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I was lucky enough to be introduced to human-centered design and design thinking at a young age by a teacher who passionate about the field. She taught me that HCD and DT are toolkits and muscles that need to be exercised and stretched. I try and frame all my thinking from that perspective, whether I'm working on a design project or on my own. Below is an example of my general process. I'm still learning, and this example doesn't hit every step of the human-centered design process. But, in my opinion, as the name itself explains, if you're focusing on users, you're on the right track!
Yale Menus, now used by over 2000 students, started with a simple insight:
students need a better way to know where to eat
Yale has 14 dining halls across downtown New Haven, and menu offerings are not all the same. Students wanted to plan their days with the knowledge of where they were going to eat. This was especially important for students with dietary restrictions.
Yale had built a dining app years before to show current dining hall options that students could use. The app was old, slow, and riddled with obvious bugs. But we wanted to understand where the precise pain points were, how the app was working well, and how a redesign could best address students' needs.
How to get to "How Might We..."?
... with user interviews, of course!
Hover to see the new Yale Menus
With donuts, pen, and paper, I interviewed a diverse set of students to try and understand the central need students faced!
pain points with the current app
A non-intuitive interface and a slow, old feel that was unpleasant to work with.
Poor architecture that prioritized information that was unnecessary the vast majority of the time.
No ability to filter out food with allergens or view nutrition facts in a consistent, comprehensible way.
wants and needs
"see closing times"
"fast and easy menu viewing"
"see future meals"
"like and dislike buttons"
"meet friends at lunch"
"how might we help Yale students quickly understand the state of dining halls on campus and provide relevant meal information, so as to better assist students making quick decisions between classes and deciding where to meet friends.
In every project, there are learnings. I learned many things designing Yale Menus, notability, always make sure to take your notebook home with you over spring break, you never know when a global pandemic will prevent you from returning to your dorm! Or better yet, digitize everything! Based on our original conversations with students on campus, we spent hours building off of each others' ideas based on their needs. All of those ideas were stored in a notebook which was vital when later prototyping and designing the app. That notebook was lost in the Spring 2020 move-out when Yale cleared out our dorms.
One of the benefits of living on a campus is a steady supply of volunteers to test prototypes. Each element of the app was discussed with users and tested and refined throughout the building process. Here is an early version with circles representing dining hall occupancy.
By far our most popular feature is the allergy filters. Students can now have items containing their allergen, intolerance, or other item group grayed out. After testing both removal and graying out, we found people preferred to know it was there in case of a mild allergy or intolerance.
As we iterated, we found our original choice of popups to display nutritional information slowed students down. When prototyping with an accordion style, we found students quickly scanned and, satisfied, moved on.
Many features in the original app did not make it far into the prototyping process. Students consistently expressed a lack of interest in a map. After their first few weeks on campus, they know where all the dining halls are. Furthermore, dining halls can easily be found on Google Maps.
Yale Menus is always a work in progress. One of the perks of having the app in use everyday is that we can see what features are being used and which aren't. While many students wanted to express their opinion of the food, we found many students were unaware of the feature in the app. We're working on that now!
and the work goes on! look for new updates in the app store!
The Yale Dining app is property of Yale University. Yale Menus is not associated with the university and is made by myself and other students.
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