USER EXPERIENCE DESIGN

A product information management system that is designed to improve the flow of information between vendors (farmers) and customers of the farmers market

Timeline:
3 months

Client:
Sustainable Food Center (SFC)

Course:
Human Computer Interaction

Team:
Mona Mishra(Me) - Researcher and Designer
Diana Mendoza - Researcher and Designer
Nathan Davis - Researcher

Tools:
Sketch - Designing Artboards
Invision - Prototyping
Excel - Project Management
Mural.com - Affinity Diagramming


Background

Farmers markets are faced with the challenge of serving consumers who are expecting the efficiency and consistency of a grocery store shopping experience. Due to unpredictable changes in inventory and the changing availability of vendors each week, consumers come to view farmers markets as recreational activities and consequently, vendor sales suffer. FM Connect (Farmers Market Connect) will encourage repeat business at Sustainable Food Center’s (SFC) farmers markets by improving the flow of information about vendor product offerings to consumers each week.

Several startups, for example, FarmFan, have recognized similar pain points and attempted solutions, but none of them identified the key issue that threatens the success and proliferation of farmers markets – effective relay of communication from vendors to consumers. The reason behind their failure is due to the creation of a system that places a heavy task load on busy farmers and ranchers (vendors), forcing them to manage their own communication and serve their own customer service. FM Connect uses the greatest tool at its disposal, farmers market management team that consistes of coordinators and volunteers.

The goal of FM Connect is to empower all users by improving the flow of information from vendors to consumers. Expectations about product offerings will be consistently met and consumers will feel a greater sense of control and efficiency in their shopping experience at SFC’s farmers market. This will lead to repeated business, improved vendor sales, and a sense of connection between customers and farmers.

Process

Contexual Inquiry and Analysis

Contexual Inquiry at SFC Farmers Market at Downtown


Contexual Analysis with the help of raw notes and affinity diagram


Contexual Inquiry at SFC Farmers Market at Downtown



As we wanted to interview and observe vendors and customers in the work environment, we chose to meet the SFC farmers market coordinators on a Friday to observe them on their main preparation day for the week and to gain approval to meet with vendors and customers the following day, the weekly market day.

We wanted to understand the frustrations with the current process of communication between vendors, customers and farmers market coordinators as well as collect information on their workflow.

The most challenging part of this phase was creating a method to contact customers at the market to gain their perspectives without being unobtrusive. Therefore, we came up with the solution of a dot survey, where the reward of placing stickers on a board attracted customers to answer over ten questions and made it easier for us to encourage some responders to answer additional open-ended questions.

Contexual Analysis with the help of raw notes and affinity diagram

Key Takeaways


Customers prefer asking for information in the market rather than on the website or through any other media.

For most vendors, face to face communication is their prefered mode of communication

SFC’s Farmers Market Coordinators spend most of their time communicating general information and issues to vendors in-person. They also have to constantly train information booth volunteers to relay accurate information to customers.

7

Customers

8

Vendors

2

Coordinators

Dot survey response to understand customer’s preferred avenue to recieve information on product offerings

Requirement Modelling

As we started to prioritize requirements that were gathered from the affinity diagram, our flow model started to become clear and we started to to visualize the channels of information flow along with potential barriers for different user groups. A hierarchical task inventory was an obvious next step, as it provides an opportunity to draw attention to and elucidate various user-centric perspectives.

Ideation

A user's mental model is informed by their knowledge and experience of using other websites and apps (like an ecommerce website) as well as previous experience at farmers markets. But the designer’s mental model is far more complex and has a tendency to be very different from the user’s mental model.

Thus, we created some personas and drew some storyboards to guide our ideations and sketching process. Our design had to create a seamless flow of information to the user, which can be accessed at two different touchpoints:
1. Online, through the website
2. At the market via the information booth volunteer.

USER PERSONA

Target User - Customer


STORYBOARDS

Scenario 1: New vendor onboarding process at an SFC farmers market quarterly meeting

New vendor arrives at the quaterly meeting along with the other vendors.

FM coordinator greets the vendor and guides them to the iPad station, where other vendors are inputting their product information on the system.

Another FM coordinator is at the iPad station, in case other vendors need help while filling out their information.

To onboard this new vendor, FM connect asks them to input basic information using text fields and drop down menus.

Vendor selects seasonal product offerings information and clicks submit.

On noticing that the vendors has completed the onboarding session, FM connect corrdinator welcomes them to the team.

Scenario 2: Interaction between an SFC information booth volunteer and a customer for information on product offering

Customer arrives to the busy market and is overwhelmed by the amount of activity. She notices the sandwich board pointing to the information booth.

Customer arrives at info booth and asks, ‘can you help me find radishes and collards?’

To answer customer’s question, volunteer uses FM connect on his iPad.

The volunteer uses the sort by function and chooses products. The interface sorts the list of products.

Volunteer shows the result to the customer and tells her the names of the vendors who are selling collards and radishes.

The volunteers pulls up the map on FM connect to find the locations of the vendors.

The volunteer locates the vendors on the maps and informs the customer about it.

Customer is able to locate the vendor and finds the product she is looking for.

Design

We created user task map to facilitate the creation of the wireframes in support of key tasks that we decided to test. The initial wireframe that we created was done on a whiteboard, in a similar approach to a paper prototype. This allowed for an honest discussion amongst the team, as changes were easy to make on-the-fly.




Initial Wireframes



Using these wireframes as a reference, we created our medium-fidelity wireframes on Sketch. The workflow that we adopted in the creation of each frame followed the flow of each task that we were supporting, to ensure that crucial elements, functions, and confirmation messages were not forgotten.



WIREFRAMES

FM Connect is specifically built for iPad and there supports two modes, Info Booth Volunteer and Administrator. Info nooth volunteer mode only has viewing priviledges while administrator can make changes in the database. The following image displays some of the important wireframes of FM Connect. Follow this link to invision for a detailed prototype.


HI-FIDELITY MOCKUP

WORKING PROTOTYPE

Please follow this link for the working prototype

What I learned

I learned the user centered design methodologies in detail and found it useful to refer some of those techniques in my other projects. Every step in the research process can be used to inform design decisions. This makes me wonder how sometimes UX designers work without participating the research process.

Working in a team with people from different backgrounds, created some disagreements at first, but we learned to resolve conflicts, identify each others strengths and finally, take on multiple roles like researcher, interviewer, designer and evaluator.

It was a time intensive project and I learnt a great deal from various stakeholders, my team members and some of the other designers in the class. Seeing our project evolve from a concept to a full-fledged system was a joyful experience.


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