product, design research, UX prototypes   |   fall 2014

A user-research and product design project, with Praew Suntiasvaraporn and Vicky Hwang.


foodr is a mobile app for communicating about grocery purchase, disposal of items in the fridge, and sharing extra food. The app allows you to snap a picture of the food item and instantly send it to either people in your contact list or people in your radius to perform any of three different activities: Keep? Buy? Share?













Problem space and initial assumptions

We identified that the problem of unconsumed food waste is very common, especially among our peers. Most households, families or college students, live at least two people, and thus fridges are usually shared. From conversations and our own experiences, it is a very typical to find unconsumed food in shared fridges that has gone bad due to negligence, and was to be thrown out. Our initial assumption for the problem was that the lack of organization in shared fridges leads to easy negligence of food. We assume that our solution will be along the lines of a fridge organization or reminder system. 

identifying stakeholders and their relationships

identifying stakeholders and their relationships

clarifying the goals of the project with a hierarchy

clarifying the goals of the project with a hierarchy

Research methods

We began our research through various methods. Aside from more traditional methods like online survey and in-depth personal interviews with both faculty members and college students, we also relied on behavioral observation and specially-designed activities to inform our research. We shadowed different groups of students after they went grocery shopping and filmed the whole process of how they unloaded groceries and reshuffled their fridges. We also printed out different fridge templates and pictures of both new and old groceries (time of purchase specified), and asked our interviewees to sort them according to how they organized food at home. We wanted to see how they made arrangements and judgement on what to keep or to throw out.

some of the interview profiles

some of the interview profiles

hands-on grocery organizing activity with different fridge templates

hands-on grocery organizing activity with different fridge templates



We were pleasantly surprised that most people actually already had some sort of a fridge organization method. What was true across different interviewees was that there was a general lack of communication regarding groceries – family members and housemates double buying the same products unknowingly, feeling reluctant to throw out or finish each other’s food without consent, and making assumptions about sharing bulk-bought food that would usually be miscommunicated. There was a general agreement that miscommunication among housemates or family members regarding buying, keeping and sharing groceries lead to overstocking and negligence of food in the fridge.



Product design and solution

Instead of a fridge organization system, the research findings led us to develop a product that facilitate communication among housemates or family members regarding groceries. We narrowed down the target audience to college students who share fridges since the context was more relatable. We proposed an idea for a mobile app, Foodr, which matches up to the fast pace of Millennials by allowing multiple functions with simple and convenient communication. The mode of operation, which is snapping photo and sending to friends with an easy swipe response, is familiar to the target users. The app addresses the primary issue of unconsumed food waste in terms of buying, keeping and sharing groceries, as well as fosters a communal element through the sharing function. 


BUY – swipe yes: food gets added to a shared grocery list among housemates; updates if anyone indicates the food item is bought
KEEP – swipe no: food gets added to a shared binning list among housemates; hovers to find how long the food item has been there; updates if anyone indicates it has been thrown out
SHARE – swipe yes to share when bulk buying; finds either housemates or strangers within your radius in the store to share; message function especially for direct communication



Learning outcome

  • Designing research methods through many iterations, in a way that would aid the design of product the best. We had to go back to previous interviewees and asked them to redo some of the activities that we refined along the way
  • Tailor-made research methods according to the problem space and being creative in the methodology design
  • Asking questions in interviews that would most benefit the design process, framing the problem space, developing assumptions and speculations to aid interviewees in providing the most informative feedbacks 
  • Being prepared for very different findings from initial assumptions before and after the research
  • Narrowing down target group, clarifying and adjusting intentions as the research reveals unexpected findings
  • Extrapolating meaning from the data collected to identify a need around which the solution/product is designed
  • Designing mobile app interfaces and user-experience flow to optimize product capability and user experience