Potlucky Mobile App — UX Case Study

This case study documents the design process and key learnings I experienced as I worked through a 3 week Project sprint to design a mobile app MVP for a client as part of The UX Design Professional Program at RED Academy.
Project Timeline | 3 weeks

The Challenge

Our client came to us with the opportunity to design the ultimate mobile potluck planning app. There are numerous event applications on the market but until now there is no dedicated app that aids the process of organizing a potluck. Our client also wanted users to be able to use Potlucky to raise money for local charities.

The Team

The Potlucky team was made up of 3 UX designers: myself, Carolos Comparan and Gwen Gong and one UI designer Rachel Heo!

Client Goals

  • A mobile App to make organizing potlucks easier and more fun
  • Ability to create private traditional potlucks and public potlucks where guests can choose to order food from local restaurants to share.
  • Ability to create fundraising potlucks with tickets that give guests the ability to raise money for charities and community projects.
  • Potential market: anyone who organizes potlucks with friends, family, and their community organizations. Specifically designed with the client’s Vancouver Changemaker community in mind as an initial early adopter and test community.
  • Way to input and manage dietary restrictions of guests

Team Goals

  • Build something that was better (both easier and more fun) than a google doc, or series of facebook messages

1.1 — Domain Research

We started by getting familiar with most common event planning applications. We took a close look at facebook & Eventbrite which we assumed, and then confirmed through research, were the most commonly used event apps for our demographic. We also kept coming back to the meeting planning web & mobile app Doodle. We imagined Potlucky, at least at the beginning, would be used in addition to a facebook or Eventbrite event. We liked Doodle so much because it doesn’t force users to download the app or make an account. After the host makes the event they can send the signup link to invitees via the app or just facebook message, email or post the links for friends to sign up. The tool adds real value to organizers without attempting to take over the event space from facebook and Eventbrite.

1.2 — Organizational Research

Our client is an avid potlucker. Although we have all gone to our fair share of potlucks our client invited us to one of the monthly potlucks he hosts with a group of business leaders in the city. We used the opportunity to conduct a contextual inquiry and observe how users interact in the natural potluck environment. We then were able to stage a few impromptu interviews to ask potluckers questions and learn more about their experience.

1.3 — User Interviews

Next we reached out to potential core users from the client’s community who host monthly potluck meetups. We also interviewed current and past avid pot luck users who who attend 5+ potlucks a year. We completed 16 interviews total. We started by asking users to tell us about a typical potluck experience for them to understand the process for organizers, guests and people with different levels of potluck or cooking experience. We dug in and asked users about feelings they might typically experience at each part of the process. We also wanted to learn about the motivations and anti-motivators for participating in a friend’s potluck.

We learned that there are a ton of human emotions tied to each aspect of the potluck process for hosts and guests, and that these are likely to be different for the same person at a different potlucks if other variables are changed. Understanding and matching expectations of the social group, or trying to accurately predict expectations are a key potluck stress factor for guests. These expectations include:

Guest Pain Point — Worrying About Matching Expectations

  • Food culture and effort expectation of the group (Are you going to show up with no-name frozen bagel-bites from No-Frills, when everyone else made free-range kale and squash artisan quiche with a home-made gluten free pie crust?)

Guest Pain Point — Prep

  • Planning and prep time was a big factor for many people. Many interviewers recounted that sometimes they would cancel last minute because the night before or day of they realized they didn’t have the time or ingredients to make the item they said they would bring.
  • Others told us about the guilt they felt when they bought pre-made salad from Whole Foods and put it in their own dish or Tupperware to make it less obvious that they had bought it on the way instead of making it themselves.
  • Others said they would sometimes cancel last minute because they didn’t have enough time to cook, and felt they needed to bring something homemade

Host Pain Point — Food Planning, Attendance,

  • Key concerns for hosts was worrying about people actually coming and bringing a reasonable mix of food instead of 6 people showing up with salads or 6 bags of Doritos
  • Managing and keeping track of who is actually coming, what everyone is bringing
  • Guests who arrive too late, after everyone has already eaten
  • Guests who cancel rather than show up with something bought

Motivation — Sharing Time Together

  • Overall, while a few people were concerned about the person who only ever brought chips, almost everyone we interviewed identified that the single most important part of a potluck was a tool to bring people together and share each other’s company. Except for a few types of potlucks, it was more important that people showed up empty handed than didn’t show up at all.

1.4 — User Persona

After interviews we identified two key user personas.

Dillon — The Avid Potlucker
The professional potlucker who hosts a few potlucks a year, loves to make complex homemade dishes from scratch but still gets stressed out once in a while when he signs up for a friends potluck and realizes that he doesn’t have enough time to make the thing he said he would bring.

Ryan —The Chip Guy
The Potluck guest who is least connected to the potluck social circle, isn’t the best cook or planner, worries about what to bring and ends up buying a veggie platter or bag of chips at the last minute or not coming at all because they feel like they can’t show up with just a veggie platter or bag of chips

2.1—Early Ideation & Real Talk

We started by white boarding and discussing key ideas and solutions that might solve our users needs and also enhance the overall experience of planning a potluck with fun and delight. A glaring real talk moment we identified right off the bat was making sure our potluck app was in some way or another a ‘better’ overall experience than planning a potluck on a spreadsheet or group chat and note. We agreed that in order to choose to download potlucky over using a spreadsheet or other simple tool meant it needed to be either easier or significantly more fun, and ideally both.

2.1 — Scope

As the ideas began to flow we quickly identified the potential creeping scope of this project. There were a lot of really good ideas and the fact that the four of us really believed in this app kept us motivated to achieve them all. Time however we realized, would not be as flexible as we were.

Basic Potluck
There was the core potluck app MVP which would allow users to setup a potluck, plan out the number guests, plan out the ideal quantity of each type of dish, invite guests, allow guests to confirm their attendance and signup for a dish. This we felt would definitely be accomplishable.

Fundraising Potlucks & Public Order In Potlucks
Then however we remembered that the ability to create fundraising potlucks, where hosts can use the app to raise money was a core client goal on the brief. This feature would massively increase the scope of the project as we would need to account for restaurants, restaurant food options, prices, guest payment, and guest donations options. We would also need to spend time exploring the experience of paying for a potluck and also contributing food which we flagged immediately as feeling like paying twice. This challenge would take time, a few good ideas and some testing.

Dietary Restrictions
As we began to imagine out how dietary restrictions could be implemented and accounted for. We identified it would definitely be possible but quickly realized it would significantly increase the complexity of the application.

In the interest of time we decided to first prioritize completing an app that would support the basic potluck user task, then if there was enough time we would tackle fundraising and order in potlucks. We made the decision to remove dietary restrictions from scope for the initial MVP we were developing.

2.2 — Featuring Prioritization

We used a customized feature prioritization chart to scope down the project and discuss which features would make it on to the MVP. We separated the regular Must Have, Nice to Have, Not Have chat into two sections. One for standard event features we would likely need to use, a second for features that were specific to planning potlucks. In the interest of wanting to just contribute something new and unique to the world (not just another generic event app) we prioritized all significant Potluck planning features in the MVP.

2.3 —User Flows

Next we white boarded out the user flow for each of the following tasks to begin prepping for Design Studio style rapid paper prototyping.

  • Create Regular Potluck
  • Create Charity Potluck
  • Potluck Attendee food signup (in App)
  • Potluck Attendee food signup (web link)

3.1 — Paper Prototyping

We used quick and dirty paper prototypes and the Design Studio process to rapidly work through potential wireframe layouts and converge on the best strategy.

During the prototyping we identified the following additional design needs

  • Need to Host needs to know approximately how many guests will attend to plan out the quantity of each dish category
  • Confirmation screen should be moved to right after event info otherwise testers were confused about what they were confirming or wondering or felt like they had already moved on from this
  • We moved the potluck specific features to the beginning, in-order for the app to stand out from other event apps, hook users by first adding the easy information, front loading the most fun and interesting screens.
  • Need to add tutorial screens

3.2— Mid-Fidelity Wireframes

Next we moved our tested paper prototypes to digital and began designing out mid fidelity wireframes for the entire App.

3.3 — High-Fidelity Wireframes

Lastly incorporating UI elements, colour and linking the screens together in InVision to prep the app for further testing and handoff to the dev team.

1 Types of Potlucks — After first prioritizing and completing the complete screen set for the the regular potluck user flow we moved on to the next challenge, creating a ‘fundraising potluck’. The ‘Fundraising Potluck’ route allows hosts to charge a ticket price, in order to raise money for their charity. This was a key client goal for the project. However during testing and interviewing we confirmed our assumption that people didn’t love the idea of paying for a ticket and also contributing food. They said ‘it felt weird’. We created the ‘Order In’ Potluck to navigate this. Instead of bringing food and money, guests contribute only money. The host sets a single minimum ticket price which covers both: the cost of pre-selected dishes from a take-away restaurant and a built-in donation to the charity. Guests pay a single ticket price but still maintain the crucial potluck experience feeling of ownership and contributing to the group by choosing which dish they want to provide on their behalf. In order to make the app viable immediately, when the final list of orders is complete, the host calls the restaurant manually to place the single large order from the map for pickup.

2 Potluckers Delighter — We identified that making the app fun, and cute would help make it worthwhile compared to a google spreadsheet. Cute illustrated figures appear accompanied by a popping sound as users tap to add the number of potential guests.

3 Scaling — Potluckers Delighter — Users can also tap into the sunken form to add the total manually via the number pad.

4 Potluck Planning — The host taps, flicks or drag and drops the contributions icons to outline the ideal quantity of each type of contribution. A major pain point we identified in research was that potlucks often ended up with all salads, or all deserts or too many of the same dish. An open slot, first come-first served signup model solves this challenge. The host outlines how many appetizer and salad slots are available. Guests sign up to fill each one writing in the name of the dish, so others can see someone is already bringing potato salad, but nobody has signed up for dessert yet.

5a Alternative Contributions (Chip in) — The most common barrier to attending, that we identified in research was guests who felt they didn’t have the time or know-how to contribute something meaningful and would therefore not attend at all. The Chip In feature allows the host to afford guests the option of contributing cash to the host instead of a meal. In our research our avid potlucker hosts explained that getting together is primary and the food is secondary. They would way rather have their friends attend and contribute money so the host or another avid baker can whip up an extra meal or dessert than not have their friend attend at all.

5b Alternative Contributions (Talent) — Another fun feature we added, as a result of our research was the idea of allowing guests to contribute something other than or in addition to food. Such as non-food related talents like offering to take photos of the party or performing music at the event.

5c Alternative Contributions (Other) — In addition to traditional talents we imagined that guests could make other meaningful non-food contributions to the party such as offering to bring wood and organizing a campfire or decorating the venue and table settings.

6 Restaurant Dish Options — As part of the ‘Order In’ Potluck route, guests select from pre-approved restaurants and dishes to contribute covered by the single ticket price.

7 Potluck Info Page & Theme — The host inputs the basic event info for the party. We also decided to include field option for potluck theme. We wanted to cue the idea of choosing a potential theme, making the event more fun or in the simplest cueing the response “cozy night in” vs “fancy girls night” which would also better communicate expectations to guests, removing further barriers and anxiety around what to expect and what to wear.

8 Host Dashboard — In the host dashboard, the host can edit event info, see how many contribution slots are left, see confirmed guests and use this info to help make adjustments to ensure an awesome potluck.

SUMMARY ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

4 .1— User Goals Accomplished

  • A mobile App to make organizing Potluck’s easier and more fun
  • Ability to create private traditional potlucks and public potlucks where guests can choose to order food from local restaurants to share.
  • Ability to create fundraising potlucks with tickets that give guests the ability to raise money for charities and community projects.
  • Way to input and manage dietary restrictions of guests (Out of Scope)

4 .2 — Outcome

  • Potlucky App was chosen by the instructor panel as the best app from the cohort to move on to app development with the developer team.
  • Potlucky App was chosen to be showcased at the Red Academy promotional event.

4 .3 — Live Prototype

Click here to view the project `p3_potlucky_handOff`

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