Helping people transition to a vegan diet easily.
This case study was part of my graduate school capstone project from 2020.
In 2019, the world watched as thousands of fires burned in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. For the first time, the nation accepted the truth that meat consumption is one of the factors responsible for the increase in deforestation of the Amazon. Because the demand for beef has grown in the last decades worldwide, Brazilian farmers have set fires to clear the forest, making more space for cattle in recent years.
Since then, more people have shown interest in taking action to save the environment, and the first viable step is reducing meat consumption. But how can one change a habit without making a big commitment? Where can they find resources about veganism?
Lead UX Designer
FINDING OPPORTUNITIES AND PAIN POINTS
As reported in 2018, 70% of the world population is reducing meat consumption. The shift toward plant-based meals is being driven by millennials, who are most likely to consider the food source, animal welfare, and environmental impacts when making food consumption decisions. To understand the habit shift, I interviewed 7 individuals between 21–35 years that either have changed to a vegan diet in the last 6 months or are considering adopting a meat-free lifestyle.
“I’d like to know how much time I spend cooking meals because it forces a reflection on what I feel about cooking. I’d like to better understand food/health ratio and also more information on issues related to affordable veganism.”
Participants use food apps for different reasons, but an app isn’t a central part to maintain a plant-based diet. Most users find information on social media (Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube) or Google. They also don’t enjoy spending too much time on complicated recipes. Participants said that they enjoy vegan recipes that are healthy but also easy to make.
The ideal plant-based food app would have a robust database to reduce the user’s effort in finding recipes and have a reliable calorie tracking feature.
“I like practicality in finding recipes for everyday life; possibility to use it anywhere (I don’t always prepare my meals in my kitchen, sometimes I cook at friends, family or Airbnb when I travel); ease of saving the content I already tested and liked.”
Problem statement: How can one easily find plant-based recipes, search for information about veganism, and come up with a stress-free transition plan?
WHAT THEY GO THROUGH: USER JOURNEY MAP
Once I understood how users feel about adopting a vegan diet and the pain points of using technology to help with recipes, I created a journey map to represent what they go through:
Overall customer experience: There are too many resources online but not a centralized place to check information about a plant-based diet, recipes, and overall vegan content. Users hate spending too much time cooking complicated recipes.
Solution statement: For people shifting to a plant-based diet and looking for a realistic transition plan, the ideal food app will create a holistic space that combines easy recipes, nutrition facts, and guides for a vegan lifestyle.
WHAT ARE OTHER APPS DOING?
At this point, I was aware of the many resources out there. With a competitive teardown, my goal was to understand the common themes, the core features, the primary users and what is working. I chose Tasty, 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, and Yummly as direct competitors of my potential app, and Pinterest as being more abstractly related.
The common elements on Tasty, 21-Day Vegan, Yummly, and Pinterest are the visible features to save recipes and curated content, high-quality images, and consistent call-to-action.
Those elements aim to save time for users so they can quickly navigate through different recipes without paying too much attention to ingredients and cooking time at first.
The major themes I considered emulating were feature icons, nutrition values, quick instructional videos, and shopping lists based on saved recipes.
The first step to start designing digital solutions was to create a flowchart to identify all of the different steps users might take to achieve the main goals. Using the key finding from the competitive teardown with Tasty and Pinterest, I came up with this:
The flowchart opened new opportunities for sketches and wireframes. I mapped out core screens and explored divergent thinking of the core screens and functionalities, focusing on the transition plan created for the user, but the ease of navigation to search for other recipes — not necessarily plant-based.
Then I moved on to the wireframes. Initially, I listed out the needs for each page and the elements needed to accomplish the main goals — review the transition plan and search recipes. The different versions considered information architecture, UI and navigation, and they allowed me to test the content, interaction, and design of each element on the screen.
I conducted a demo where users explained the purpose of functional elements. The feedback was critical to determine whether my app was intuitive and easy to use.
USABILITY TESTING AND FUTURE ITERATIONS
Casual Vegan was designed with the goal to make the transition to a plant-based diet stress-free, without strong commitments and appealing to all demographics. Each user has their own time to change a habit, so the first version of the app focuses on providing a plan, but also giving the user the ability to edit the plan the way they want, and search for any other recipes they would like. Here are some key findings during the usability test:
Users found it easy to set up a profile and start a transition plan from the home screen; however, one user said that they “didn’t want to commit to anything” as the only way to set up an account was from the Start a Plan button.
The My Plan feature is intuitive, but users were more curious about thePopular Recipes suggestions.
When asked to search for a recipe, users preferred My Favorite Recipes feature instead of the Search.
All users dismissed My List.
The app is also ingrained in activism — becoming vegan should be affordable and accessible for all, so the idea behind My Guides was to create a place for resources related to the political side of veganism. For the next iterations, I want to a) design and improve My Guides feature to include user generated content, b) rethink the My List feature and its purpose, and research how users engage with online groceries lists and c) rethink the entry point on the app by testing different versions with sign up and login buttons.
"The app has great potential and I really want to see what I can do in the Guides section. I liked the tracking and the many options to find recipes."
I learned that what is important in a food app is to get to the recipe fast — everything else must stay out of the way. The concept of having everything about cooking in one app was really appealing to users, and I'm excited to explore other designs based on the observations.