International students who relocate to a foreign country suffer from homesickness due to food at some point of their university lives.
An iOS application that connects students to nearby families from the same home country for a cooking and/or dining experience.
WORK SETTING & ROLE
Independent Project, UX Designer
Interviews, Ideation, Storyboarding,
Paper Prototyping, QOC, Personas, User Testing
Sketch, Invision, Paper, Pencil.
4 months, Sept - Dec 2018
International students miss home food at some point of their university lives
In my first semester of graduate study, I noticed many students missing home food and craving terribly for it. I started researching about home sickness by reading student blogs online. I realized that food preferences are deeply ingrained and considered part of one's culture or identity. Home food is familiar is one's taste buds and is emotionally comforting. Staying away from home food for elongated periods of time can cause uneasiness, distress and depression.
USER INTERVIEWS AND RESEARCH BLOGS
Understanding international students & homesickness
I read user blogs and also conducted user research interviews with 5 classmates who were international students. To get a deeper understanding of what students were facing, I read research studies. My key findings that resonated among all students were as were as follows :
How can students currently get food? What are the pros & cons?
I did a comparative analysis to understand the pros and cons of the ways in which students might be currently getting home-like food. I discovered that different ways focus on factors such as providing multi-cuisine, cost-effective, healthy and home-cooked food.
Structuring patterns and target audience
To structure the my findings of my research, I developed personas for my target audience that delineated their needs, frustrations and goals. I defined personas for international students who are amateur cooks and restaurant regulars. I also created an anti-persona of a student who lives at home, to remind me who I am not designing for.
BRAINSTORMING & STORYBOARDING
What are the possible solutions?
I started sketching multiple solutions for the problem in hand. For this exercise feasibility took a back seat and I sketched of digital, offline and future tech solutions. Some of these included a country-specific potluck, dining experience with families, cook together with friends, an augmented reality cooking class, 3D printing of food and so on. I sketched out 5 workflows for each solution to convey how each solution approached the problem my target audience were facing and how they would feel satisfied after the solution.
What solution do students like the best?
I showed students the solutions I had sketched and asked for their opinions. I realized that I had overlooked time and distance constraints students have while they are studying.
INTERVIEW WITH SECONDARY AUDIENCE
Would families participate in the cook/dine experience?
Due to time constraint, I interviewed one family member to understand if they would volunteer for such an experience. The interviewee was empathetic towards students and said that she would gladly share and cook authentic recipes passed on from her ancestors for students.
Design Decisions and Defense
Based on feedback from students and family member, I decided the overarching design rationale of my application as follows :
Next, I identified the critical feature of my application. The critical feature of my application is to Connect students to food experiences with families based on proximity. Proximity in order to minimize time & travel constraints. I used the Question (Q), Option (O), Criteria (C) method to come up with key design questions, possible answers/ options to the questions and criteria to assess and compare the options. QOC for few of the interactions are shown below.
TESTING AND ITERATION
Creating Lo-Fi Prototype
To quickly validate my initial designs in a cost-effective way, I created a paper prototype and tested it with my target audience.
I carried out two rounds of user testing using paper prototypes which helped me iterate my design. Each user was given a list of tasks to complete, encouraged to "think out aloud" and I observed and asked them questions along the way. I iterated my design until users could successfully all complete the tasks they were assigned to and had a smooth user experience.
INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE & WIREFRAMES
How can users navigate through the application?
I simplified navigation paths based on user feedback and mapped the information architecture after iteration. I created wireframes of my final design.
Getting the pixels perfect
I finally created a digital prototype of my design.
Quick and Personalised onboarding for catered food experiences
Context-aware home screen displaying food experiences nearby and today
Search based on location and date
Creating new memories with family-like people and friends
Play With Me!
What social impact my design would have?
I believe my design would alleviate homesickness due to missing home food in international students who move away from home. Through my application, I feel that students would be emotionally comforted by the fact that they have an opportunity to get food that tastes like home and at a close proximity. The experience of eating and sharing food with “family-like” people and friends would foster bonding and creation of new relations. Lastly, I believe that this application would pave a way to replace their old memories of eating home food with newer ones