Go Go Bodega:

Finding Food and Amenities in a Food Desert

Role: Creator and Designer

Process: Double Diamond, designed through first prototype

Tools Used:

  • Paper Prototyping
  • User Interviews
  • Affinity Mapping
  • Usability Testing
  • Prototyping (Marvel)

Link to Prototype:

https://marvelapp.com/17df5916

For the first major project in my User Experience Immersive at General Assembly, I was given the topic of food to explore. Our task was to develop a low-fidelity app prototype to solve a problem about food that proves difficult for my community.

I pondered the lifecycle of food from cradle to grave, brainstorming app ideas like seed exchanges, food truck trackers, leftovers exchange, and surplus compost exchange. Ultimately, I decided on an application to find and review bodegas in New York City, as I believed that would serve the highest number of people in my community.

A concept map around food

DISCOVER

My hunch was that New Yorkers make food choices that are unsatisfactory to them when they’re in a hurry. I chose to explore the design of an app that informs them which bodegas in the city provided the highest quality food, so that even when short on time, citizens of every borough could make educated decisions. Everyone has an opinion about where to find the best bodega sandwich, taco, or slice when you’re on the go, and I believed they’d be willing to share that information with the right incentive.

I interviewed six people using the techniques we’d been learning from our instructors to gain insights about their behaviors and preferences and to make sure I was solving for the right problem.

Bodega and convenience store food, unsurprisingly, was not the ideal food choice for most, but everyone I interviewed ate from there at least once a week. Fresh produce, fresh green juices, and burgers were on the wishlist for best bodega food. Some interviewees said that interpersonal and social connection was important to them when it came to choosing bodega and visiting it consistently.

DEFINE

I organized the insights gleaned from my interviews and began looking for patterns, using the affinity mapping technique to physically engage with the data. At this stage of the design process, I ferreted out the insights from the research, explored the needs of the user and moved toward a more defined problem statement around which both the design and development processes can be centered.

I spent the time to develop personas through which to embody my insights. Personas are fictional representations of your users, exhibiting the traits and insights the experience designer synthesized from the research. In addition, they are used to humanize general information that the designer gathered through the research.

I used two primary and one secondary persona to represent my insights and guide my problem statement. “Frankie” represented the large portion of my research base that sought recommendations from other shoppers, as well as those that sought a way to discover the stores that had the freshest prepared foods. “Arthur” was the result of synthesizing those that prioritized speed and cost from their bodegas. Finally, “Kelly” was the edge case, an infrequent bodega user but wanted to use the cleanest, most presentable ones when she did and appreciated that information when it was provided.

At this stage, the designer returns to the initial hypothesis and modifies it based on the findings. My initial hypothesis was not bad, but it was not exactly complete, either. Problem statements are a different stage of the design process, so they look a bit different.

“Frankie, a young professional in the city, doesn’t have enough time to find fresh, healthy food options between shifts. How might we offer a service that rates the quality of local bodegas to satisfy her needs quickly?”

For this project, I realized I should have drawn better lines directly from the insights into the problem statement. The one I came with didn’t address a couple key thoughts that came from my research, including the social aspect of trusting bodega ownership and the desire for a reliable way to verify inventory.

DEVELOP

I loosely sketched potential designs with pen and paper to create possible solutions to solve the needs of my users using a mobile application. I experimented with different interface elements and placement, and began working on a paper prototype of a basic design that I believed solved the challenges established by my findings.

I found the paper prototyping process to be quite enjoyable. Thinking about layers and how I would organize the mock-up actually helped me visualize the user flows, and what would be most prominent on-screen. There’s something about slowing down to cut out paper designs that is grounding in a way, where a lot of the rest of the process is a bit less concrete.

I built screens using my paper layers and input them into Marvel, a basic prototyping tool that is perfect for low-fidelity test designs like this one. My designs centered around the idea that the main goal is to filter your options for the food, amenities, and products that one is looking for in a nearby bodega, and to screen out all the others.

I ran through some usability tests to determine the efficacy of my design, and found a few glaring issues right away. I realized I definitely needed a place marker for the user’s current location, as well as a back button to head back to the main menu from the map screen.

The learning process to this point has been one of getting to know the terms and concepts most frequently used in experience design, as well as reacquainting myself with design concepts that had been buried for a while. It feels good to unearth them and I’m anxious to experiment with designs outside of the mobile app sphere.

These changes, in addition to some clarity in the user interface, ensured that the next iteration would be much more successful.