Case Study - Prep'd App
Written by Dawn Mulloy
Re-Kindling The Normalcy of a Family Meal
On average, a busy American family dedicates 70+ hours a week to work, school, and extra-curricular activities. Dedicating this amount of time makes it difficult for these families to enjoy home-cooked meals together. I wanted to find a way to make meal-prepping easier for the average family. This is where the Prep’d meal-prepping app comes into play.
Prep’d is not only an app, but a tool to help these busy families lift some stress out of their lives by honing in on their planning and time management skills. With this app, the chaos of a typical work week can be calmed down by giving these busy individuals a way to organize their time in a much more useful way. Prep’d makes meal planning simple by helping its users find the time and resources they need to meal prep for their busy weeks.
My Role in All of This
For this project, I started from the problem space - “How might I help busy individuals plan out their meals?” - and performed all the steps of an ideal UX/UI process up to the final design and testing with real users. Overall, I became the UX researcher, the design strategist, the developer of the brand and its identity, the usability tester, and the prototype designer for Prep’d.
To start this project, I went ahead and researched my topic to find the who, what and why. I researched who really is struggling to keep family meals on the table. Through this research, it was revealed to me that the people who struggle most are those families that consist of full-time employed parents and a couple of kids who are either in daycare or school five days a week. Basically, the “who” for my project was a busy parent that not only wants healthy meals for their kids, but they want to enjoy those healthy meals with their kids. The “what” was really very simple, lack of time. Families are stretching themselves thin to make ends meet, and the reason they are doing this is basically because they have no other choice. Most people need to work full-time just to pay the bills and keep up with the ever-growing cost of living in the United States.
With this research in mind, I needed to find real-world people to interview face-to-face. The people I collaborated with were amazing individuals who dedicated some of their time to help me work out the kinks in my idea for this project. They helped me develop early insights through user interviews. To begin this process, I created a screener survey for potential interviewees to fill out. Once I got some feedback from those surveys, I had a group of individuals who were happy to participate in user interviews. These people were all similar to each other by means of working 35+ hours each week, but they were different in family sizes, type of work schedules, and attitudes towards meal-prepping. These interviews allowed me to form empathy maps and a persona for the Prep’d app’s potential users. The data from my survey of multiple people ultimately pointed at similar pain points and needs, so I created a single qualitative persona.
Insights and Key Findings
After doing the research and conducting the initial user interviews, I ultimately learned what my solution should focus on; simplicity, health, time management, budgets, and providing a variety of recipes. These people are tired and would love to have home-cooked meals, but they all agreed that they would benefit from a simple, usable, meal-prepping app. An app goes hand-in-hand with convenience, simplicity and always being connected. It doesn’t get much simpler than being able to rely on something that is most likely always in your pocket. This is why I decided to create an app rather than a cookbook or a webpage.
Now that I knew what my app should focus on, I was able to decide on the solution to this problem I discovered. In order to help busy families enjoy home-cooked meals on a weekly basis, I needed to create an app that focused on helping them manage their time in a way that allowed them to prep all their meals, once a week, using the free time they do have. The Prep’d app came to life through sketches and ideations such as making the app familiar, learnable, and pleasing to use. I decided to use apps like Spotify and Pinterest as inspiration for the app. These apps are platforms that the user target probably already uses, so creating a pattern similar to these would reduce the learning curve and stress of using a completely new app platform.
These sketches helped me form a user flow that brought the user through the initial registration process of the app, helped them create a profile, and let them search for recipes they would like to prep.
From there, I designed a wireflow. This is the result of creating wireframes from my sketches and connecting them all into one large wireflow.
Once the wireflow was created, I needed to create the brand identity for Prep’d. To do this, I created a style guide that helped me plan out the look and feel of the app. I wanted the brand to convey a sense of sincerity, trust, and a carefree attitude. The goal of this platform is to help busy people find time to relax with their families, so I stuck to visuals and colors that felt calming and organized.
And finally, once the style guide was squared away, I was able to design high-fidelity screens and a working prototype.
Once I finished designing the high-fidelity screens, it was time to animate and create a working prototype to showcase for user testing. The first round of user testing resulted in many edits being made, which was expected. The main findings that came from the first round of user testing showed me that I needed to be more aware of where each element of the screen was bringing the users. For example, a few people pointed out that there was no way to add a specific recipe to a specific meal. They could add the recipe to a “foodlist” but they couldn’t specify that it was a breakfast recipe. So, for the next round of testing, I made sure to create a screen that allowed the user to pick which meal they wanted the recipe for and I also added a way to add that meal to a day of the week. This showed the users that the app would in fact help them plan their weekly meals in detail to not only the time of day but also to a specific day of the week. Upon re-testing, there was positive feedback on attention to detail in this particular screen flow. There were other scenarios that played out similar to this where I ended up creating more screens to make a certain task flow smoother. The testing process showed me how necessary it is to get many eyes on one product because other people will always catch something the designer either overlooked or didn’t think of in the first place.
Overall, the biggest challenge I faced was making something simple out of an idea that is actually quite complex. The people I talked to were very helpful and demanded quite a lot out of this app. I decided to focus on the main screens for my prototype, and that helped me focus on making the user flow learnable upon first use. This was the first prototype I ever made in Figma, so the learning curve of a new program was also a challenge I had to overcome. Upon usability testing, I lost count of the number of times I refreshed the prototype to fix a link error or spacing issue. On the UX side of things, I found the recruitment of users for interviews and usability tests to be very challenging. I had a few no-shows, some lack of interest, and a couple knit-pickers, but in the end, I respected the process and learned a lot.
What I Learned
The main thing I learned from this project was how complex UX/UI assignments are. I had no idea so many layers of work went into creating a new product. There is a newfound admiration that I have found for this process and I know it is something I want to try to master. The UX/UI process is comparable to a puzzle with many pieces and it was my job to put all those pieces together. For this particular project, I learned that there really are a lot of people out there that stretch themselves so thin during the workweek that they don’t even want to think about the food they will eat. This discovery was upsetting to me and I was happy to try to create something that could maybe help these people out in a small but impactful way. Among all of this, I also learned that my project would still have a long way to go from where my prototype ended up. From this capstone, I came to the epiphany that no product is ever finished and polished 100%, there is always something that can be added to make it better. And this is a challenge that I will always be happy to tackle.