Time frame:Feb-May 2013
Role:Researcher, Designer, Prototyper
I conceptualized, designed and built a prototype mobile app for buying and selling home cooked meals, during Harvard Grad school.
The goal of the project was to design a solution to address the problem of unhealthy eating habits of students by providing an easy, affordable alternative.
I led all aspects of the product design including user research, solution conceptualization, idea validation, wireframing, usability testing and prototyping. After project completion, I presented the business idea and the accompanying product as a start-up pitch to the VCs which was very well received. Also, I presented the project during an exhibition at the Harvard School of engineer and sciences. We received great feedback on the simplicity and functionality of the app.
Unhealthy food habits represented a significant struggle for large number of students at Harvard. The situation was exacerbated with students’ busy academic and social lives, and lack of readily available healthy meal options. The project’s goal was to develop a solution to address this need.
User Research on Eating Patterns
We conducted user research to identify the user’s needs and pain points. We used three research techniques: (1) User Photographs, (2) Survey on Mechanical Turk, and (3) Social Media research
Camera study - we recruited 6 students to capture photographs of their eating habits for two days. We asked the recruited students to click pictures of food procurement decisions (bur or not), food consumption decisions (eat or not), people they interacted with during procurement and consumption and other interesting food related instances.
Mechanical Turk - we conducted a need finding survey on mechanical turk and gathered responses from 51 users. The survey questions were intended to gather data on parameters that govern eating habits such as: (1) Cost, (2) Cooking skills, (3) Demographic, (4) Cleanliness, (5) Dietary restrictions and special needs. We also included questions to understand the social behaviour around food habits such as willingness to share food.
Social Media research - finally, we analyzed data on social media such as twitter, yelp, reddit, etc. to get an understanding of the parameters that influence eating habits.
The research provided us with incredible insights and the main findings are listed below:
Ideation of solutions
After the initial research, we delved into the solution ideation phase of the project by leveraging the key findings. We generated several solution ideas and after a pros/cons analysis narrowed down to one solution: Food Sharing.
Conceptually, this meant that people cooking meals for themselves could sell a part of their home-cooked meal to someone else. At the consumer side, this will provide easy, economical and readily available options to get a healthy home cooked meal.
Before we proceeded with the solution implementation, we decided to perform an early user validation to ensure that our solution idea was sound. Specifically, we wanted to test people’s willingness to cook food for others.
We posted an advertisement on Craigslist asking people to provide a home-cooked meal for $10-15 per meal. We received a highly positive response as people responded with enthusiasm and some even included photographs of their previously cooked meals. This gave us good confidence that there was both supply and demand available for this idea.
We went through several iterations of design and created prototypes using Sinatra for testing. Some of the examples are below:
We recruited three people to perform usability testing of the first design prototype. We identified four key tasks for the testing, and the problems discovered through each task are listed below:
Task 1: Registering and signing to the app
Task 2: Choosing a meal and contacting the chef
Task 3: Ordering the food with vegan meal preference
Task 4: Uploading pictures of the food on the user profile
Based on the above testing findings, we introduced the following changes in the designs: