Designing a food tracking app that improves the recruitment and data collection experience for nutrition researchers
Kiwis are becoming more aware of how food choices impact their health. Studies show that people keeping a food diary dramatically increases the success rate of meeting their health goals.
Our client, a medical PhD student, tasked our team with designing an app Kai, an easy-to-use food tracking app with a New Zealand food database.
The usual UX process starts from discovering and defining the problem, but since this project was grounded on the client's research insights, it was critical to check whether his research and insight was solid to proceed with our project further.
It was a two-and-a-half-month project; we planned to create a food tracking conceptual app with the following core functionality.
Scanning: AI meal and Barcode (with a camera)
Manual input ability
Ability to view a log dashboard (e.g. See macro ratios)
This project was three-person group work. We all worked closely, supporting one another, so we were more flexible in our role in achieving this project to be successful.
My focus area was user interviews to understand users' needs and mobile UI design to meet the standard spec for the mobile environment and aesthetic MVP-level prototype design.
Desk generative research
To understand food tracking app trends, we researched apps that had a similar concept to what we would build. We downloaded competitor apps and tried them out, including reading user reviews of them on the App Store to help interpret their advantages and pain points.
We also explored what food tracking apps were available that used an AI meal scanning feature, as this was a key feature of the KAI app, meaning these apps would be our most similar competitors.
Analysis of client’s research
The client's research examines how users use a photo food diary to track their food intake more accurately and efficiently. His quantitative and qualitative research determined whether text prompts improved under-reporting by reminding participants to track their food intake using a photo diary app.
Based on participant feedback, the ideal product should:
Take minimal time and effort to log an entry
Be able to log food retrospectively (to account for forgetfulness and flexibility)
Needs an extensive and accurate database of foods and serving amounts.
User Flow and low-fidelity wireframe
We mapped out potential wireframes, and user flows based on the result of the 5-hour workshop with the client. We considered all possible situations where users may take different routes to complete tasks. We outlined what we expected to see for each step using user flow, putting an anchor to the AI camera.
Usability testing and re-evaluating user targets
We conducted usability testing to learn their response to our prototype and get to know improvement points. We asked before and after food app-related questions to better understand users' behaviour. We gained great insights and perspectives from usability testing our client didn't cover.
The desk research and usability testings revealed that the market was already saturated with food tracking apps, and users didn't trust AI camera scanning. We had a deep conversation with our client regarding the outcomes.
The conversation included:
Delve deeper into the purpose of this app
Inform the functionality priorities for this app
Inform the target audience of the app
Re-defining targets and additional research
Our client agreed that this app wouldn't satisfy all audiences, we adjusted our project scope and objectives. We ended up changing the direction of our project, which is for researchers that need nutrition data in New Zealand to make it easier to get more participants. Also, we still keep the original AI camera feature for tracking food easily.
“As a health-conscious Kiwi, I want to be able to log what I eat and see how I am tracking.”
Users have the flexibility to log foods via the method they prefer (barcode scanning, meal scanning or searching through a database).
“As a nutrition researcher, I want to be able to easily recruit participants for my study.”
Users can view and register their interest in research studies by completing a simple in-app screening questionnaire.
Due to the shift in focus of our app concept, we needed to learn more about how researchers conduct their research to ensure that our new concept included the features and functionality necessary to recruit participants.
We interviewed researchers about their recruitment experiences and listened to people who tracked their food before. We created user flows based on these insights, hypothesising how users might move through our app to achieve tasks.
What we learnt
Users like having freedom and control over how they log their food entries
Research study information needs to be straightforward to read
App tasks (e.g. logging food or signing up for a research study) needs to be low effort for users
Users need to know what happens to their data and give consent on how it will be used
Usability testing with high-fidelity prototype
For our second round of usability testing, we focused on testing the research part of the app. We built a high-fidelity prototype to test how users interact with the research participant recruitment sections of the app.
Conducting usability tests with specific research scenarios and instructions informed us whether the flows were clear to users and if there were opportunities for improvement.
Branding identity workshop
Aside from creating the high-fidelity prototype, we ran a brand identity workshop with our client to establish the app's visual identity, such as colours, voice and tone.
We had four activities to help us:
Activity 1: What does our product seem like? Describe as Adjectives, then narrow them down to your top three to five. Think about why you choose these words and how they relate to your brand's values.
Activity 2: Our brand's personality spectrum
Activity 3: Based on all our activities so far, what colour and theme of our brand do you think shows?
Activity 4: If you tell our brand to future investors in one sentence, what would you say?
MVP level UI design
Our final product caters for two distinct user needs. Kiwis who want a simple, easy-to-use app that helps them track their food accurately whilst having the option of sharing their diet data with researchers. Researchers who want to promote their research studies through the app recruit participants.
Scan the QR code to check the Kai demo in Figma