UX Case Study: Healthy Eating App
This project aimed to develop a gamified app to support people to develop healthy eating habits. It was a ridiculous two week sprint, under remote working conditions — that covered everything from initial research, to a final deliverable of a high fidelity prototype. Here is how we did it, and what we achieved.
- The brief: develop an app to support people to develop healthier and sustainable eating habits, as outlined by Vita’s scientifically proven program.
- The set up: A two week sprint in a team of four, working remotely due to Covid-19 restrictions.
- My role: Project manager, and team member, facilitating daily stand ups, ensuring we are working together well (and following our team charter), that we meet our internal deadlines, enlisting support or adjusting the project plan if required, plus user interviews, research, concept development, and of course, make sure we have fun!
- Key Research findings: An undeniable market opportunity for those who want to develop healthy eating habits in a more flexible and personalised way.
- Delivered: A high fidelity app prototype of our MVP using Figma, along with a content strategy, detailed next steps and a plan for further usability testing.
- Nothing can surpass a well balanced team.
- Mapping the competitive landscape is a valuable way to conceptualise the research task ahead.
- A content strategy is key to an app, but it requires an understanding, and the cooperation & buy-in of many stakeholders.
The Client: Not for Profit focused on Preventative Health Outcomes through healthy Eating.
Vita is a not-for-profit organisation that empowers people to achieve healthier, fuller lives via sustainable lifestyle choices. Through preventative healthcare research and VicHealth funding, Vita has established an in-house program centred around chronic disease prevention.
Backed by research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the in person service focuses on getting people to eat better through plant-based nutrition. Vita firmly believes that by providing people with guidance towards better eating decisions, it will help them fulfil their potential of living a better life.
The Challenge: Scalability
Vita has identified chronic disease as Australia’s number one killer, with around 70–90% of cases being preventable. As such, Vita wishes to act fast and scale its program to an audience of 100 million by 2023. To meet their distribution needs, Vita wants to turn its service into a digital product that more people can access.
How we broke down the sprint
As you can see below we followed the classic double diamond method.
However, rather than explaining each step, in this case study I’ll focus on some of our key growth areas (highlighted in pink above) and results which gave us pause for thought.
Our Research Plan: Mapping the Competitive Landscape
As the project manager, I suggested that we kick off our project (after working out our timeline & team charter) by mapping the competitive landscape. While this is not a traditional deliverable, I felt it was a vital first step to conceptualising the vast range of choices, temptations and lifestyle habits our users would need to resist when using our app, as well as the potential replacements they could choose.
They broke down into this (non-exhaustive) competitive landscape map:
We quickly realised that we were competing against a huge range products, services, habits and social norms, and allowed us to create a more concrete understanding of the landscape we would be operating in. This meant we could effectively divide up the research work we needed to do, confident we wouldn’t miss a core piece of the puzzle. It meant our research phase was far more well rounded and efficient, with everyone on the same page of our research plan working in harmony. This is a non-traditional artefact that I’d consider making a little more common.
Whilst doing our secondary research, we also delved straight into our user research. We interviewed 23 people:
- 6 Want to Eat Healthy
- 5 Considering plant-based
- 5 Due to a medical condition
- 7 Subject Matter Experts (who had already transitioned)
Focusing on the 16 people who hadn’t transitioned, but wanted to eat healthier, we found multiple personas.
However, one persona clearly stood out as a primary persona: Julia.
Julia is a busy person who doesn’t want to feel held back or restricted by her diet. She craves flexibility and social contact, which means she will often find herself at lunch with friends wondering what to eat and not knowing how to make a healthy choice. She is open to a more plant based diet, but it needs to fit into her lifestyle, and not require her to turn it upside down.
A gap in the market
By combining our market research with Julia’s key needs we spotted a clear market opportunity. A habit changing app which allows for personalisation and flexibility — dependant on the user’s goals and changing circumstances.
Julia doesn’t want to count calories like MyFitnessPal, she’s too busy for that, and she doesn’t care. And while Fabulous’ habit changing system is effective — she wants to choose what habits she changes and how — not be told. This market opportunity analysis clearly laid out how our users’ needs weren’t currently being met, and confirmed our growing suspicions that we could fill the gap.
The next steps we took were the traditional steps in the double diamond — ideating, developing user flows and wireframes, paper prototypes and doing user acceptance testing.
Simultaneously, though, we also started to develop a content strategy. This was a first for me, and a highly enjoyable one.
We started with understanding the ‘who, why, how and what’ of the brand, which brought up some key words and concepts we realised were core to the brand (bolded).
We then incorporated our user research: Julia wanted things to feel fun, easy and flexible. She is social and she has a growth mindset. These together gave us our key words for the brand:
- Fun, quirky & cute
- Growing & Learning Together
We used these words to inform the content of our low-fi prototype — and the results were astounding. Our character ‘Beanie’ was universally loved — with all 5 user testers commenting on how much they liked him and how cute he was.
They liked the language that Beanie used in the on boarding process, asking them to ‘look after each other’ and promising them that they would ‘learn and grow together’. We knew we were on the right track — so we solidified them into a style sheet.
Bright happy colours of orange and yellow, were chosen as our palette colours to reinforce our friendly, happy tone of voice. Secondary colours in green tones were chosen because they are often considered reassuring and are closely associated with health & well-being. While simple sans serif fonts were chosen to ensure the reading experience is easy for Julia on her digital device, and the rounded nature reflected the fun tone of voice we were aiming for.
One roadblock we did encounter in our user testing were the names and hierarchy of content.
Some users didn’t intuitively understand the menu labels, and it took them a few goes to access certain content. We revised the labels and content structure in the high fidelity prototype, and had we had more time, retesting this would also help us better understand how we could make the features more accessible and easy to use for Julia.
We also had difficulty prioritising the content, especially deciding what shortcuts should be on the home page, and what should be in the global versus secondary nav. This is likely because we had too many features for an MVP, and in real life this would have been cut down with the help of a developer simply saying no — that’s too hard (Yes, devs, sometimes we like it when you say no).
That said, I would also be curious to trial the app with a few users, and then do some contextual analysis — after using the app for a week or two, which features do they access the most? Why? How easy is it for them to access? This would help us not only prioritise features, but also inform the content hierarchy which was a near impossible puzzle to solve to the team’s satisfaction.
We created a beautiful high fidelity prototype. You can have a look at it below, or click through it on Figma here.
We think it is highly valuable for a number of reasons:
- It meets our users’ needs.
- It capitalises on a specific identified gap in the market, by catering to those needs.
- It is based on behavioural science to ensure it fosters intrinsic motivation in our users, to ensure any lifestyle change is ongoing and sustainable.
- It uses best practise gamification to make the experience fun, and encourage users to come back.
- It reflects Vita’s brand values of user empowerment and personal growth.
- If our recommended next steps are followed, this app will meet Vita’s business goal of rapid scaling in the next three years.
These slides outline how we created intrinsic motivation, while simultaneously meeting our users’ needs.
We divided our next steps into four key categories, exploring Vita’s needs beyond our project. These were:
- Next steps for the UX Team
- Next steps in terms of Content Strategy
- Next steps to develop ongoing governance and up keep of the app.
- The development backlog to prioritise
We did this, because building an app, especially one which reflects the core market offering of a brand is not just a technical endeavour. It requires ongoing upkeep and consultation, buy in from across the organisation, marketing strategies etc. No app should be built in isolation, especially not one like this, and it is important to reinforce that at every step of the way.
- It is lovely to work on a well balanced team; we had an amazingly complementary skills set. They made this project a joy to work on. We wont always get this opportunity but when it happens it is a gift.
- My project management skills are on point — at least for this team. My teammate Alaine wrote that “Jo has taught me many things but most importantly the value of a good project manager.”
- Thirdly, I should trust my gut. Once again, one of my non-traditional deliverables worked surprisingly well — I’ll be doing a ‘competitive landscape map’ again.
And lastly, as my teammate Angel said:
You can see my teammates’ case studies on this project and their other amazing work here: