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Apprentice show and tell: enabling healthy lunch choices

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Each apprentice in our Apprentice in User Experience program is challenged to put the skills they’ve learned to the test by creating a digital product. They are charged with identifying a current problem they’re passionate about and then following the methodology we use to create solutions for our clients. In this series, our apprentices share their projects and the learnings they picked up along the way. Apprentice Lindsay Burke created a product to help parents and students chose and pay for healthy lunch options at schools.

I was given the 9 week challenge of identifying a problem in the food and drink industry, and solving the problem using a user-centered design approach. Through talking to friends, family members and coworkers, I discovered that many parents do not trust their children to select healthy lunch options at school. To avoid this, many parents opt to pack homemade lunches every morning, 5 days a week, all school year long – which is not only time consuming, but also expensive for many families. Using design thinking, I knew I could create a solution that would enable parents to confidently rely on school meal programs for their children. Deliverables for this project included personas, an experience map, medium fidelity wireframes, and a final high fidelity clickable prototype.

The problem

School systems make it challenging for parents to rely on school meal programs. Menus are not easily accessible or informative, leaving many parents and students in the dark when it comes to ordering based on nutritional, calorie, ingredient, and allergy information.

Because my goal was to design a mobile app for families (and more specifically parents), I began interviewing parents of elementary and middle school students. My goal was to understand what the current school lunch experience looked like – especially the ordering and payment processes. Through these interviews, I discovered key insights that would help me build a successful digital ordering platform. After user testing, I was able to hypothesize a design solution: A comprehensive school lunch application for families that allows users to browse weekly menus, filter student dietary restrictions, and place orders accordingly. The solution would also enable parents to add lunch money funds to a child’s account and track order history.

The solution

A comprehensive school lunch application for families that allows users to browse weekly menus, filter student dietary restrictions and place orders accordingly. The solution would also enable parents to add lunch money funds to a child’s account and track order history.

Using the interviews and user research, I then incorporated user needs, motivations, and concerns/frustrations to create a representative user of my product – a persona. By taking the time to create a persona, I had an easy way to refer back to my end user throughout the design process.

Persona for school lunch app
Creating a persona for the school lunch app helped to always keep the end user in mind when designing the product.

Next up in the design process was experience mapping. Creating an experience map allowed me to capture and communicate the interactions between parents, students, the school lunch vendor and school administration. Although I focused on the parent’s user experience during this specific design challenge, documenting the entire map allowed me to view a larger picture of how my product would fit into the school lunch experience as a whole (since parents are not the only ones involved!).

After creating a comprehensive experience map, I began sketching out some rough user flows using a tried and tested prototyping technique known as…pen and paper! I then digitized my hand drawn user flows in Sketch, uploaded them to InVision and added clickable hotspots to produce the low fidelity prototype.

Finally, I was able to begin testing my product with real live users. I assigned 3 different users a series of tasks such as “order pizza on Monday” and “add $20 to your kid’s account” to see if people could use my product. By identifying pain points, I was able to iterate and improve the product before applying visual design elements. See the UI design began to take shape!

School lunch app prototyping sketches
My initial sketches for the school lunch app prototype.
Designed prototype screens for school lunch app
Designed out screens for the school lunch app prototype.

You can click through the final high fidelity prototype on InVision above. I had a lot of fun presenting my project to my peers and getting feedback from mentors and colleagues at Fresh Tilled Soil. It’s important to remember that although this mobile app solves a very specific problem for parents, in “real life” it would just be one small piece of the school lunch puzzle. If I were to take this product and business idea further, I would plan on designing digital solutions that would enable school vendors to upload menus, enable students to place orders independently of their parents, and also help teachers identify students who may have forgotten to order lunch in the morning. Clearly, there is a lot of opportunity to improve the school lunch experience.

Interested in learning more about my idea validation and usability testing process? Check out my blog post about it.

Author Lindsay Burke

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