mobile app / scrum master
OCTOBER - DECEMBER 2020
Acres is a social platform that addresses the problem that the current health food movement focuses primarily on the convenience and accessibility of fresh food in privileged communities. This accessibility is lacking in marginalized communities, which often have restricted or nonexistent access to affordable, healthy food. Acres provides a space for farmers to be visible and accessible to their local communities through access to fresh local food, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) and community food sharing spaces. If you are a farmer or food worker who would like to contribute your expertise to the design of Acres, please consider filling out our Farmer Survey!
Prototype - Click to view in Figma
MEET THE TEAM
My role in the creation of Acres began in January with preliminary research regarding attention allocation in digital spaces. This research then evolved into an ethnographic study on the representation of Black farmers in the United States focusing on digital spaces, which you can learn more about here. Then, in October, my team joined me in designing the platform within a three month time frame. My responsibilities included managing a tight schedule for the process, leading team meetings, organizing + moderating user interviews, and working with my team to ensure the app's interactivity + visual design met the needs of our target audience.
The team and I used Agile methods of
Lean UX to design the prototype for this app.
Lean UX is a fast and efficient approach to user-centered design that focuses on the needs of users by integrating their consistent feedback into a minimum viable product (MVP), which prioritizes the most important features with the least amount of effort. The team starts by declaring assumptions about user needs and constantly interrogates those assumptions through user testing and interviews in an effort to design solely for their desired outcomes.
Lean UX is comprised of sprints which are brief work cycles in which a team declares their assumptions, creates proto-personas, develops a product and sprint backlog, interviews users, and conceptualizes the design. The following sections break down this process by addressing each sprint, evaluating the outcomes of each work cycle, and considering the next steps beyond the current iteration of the prototype.
We kicked off our Lean UX journey by preparing the necessary documentation including our product problem statement, declaration of assumptions, and user testing questions. From there, we built a product backlog, sprint backlog, and proto-personas, all of which aided our design decisions and interview preparation.
In Sprint 1, we developed a level of communication and comfort that allowed for shared understanding throughout the team. There were some hang ups in the process with the delay of IRB approval, which we needed in order to interview farmers so that we could gain a clear sense of their needs. Regardless of this challenge, we managed to accomplish everything on our Sprint 1 backlog and were quite satisfied with our progress.
design week zero
We began Sprint 1 by declaring our assumptions from a business perspective of what users may be looking for out of this platform. We then created our first set of proto-personas, our initial idea of our target users based solely on our assumptions.
Proto-persona 1: Tonia the Buyer
Proto-persona 2: Dale the Grower
With a vision of our target audience, we created a product backlog that prioritized the outcomes of Tonia and Dale's experience with Acres as reflected by their needs. We broke this down into our Sprint 1 Backlog, which allowed us to prioritize those outcomes and set design goals for the first sprint.
Sprint 1 Backlog
design week one
We started the design with a low-fidelity wireframe, addressing our assumptions through the implementation of features that would help both Tonia and Dale reach their desired outcomes. Our initial priority was the user profiles, since they were declared most important on our Sprint 1 Backlog. However, we quickly realized we needed input from users in order to identify differences between the buyer and farmer experience.
In Sprint 2, we were much more comfortable with the process than in the previous sprint. The team regrouped to gain a fresh perspective of user needs so that we could complete our design with a shared understanding of the progress that needed to be made to fulfill the requirements of our Product Backlog. We revalidated our product problem, assumptions, proto-personas, backlogs, and wireframe before continuing with interviews or prototype design.
This sprint was a critical time to interview farmers for the app, but we had difficulty of finding established farmers to interview on such short notice. We also faced challenges in prototyping and maintaining consistency in collaborative design efforts. Despite these challenges, we were ultimately very pleased with the trajectory of the prototype.
design week two
We conducted four in-class interviews during Sprint 1. We split these interviews amongst design weeks one and two, with each team member moderating at least one interview. With the delay of IRB approval, we were limited to keeping our interviews between classmates, meaning that our focus was to remain with the buyer's perspective until we could get insight from real farmers.
We approached these interviews with a set of questions regarding shopping habits, local consumption experience and accessibility, social media use, and desire for interviewees to incorporate our platform into their daily lives. Most of our insight came from a card sort, in which we asked participants to sort the existing features of Acres in order of their desired outcomes with this platform. Following each interview, we completed an affinity map of our individual notes, discussed similar ideas and patterns, and identified ways to move forward with the design based on this data.
Interview II Data
design week zero
The early days of Sprint 2 were spent revalidating our problem, assumptions, proto-personas, and backlogs. This meant looking over the documentation we prepared in the previous sprint and adjusting their content based on our findings. Our product problem and assumptions remained consistent with their original drafts in Sprint 1. However, we made some slight adjustments to our proto-personas and product backlog.
We switched our "Buyer" persona to "Shopper" and our "Farmer" persona to "Grower." We felt as though these terms were more appealing to and inclusive of our user base. We also changed their pictures, ages and location to better fit the demographic of the users we spoke to in our interviews. Their needs and our solutions remained nearly the same, with the addition of a few solutions on Tonia's end that were identified in previous interviews.
Proto-persona 3: Tonia the Shopper
Proto-persona 4: Dale the Grower
Before diving back into design, we revalidated our Product Backlog from Sprint 1. Reviewing this document helped us prioritize our work in Sprint 2 with an understanding of our personas from real user feedback. Having already designed for some unexpected outcomes in Sprint 1, we reorganized Tonia and Dale's desired outcomes, leaving us with our Sprint 2 Backlog (color coded as a way to split the workload among team members).
Sprint 2 Backlog
Product Backlog Revalidation
design week one
We transitioned into the next week by revalidating our wireframe. With our new personas and Sprint 2 Backlog in hand, we edited the wireframe according to the feedback of our potential shoppers. We had a much clearer idea of what shoppers wanted out of their experience, and were even able to add features to the grower experience based on the needs of shoppers.
While it was quite the challenge to recruit growers for interviews within a few weeks notice, we had the privilege of speaking with two growers during design week one. One was an established farmer, and the other was an amateur grower who just recently leaned into his practice at the start of the coronavirus pandemic back in March. Their insight and contrasting perspectives were crucial our understanding of the grower experience. Since all of our interviews took place in the midst of this pandemic, all of our interviews were conducted virtually via Microsoft Teams, and looked a little something like this:
Interview with Jordan
Interview with Carlton
design week two
The final week of Sprint 2 was a race to the finish line. We had two final interviews, one that we considered a "stakeholder" interview, and final usability test with a user who fit the criteria of both a potential grower and shopper. The "stakeholder" was a friend who originally proposed the idea for Acres after expressing concern over the general lack of access to Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs). We wanted to test the app with her to make sure it fulfilled her vision and the needs of the agricultural community. Although these interviewees were not technically growers, we learned a lot from their feedback as they were extremely knowledgable about the needs of local community food systems.
Following these interviews, we dove head first into the design of the prototype. Although we laid the foundation for the design in Sprint 1, we made significant changes and additions to the design after talking to both shoppers and growers. We wanted the design of their experiences to be fairly consistent, while ensuring that they were tailored to their needs. Shoppers wanted a social experience that prioritized convenience, while growers wanted an educational experience that required minimal effort.
With that, we present the working prototype for Acres, the social platform meant to connect communities to their local farmers and food sharing spaces:
Despite our challenges, I am exceptionally proud of the work my team and I have accomplished thus far with Acres. Given a 3 month time-frame in the midst of a global pandemic, we tackled the rigorous demands of Lean UX. We learned a lot in regards to remote collaboration and networking, a skill that will surely benefit us in the near future.
The work does not end here. I believe that Acres has the power to make a meaningful impact, and I long to see its eventual launch on the App Store. Next steps toward this goal include continuing to network with growers and investors, marketing the platform to users, developing for launch on the App Store, and, of course, iterating the design based on user needs. This project resulted in the minimum viable product (MVP) for this platform, so there is plenty of room for Acres to grow. I am look forward to growing together.
If you are a farmer or food worker who would like to contribute your expertise to the design of Acres, please consider filling out our Farmer Survey!