Current online grocery shopping methods don’t support the needs of customers with unique dietary needs, including people with non-Western diets, people with allergies, and people who practice veganism. Existing products that attempt to do this are not affordable.
A mobile app that provides customers with accessible, customized grocery shopping experiences based on criteria including dietary choices and food politics.
User Researcher; Interaction Designer; UX Designer; UI Designer
There are a number of online grocery shopping platforms on the market which aim to provide busy people with a time-saving, cost-effective way to purchase the groceries they want. However, online grocery shopping products often take away customers’ ability to select their own fresh produce, and many online grocery services do not adequately support people with very specific dietary needs. For example, customers with gluten allergies, vegan customers, paleo customers, and customers who only purchase local organic produce are often unable to find exactly what they need when trying to buy groceries online. This project sought to address these challenges by proposing a research-informed grocery shopping experience for specific dietary needs.
I began research by conducting targeted user surveys and interviews with people in order to learn more about their experiences with grocery shopping, both online and in person. Through initial secondary research, I identified three groups of potential target audience members to recruit for surveys and interviews:
Through interviews and surveys, I learned that people were not completely satisfied with their in-person grocery shopping experiences. Some common frustrations included long checkout lines, poor customer service, difficulty locating some items within stores, and the high costs of organic, ethically sourced foods. Many people would be willing to try online grocery shopping if there were financial incentives, competitive product prices, transparency about the company’s ethical practices, minimal packaging and waste produced in delivery, and quality assurance on fresh ingredients. Interview participants indicated that they had not yet found an online grocery shopping solution that met these needs, so all participants still preferred to shop in-person, where they felt that they had more control over these factors.
Through the research phase, three key user groups emerged: the busy single parent, the activist with a food allergy, and the source-conscious recent college graduate. Each user group had specific beliefs, attitudes, and goals for grocery shopping, but they all shared some common characteristics, including the willingness to try new grocery options, the desire to save time and money, and the desire to eat healthy, nutritious foods.
I also conducted a competitive analysis of three popular online grocery shopping platforms: Instacart, Peapod, and Jet. Through the analysis, I identified common features that the competitor products had, as well as gaps and opportunity areas for innovation. Commonly existing features included product search, marking products as favorites, and free delivery, whereas missing features included item ratings, item recommendations based on customer data, and saved shopping lists.
I synthesized research findings to develop a matrix comparing business needs against customer needs. In order for the business to meet customer needs, it would need to provide a time-saving, wallet-friendly way to purchase fresh, high-quality foods and ingredients, and to adequately meet customers’ unique needs, especially customers looking for culturally specific foods, allergen-safe products, and affordable local items. Many people are willing to try online grocery shopping, so long as online options meet their specific dietary needs, their budgets, and their ethical values, including environmentally sustainable business practices and fair wages for employees.
Clear content strategy, thoughtful interaction design, and appropriate user interface design would become critical to the product’s ability to fulfill these core user needs — and ultimately, to succeed in the online grocery shopping industry.
Grocery shopping offers plenty of ways to organize contents; while there are many patterns in the ways that grocery stores categorize and store products, there is no universal solution. I conducted a card sorting exercise to learn how people might expect to see products arranged in an online grocery shopping experience, in order to design interactions that would meet customer expectations of finding products efficiently and intuitively.
The card sorting resulted in a variety of category types. Some participants created labels commonly seen in grocery stores — such as “produce” and “baking.” Other participants created labels based on their own dietary needs, such as “foods that I don’t eat.”
I used the core groupings that emerged from the card sorting exercises to generate an application map proposing initial information architecture.
I then designed a user flow to demonstrate how a person might navigate through the proposed product. User flows help identify points along paths where users might be faced with choices and decisions, and also critical for preventing the design of dead ends that might leave users stuck and unable to complete their intended goals.
I then used the artifacts outlining the proposed information architecture to begin designing wireframes of the app’s key screens.
I reviewed my user flow and selected six screens to sketch with pen and paper. I then used the sketches to guide the design of mid-fidelity, digital wireframes of mobile app screens.
Once I had designed a set of prototypes, I was ready to conduct usability testing to evaluate how users would engage with the proposed product. It was important to test with mid-fidelity, greyscale wireframes to gather honest, critical feedback from potential customers, and to solidify the function of the product before integrating visual design.
Usability testing revealed that potential users would be interested in seeing the product focus more on customized shopping experiences for users who have specific dietary preferences. Valuable features to consider in the iteration included:
Based on both the initial user research and the usability testing showed that people wanted a product that was convenient, easy to use, reliable, and trustworthy. Users wanted to feel that the new product was truly helping them by making their grocery shopping experiences simpler and more enjoyable, and wanted a product that seemed to care about customer satisfaction over revenue. I designed three style tiles highlighting variations for the product’s visual design, with an emphasis on simplicity, reliability, and clarity.
A product name — Seedling — emerged from a brainstorm of concepts and terms. Users thought Seedling was a brand name that would convey growth, freshness, vitality, health and wellness, and transparency, all of which were key elements of a positive grocery shopping experience.
With a plan for the product’s branding and visual design, I iterated on mid-fidelity wireframes to design high-fidelity mockups of onboarding screens, the home screen, and product screens. Based on feedback from user testing into the onboarding screen, I designed additional screens where users could indicate dietary needs during onboarding and subsequently see products according to their preferences.
This case study represents the start of a bigger design process for the development of this online grocery shopping experience. It would be necessary to conduct additional usability testing with multiple user flows in order to better understand how people engage with the product, identify more features to improve, and design an even more user-friendly product.
Furthermore, it would be especially necessary to design key screens that represent additional value propositions, including subscription services, cost comparison tools, and easy re-ordering. The implementation of additional features would increase the value of the product for prospective customers, and strengthen Seedling’s reputability as a product that is both uniquely considerate of customer needs and efficient.