Case Study: Wicked problem, food sustainability.

Photo by Arnaldo Aldana on Unsplash

First things first, what is a wicked problem? The best definition I could find (thanks wikipedia) says:

a problem whose social complexity means that it has no determinable stopping point. Moreover, because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems.

A wicked problem was exactly the perfect point to start my first UX/UI Project and in this case study I’ll guide you through the processes that me and my group followed, our decision making and finally our final prototype. I would like to thank Meera Prakash and Mayolandasocasromero for the partnership on this intense 4 days sprint, you rock girls!

The project

Our project briefing brought us the food sustainability problem. With the rise of food consciousness on the last decades the role that each one of us plays on the food chain has spring up in importance, and the access to organic and local produced food questioned. So how might help communities to access local, season organic production, fueling fair trade and food responsibility?

The double diamond process (discover, define, develop, deliver)

personal sketch

Design Think would guide us, so we started the process from the first half from to first diamond (discover). Empathizing with our customers, to kick off our understanding of the current user behaviour.

The Lean Survey canvas helped us to set out our questions and put together our first ever survey. Which was answered by 21 persons and brought the first glimpse of data on what our users were looking for.

Lean Survey Canvas

From the first piece of data generated by our survey we made some assumptions, that would be validated with the upcoming interviews.

  1. Users are looking for convenience
  2. Users living on big cities buy more from supermarkets
  3. Supermarket is cheaper in comparison with local farmers markets

We structured and interview process and interviewed 5 focal users that had responded our survey. Our assumptions became:

  1. Users are looking for convenience √
  2. Users living on big cities buy more from supermarkets √
  3. S̶u̶p̶e̶r̶m̶a̶r̶k̶e̶t̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶c̶h̶e̶a̶p̶e̶r̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶c̶o̶m̶p̶a̶r̶i̶s̶o̶n̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶l̶o̶c̶a̶l̶ ̶f̶a̶r̶m̶e̶r̶s̶ ̶m̶a̶r̶k̶e̶t̶s̶

We noticed that price, despite important for the users, were not a key factor when deciding where to buy their fresh goods.

The next step on our journey to put some light on our problem was the Affinity Diagram. Here we started to organise our discoveries and transition to the second half of the first diamond (define).

Affinity Diagram

Narrowing down the informations, we stated our How Might We’s:

  1. How might we get the the farmer market closer (more convenient) to the customers?
  2. How might we guide the user to meet how to use seasonal products and which are those?
  3. How might we help the user to find local farmers market?

And then, the Empathy Map made its debut on the definition phase of the problem. It helped us to define the users pain points and goals, leaving us with clear informations to take the next step.

Empathy Map

Henceforward we started to define our user to understand its journey, we created our primary user persona, the user journey map and user storyboard.

Anna Smith, our primary persona

Here we created a deep understanding on what the user are really looking forward to have on its routine and how our possible solution could help on the pain points of the journey.

Journey Map

From all the insights we got during these processes we were able to state our problem:

Fresh to home was designed to achieve convenience. We have observed that the service/product is not meeting near and easy shopping and variety on products which is causing customers to leave bad feedback and not shop on our business. How might we improve Fresh to home so that our customers are more successful based on customer feedback and sales metrics?

and the hypothesis on the solution:

  1. “We believe delivering farmers products for customers will solve the convenience problem. We will know we are right with customers feedbacks and level of customer sales”
  2. “We believe that building an online marketplace for farm and local shops will achieve more sales. We will know we are right with an increase of the sales metrics”
  3. “We believe that creating a culinary app with seasonal food information for people who want to eat better food, with good prices all the year will achieve new knowledge about the seasonal food and where to find it. We will know we are right with quantitative feedback about how much more people buy now on the farmers market.”

It was time to start ideating and divergent thinking was our guide here. Looking for quantity we set 5 minutes to come with as many ideas as possible, dot voting our favorites later on:

Ideation and dot voting

The Solution

Following the process, we arrived on the develop phase and decided to go for an online marketplace with delivery service. The general idea was to have a local warehouse were the farmers could delivery their fresh goods that would be sold at the online marketplace and delivered 24 hours a day. And through rapid prototyping we developed our app.

Lo-fi prototype

The task we set for our users was to put an onion on the shopping bag and finish the buying. The flow started at a main page, following to the food section, product search, shopping cart, delivery options and finally payment.

Using Maze to test the prototype we had a total bounce of 33% and a success rate of 67%.

Next Steps

Our next steps regarding Fresh to Home development would be:

  • Use Figma to create a lo-fi prototype and test it again to gather more user insights.
  • To add new features on the app as: food blog with seasonal food information and tips, interactive map on the current local farmers market times and places for those who want to shop in person.

Key Learnings

  • Fall in love with the problem and not with the solution is harder than it sounds and you have always to remind yourself about it.
  • Use Figma even for lo-fi prototyping (Fisamiq is a great resource and we didn’t used)
  • Do your research well and always remember that you are not the user.
  • Don’t focus on everything, state your problem clearly and look for the solution. You can’t solve all the problems at once.
  • Trying to solve a design problem with a remote team works and is amazing the amount of things we can achieve!



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Manu Melo

Manu Melo

Brazilian born and UK based problem solver becoming a UX/UI Designer at @ironahck