Food deserts are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as low-income communities located more than one mile from a reliable source of fresh produce and other healthy whole foods.
Despite growing awareness of the term food desert millions of people still have limited access to healthy food. The focus of my project is on students who live in food deserts, the challenges they face and improving access to food. The outcome is a ride-sharing mobile app.
My first step was to do a literature review on existing apps. I reviewed projects related to food deserts and also ride-sharing apps. Uber pool did not exist when I did this project. The ride-sharing apps I looked at were usually one time trips with strangers and not specific to grocery shopping.
I conducted 3 focus groups with a total of 12 participants who were students living in food deserts. The purpose of these focus groups was to get a better understanding of the challenges students faced and how they currently traveled to grocery stores
"I would love to shop at Kroger but I wish it was more accessible"
“Costco has more variety and better prices but it’s difficult to get there”
Accessibility to stores is a problem
Public transportation is inconvenient for grocery shopping
“I don’t use the MARTA because it takes too much time. I find it hard to change trains and to walk back home from the station while carrying heavy groceries “
Walking with groceries is a challenge
“I find it hard to carry bags back home, especially when they're heavy”
“Carpooling would be a good option to get to stores conveniently”
“I like to see and pick ingredients myself before buying them. Shopping is an experience”
A majority of participants want the option to carpool
“I usually go to the grocery store with my roommates”
Grocery shopping can be a group activity
Sharing a ride with strangers can be uncomfortable
"I feel uncomfortable when I have to share a ride with strangers"
Ideation and Prototypes
Based on everything I had heard from the focus groups, I decided to create a mobile app for ride-sharing.
Route planning based on stores
Option to be a passenger and driver
Targeted for students (Different schedules, budget constraints, roommates, belong to existing groups)
Accommodate various schedules (Grocery shopping usually on weekends, no fixed time on weekdays)
Design for the entire process of grocery shopping (Round trips, in store)
Can integrate shopping lists (Users currently used other apps for lists)
Identify better with groups (GT, GSU etc) and sense of security (Discomfort with strangers)
Community based and Interact with neighbours (Shopping is a social activity for many users)
Can send representatives from a house (All users had roommates)
Low Fidelity Prototypes
Users were asked to perform a series of tasks on a low fidelity prototype. They were also asked to evaluate each task and the overall app through a combination of quantitative and qualitative questions.
Example findings for one task.
Task 1: Requesting a ride
4 out of 20 users who thought they had successfully completed the task did not actually complete the task
Overall rating of 3.75 on the scale of 1 to 5 ranging from Very Difficult to Very Easy
All users who used the search feature completed this task
A majority of users could not complete this task by using the map
The workflow of showing all possible routes to a store did not work
Users liked to directly search for a destination and find it
Users wanted to see the ongoing trip and car
Users raised questions on being able to rate drivers after a trip
The payment system was unclear
Users wanted the app to have autofill functionality
Some overall comments
“I like the idea of being able to get to the grocery store without having to get an Uber both ways. It offers a cheaper, more efficient way to acquire something necessary to college life (food).”
“I like the fact that it's more than just a ride sharing app, it has a specific function of going shopping. So you know you won't need to find an additional ride back home after you get what you need.”
The list below are examples of the changes made during my iteration
Redesigned the home screen
Improved the visual design of the app
Redesigned the process of finding a ride
Integrated payment of a ride and rating of drivers
Added Details of driver and car
Added ability to view an ongoing ride
Added prompt to share list
Added confirmation before leaving a group
Added categorization of groups
You can view the interactive prototype here
Never assume what users want
Before I spent time talking to users, I thought an interactive map might be a good way to address the issues of food deserts. After talking to users my project took a completely different direction and a ride share app seemed to a better solution.
If I had more time...
Conduct a usability test of the prototype
Fix glitches in the prototype
Add option to select multiple destinations
Integrate the app with in-store shopping
Build a fully functional prototype
Detail search and creation modes