How can we help students with dietary restrictions find meals at restaurants?
Role: UX Researcher + UX Designer
Tools: Pen & Paper, Balsamiq, Sketch, Invision, Principle
Award: Finalist @ Convergence Innovation Competition
Duration: 3 months
Details: 4 person team project @ Georgia Tech
1 in 6 Americans have a dietary restriction and while some restaurants are accommodating at a face value - "Please inform your server if you have any food allergies or special dietary restrictions", the reality is different.
People with dietary restrictions face issues in their daily life. Students are busy, leaving less time to choose restaurants & look at compatible menu items. Their difficult is amplified by factors like social stigma & having an overall lack of information to take informed decisions.
60% of users mentioned that they found out about their dietary restriction only 0-5 years ago which means they are not well informed about their restrictions and find this transition extremely overwhelming.
Our research showed 35% of people chose ‘Social Stigma’ as the main cause to not bring up their restriction at restaurants which means users are uncomfortable bringning up their dietary restrictions.
Over 40% of students considered themselves to have language barriers, i.e unable to understand or converse in spoken English
How Infograin works?
A mobile app that shows a list of restaurants compatible with users dietary restrictions sorted (by default) on a customized score for each restaurant.
#1 Personalization: Multiple Dietary Restriction Selection
Users can select multiple restrictions and get a list of restaurants encompassing all previously mentioned restrictions.
#2 Discoverability: Color Coded Match Score to indicate the compatibility of the restaurant
Users can quickly browse through compatible restaurants by just looking at the score. This customized match score is based on other user reviews and ratings as well as dishes at a restaurant that fit users dietary restrictions.
#3 Customizability: Menu filtering
Users can filter through the menu based on handy legends but can also view complete menu helpful in social group settings.
Problem Space & Research Questions
Our initial goal was to understand issues students face while grocery shopping but our initial interviews and observations led us to pivot to a more pressing need - the inability to find restaurants to accommodate their dietary restrictions.
- How does student's history (eg, number of years with a restriction) with their dietary restriction inform their process?
- How do users decide on a restaurant to eat out at?
- What influence do social setting and surrounding environment have on their decision-making process?
From the research, we noticed that three different user groups emerged - Vikki, the voluntary vegan; Vishnu, the international vegetarian student, and Grace, a gluten-free gal because of health issues. This implies that Vikki might be more flexible, Vishnu has a learning process, and Grace who is gluten-free due to health issue. Personas helped us answer an important question - Who are we creating Infograin for?
The question at the back of our minds: how can we simplify the process?
We created a feasiblity vs originality map and placed all the ideas. We further gave score to each idea based on the reach, value for customer and potential revenue for Infograin. This exercise led us to shortlist three ideas which we then showed to users.
Feature Level Decision: Winner or Best of three worlds?
Having obtained informal feedback from concept testing with users, we realized that we could combine the best parts of each design into our solution. We went back to the whiteboard and reviewed each design on a feature level. Mapping user responses to each feature helped us realize that we could take the positive things from each design and converge on those.
We gave 8 users 2 tasks and made the user scenarios realistic drawing from the user research previously conducted.
- Task 1: Pick a restaurant in this area: You only have the maps view available to you and you cannot drill down and click on the restaurant to view their menu.
- Task 2: Pick a dish from a given restaurant: You are going with a friend who does not have any dietary restriction and you need to pick a dish for them as well.
User feedback was concentrated in three areas:
- Selecting dietary restriction
- Map view
- Menu Page
and this is how I incorporated the feedback...
Professionally, I am happy with the way we incorporated user
feedback throughout the project and grounded our design in
extensive user research. This was evident from our final
evaluation which received a SUS rating of 80 and all the
informal feedback we got at the Convergence Innovation Competition.
Personally, this project is extremely close to my heart since it addressed issues that close friends struggle with on a daily basis.
If I had more time part, I would bring Infograin to the next level and explore how it would be able to support a group of users - some with dietary restrictions and some without - to have a delightful experience with food that suits everyone at the table.