Climate change. Carbon footprint. Susainability. These are just a few of the terms that our society is getting very familiar with and rightly so. We (at least most of us) truly care about this daunting and extremely consequential topic and genuinely want to DO something to help. But as individuals, we’re sometimes finding ourselves at odds with what we value and what is convenient and accessible in our day-to-day-- a prime example being ordering takeout meals; or I should more accurately say, the containers they come in.
During COVID-19, the world was in lockdown and the consumption of takeout food increased along with the environmental impact from packaging waste alone. Optimistically, there are plenty of startups being conceived who are attempting to grapple with this issue in innovative ways; one being returnable, reusable takeout containers. Amazing! But there’s just one problem: returning them tends to be inconvenient and a nuisance.
So, I began to do my own grappling...
This all started from a hackathon in early 2021 that my team and I decided to participate in together. The prompt we chose was to create a mobile app for local restaurant takeout and we decided to add a sustainability feature for opting into reusable containers to our concept. Through the hackathon experience, we unanimously felt that our team dynamic was strong and that we harmonized well together as designers-- we also discovered that we each were passionate about solving the particular sustainability problem that addresses the short lifecycle around disposables. So, a few days after the hackathon was over, one of us discovered Dispatch Goods-- a startup located in the Bay Area that provides consumers and restaurants with returnable, reusable packaging for takeout and meal delivery.
Excited by the discovery, we further learned that Dispatch Goods didn’t have a mobile app (at least at the time); this led us to designing an iOS proof of concept for an end-to-end mobile app.
As a team, we started off by digging into industry standards with secondary research and looked into competitors and the market by conducting a SWOT analysis. The most pivotal piece of data that we found:
We then conducted a survey on the topic of returnable takeout containers-- based on their interest in the concept, we recruited a total of 10 participants for 1:1 user interviews; we wanted to learn people's attitudes towards the concept of reusable containers and understand what will motivate users to use the mobile app. We identified the top priorities for our participants:
This is where we began to pinpoint these major challenges surrounding the concept:
Some intense affinity mapping ensued in FigJam on user behaviors about ordering food online and practicing sustainability:
After synthesizing our findings, we made sense of the data and identified our target users broken down into
2 archetypes with corresponding personas-- these were primarily based on the topic of sustainability:
After a few rounds of crazy 8 sketches and developing a prioritization matrix, we began to get more clarity on what our solution consisted of but things weren’t quite fleshed out yet.
We then further clarified what our MVP would consist of as a proof of concept by creating a hybrid journey map + user flow to better empathize with our users.
As we moved further along, we made the decision to conduct some rapid testing in order to prioritize the function and flow of our MVP before diving into styling. Using the advice, “Test early, test often” to the best of our timeframe, I led our team into our first usability test:
When ideating on our flows for scheduling a pick-up and checking rewards, we realized that the steps were familiar to flows on other apps out in the wild. Take ordering items on Amazon for instance: you will most likely add your personal info and specify where you’d like the package to be. Or when scheduling a dinner reservation, you’d most likely select a date/time. On apps that have reward programs or track your points, you may have seen dashboards where you can view your progress or redeem rewards.
But when ideating the drop-off flow, the team and I had encountered more nuances and questions for what the steps should be. Despite some of the drop-off screens using steps with familiar design patterns, we realized that the concept for dropping something off wasn’t as common.
With this in mind, we decided to test our drop-off flow’s low-fi wireframes early on to evaluate whether or not the flow was intuitive. These were the top insights I wanted to carry over into our design opportunities:
Now, for the fun part: developing Dispatch Goods’ brand identity to bring our MVP to life. This is where I led my team as the Visual/UI Design Lead for styling our screens.
Taking our low-fi usability findings, I led my team into more iterations-- at this point, we were ready to start expanding the design of our flows. We previously found inspiration in many places: from industry leading food-ordering apps (i.e. DoorDash, Yelp), habit-tracking apps, credit card apps, fitness apps, and more. Gathering screenshots and discussing these ideas early on helped us to integrate familiar design patterns into our wireframes to keep our screens as intuitive as possible.
Heavily focused on testing our proof of concept in its entirety, we decided to conduct another usability test using our
mid-fi wireframes in greyscale; this allowed us to test our product’s usability without too much influence from our styling. Recruiting both Eco Novices and Eco Advocates, we were able to refine our MVP using the interview takeaways.
Designed with Eco Novices in mind, all Dispatch Goods’ users can easily pick up the app and start implementing sustainable habits conveniently and efficiently.