it's something that can be worked on.