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UX Research
UI Design

FoodMe for UofT

An online food ordering app that helps students find the perfect meal on campus based on their needs, such as budget, dietary preferences, and location. With FoodMe, students can order and pay for food ahead of time so that they can focus on things that really matter.

Collaborator

University of Toronto (Innovation Hub)

Role

In a team of four, I was responsible for conducting user research, ideating, prototyping (including sketches, wireframes and storyboards), usability testing, visuals & overall design direction.

Tools

Photoshop, Illustrator & Figma

Overview

Food services on campus are an important part of student life. While the University of Toronto offers over 30 on-campus food locations, students are often limited by their budget, dietary needs, schedule and location. The goal of this project was to develop a solution that would help alleviate some of these pain points and improve the overall food experience for students on campus.


Research

Our first step was to understand the challenges faced by students in regards to campus food. To do this, we conducted both primary and secondary research.

Secondary Research

Our secondary research consisted of a literature review and a competitive analysis of existing solutions. Based on this research, we identified the following:


Food quality and price value are two significant factors that impact students’ food experience (Kwun et al. 2013).

Students are convenience-driven and make choices based on current or future location (McClave, 2019).

Current UofT solutions are scattered with no systematic source for food service information.

Other universities offer apps with centralized information related to food services on campus, including menus, locations, store hours and online ordering.

Screenshot of University of Waterloo's Food Services app
Screenshot of Queen's EngConnect app and its dining services feature
Screenshots of the University of Waterloo Food Services app and Queen's University EngConnect app.

Primary Research

Our primary research consisted of semi-structured interviews and online surveys. Participants included both graduate & undergraduate students who were above the age of 18 and purchased at least 3-5 meals on campus each week.


Interviews

We conducted 10 semi-structured interviews. Interviews were done in-person near popular cafeterias around campus. Questions were mainly open-ended to help us gain qualitative insight into some of the challenges faced by students.

I feel like I'm missing out on great options because of the lack of time to look around.

I think there are quite a bit of food options around campus, but two days of the week I am a vegetarian and finding food on those two days becomes a challenge [...] I usually just give up and go to Tim Hortons.

Survey

We collected a total of 67 survey responses—56 of which met screening requirements. Surveys were distributed through online platforms commonly used by UofT students, such as Reddit, Instagram and Facebook. The survey allowed us to expand our sample size while also asking broader, closed-ended questions to obtain more quantitative data.

Overall Findings

Our primary research provided us with a deeper level of insight into some of the frustrations that students experience when it comes to campus food. These pain points can largely be defined by five general themes:

Time

Students often have a limited amount of time between classes to find food.

Quality

Students' food experience is greatly impacted by the quality and value of the food they purchase.

Cost

The price of food plays a significant role in determining what students buy and where they buy it from.

Proximity

Proximity to where students frequently spend their time is an important factor in determining the food services they regularly interact with.

Diet

Many students are limited in their options due to strict dietary needs, including vegetarian, halal and kosher food.


Defining the Scope

As an embodiment of these five themes, we created a persona named Bilal. We stepped into his shoes and explored some of his food-related challenges on campus based closely on our research findings. We organized these thoughts and ideas into an empathy map and an as-is scenario to better understand and identify areas of opportunity to improve Bilal’s and other UofT students’ food experiences.


A bio of our persona, Bilal the Business Student. Click to expand
As is scenario
Empathy map

Design

Ideation

Our next step was to ideate based on the areas of opportunity we identified. As a team, we came up with over 20 different ideas — six of which were my own. To narrow down this list, we voted on the ideas based on feasibility and impact before plotting them on a prioritization grid.

Our ideas
Prioritization grid

We then chose four of these ideas that ranked highest on 🔵 Feasibility and 🔴 Impact:

Idea 1, a map that shows you the quickest way of getting to a store
Idea 2, a financial advisor who helps you pick food based on your budget
Idea 3, a VIP pass that allows you to skip the line to purchase food
Idea 4, A food critic who helps you find the best and worst quality food out there

Storyboards & Sketches

Using our top ideas, we created storyboards to brainstorm how Bilal and others would use our app. We each sketched screens of how we imagined the app would look.

We took features we liked from each of our sketches and refined them. Together, these features formed the core functionalities of our app, FoodMe for UofT:

Photo of our initial storyboarding. Click to expand

Filters

Find food places on campus based on budget, distance, dietary, rating, and others.


Mobile Ordering

Order & pay online to skip lines, save time and quickly pick up food between classes.


Directions

View directions on a map to unfamiliar food places within the app.


Ratings

Discover food places on campus that are rated highly among fellow students.

Low-fi Prototype

Based on these core functionalities, we designed a low-fi prototype, which I personally sketched out using pen and paper:

Usability Testing

To understand if we were on the right track, we conducted formative usability testing with 4 representative users using our low-fi prototype. We gave them 5 tasks to perform using a think-aloud protocol:

  1. Search using the filter menu
  2. Select a store
  3. Choose a food item to order
  4. Customize the food and place an order
  5. Checkout and view directions

We ended each test with an interview to gather additional feedback. Shown below are some of the findings and iterations we made to our mid-fi prototype.

Hi-fi Prototype


Find the perfect bite.

Choose from a range of filters to find the perfect place to eat — from budget to distance and everything in between.

Customize your meals.

Don't like tomatoes? Want some extra guac? Mix and match ingredients to create the perfect meal in just a few taps.

Get detailed directions.

New to the area? Feeling adventurous and want to try out a new place? Don't sweat it! FoodMe will help you get there in a flash.


Evaluate

We further evaluated our prototype by conducting a summative usability test with 3 representative users. Using similar tasks and protocol, we discovered the following:


Strengths


Familiarity

Overall flow of the app feels familiar and consistent with other available food app


Streamlined

Ordering & paying feels streamlined and intuitive


Informative

Ordering & paying feels streamlined and intuitive


Considerations


Privacy

Can the app be used without location services? How will credit card information be handled?


Convenience

Can users order food to pick-up for later? Can portion sizes be customized earlier in the process (rather than at checkout)?


Additional features

Could the app show nutritional information if available? More detailed directions (i.e. floor numbers)?


Our next steps would be to continue to iterate on the designs based on the feedback we received. This includes re-evaluating our existing features (i.e. customization and directions), integrating new features (i.e. nutritional information) and putting more focus on privacy concerns.


Key Lessons

  1. We are not the user. While it is often tempting for us to use our own personal experiences to inform design decisions, we must recognize the reality that our needs and users’ needs may not always align. Instead, we must set aside our ego and immerse ourselves in research to find the pain points that truly matter.
  2. Asking the right questions is challenging.It’s true what they say, “Great questions lead to great design.” By asking the right questions, we can identify the right problems and come up with the right solutions. Figuring out what those questions are, however, is often half the battle and this project proved no different.
  3. Storytelling is powerful.After four presentations in front of industry professionals, I’ve learned the importance of visual storytelling in establishing emotional connection with audience and demonstrating product value. As a fundamental human experience, a good story can help build a memorable and engaging atmosphere where empathizing with users becomes a much easier endeavour.
  4. UX design is a team sport.Developing a product requires a whole range of skills that one person alone will never possess. Working as a team with diverse backgrounds provides us with the opportunity to collaborate while leveraging our individual strengths to achieve a common goal.

Extras

To wrap up our project, we created a fun little promotional video for our app. Check it out below!