This is the first project I completed for General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive course.

The purpose of this project is to familiarize my cohort with fundamental techniques and tools that result in effective UX design:

  • Rapid prototyping
  • User interviews
  • Problem statement definition
  • Ideation

  • Iterative design
  • Critique and soliciting feedback
  • User testing
  • Presentation skills

To accomplish these learning outcomes, we partnered with a classmate and we each presented a problem that we would like to have a mobile app that would address.

My partner, Byron, told me he wants to learn how to cook. In the slide above I share some of the information he shared with me about his difficulties in the kitchen.

Through my years of PhD training related to habituation I know that folks typically can acquire habits through the daily practice of an activity.

Byron had also told me that he prefers to learn new skills by practicing them, “I learn by doing,” he reported.

Over the next two days I refined my interview questions, going from broad questions about his relationship with cooking to more specific questions about his mobile app use. Through the interview process I learned that Byron uses two apps daily: Clash of Clans and Spotify.

Spotify … enables me to explore new music and also have the music I love. I just naturally discover as I go.

I also learned that Byron has been playing Clash of Clans for several years. He explained that he has the option of paying with real money for the development of fortifications and better elements. He prefers to save his money and instead pay for those elements by investing his time into acquiring resources of several weeks.

Furthermore, in our interview, Byron also explained that he doesn’t mind waiting this long because he understands that there is a payoff over the longterm. I interpreted Byron’s description of his behavior to mean that he is willing to do tedious tasks, every day, so long as he trusts that at the end he will acquire a desired outcome.

After gathering all the interview data, which included seeking clarification to any ambiguous responses, I felt I was confident to put forward a problem statement for this user experience problem.

Problem Statement

How might our mobile app increase Byron’s comfort when creating meals for his family?

Given what I understood about Byron’s reported daily app use, I suspected that Byron would more likely use his cooking app if this new app provided the sorts of experiences that he loves about Spotify and Clash of Clans.

So I downloaded Spotify and recorded the all the screens in the on-boarding experience. I noted that Spotify asks new users to identify artists they like. I suspect that this exercise is necessary to train the algorithm to produce playlists that have the greatest affinity to my personal tastes, something like what Netflix and Facebook (which I love the way Byron loves Spotify) does.

Because Byron told me that Spotify, “knows me so well I want to do UX Design for them!” He shared a funny story about burning a cup of ramen noodles in the microwave because he didn’t include water in the styrofoam cup—he didn’t understand that he needed the microwave to boil water and that the boiling water is what cooks the noodles. I assumed that Byron would want a cooking app that would teach him new cooking techniques.

I assumed that Byron would be more likely to practice his new cooking skills if he had an opportunity to prepare dishes that featured those techniques. Byron told me in an interview that he would be more likely to prepare meals if he had an app that reliably presented him with new dishes based on his previous meal experiences.

Because there were only a few days available to create this interactive paper prototype and the constraints of our assignment brief, I knew that I needed to very clear about what the problem is and I need to be very clear about how my proposed solution addresses the problem Byron told me he had.

The interview process had given me a robust data set to work with and that enabled me to feel confident that I had defined the problem correctly. This is the value of having a well-planned and rigorous interview protocol (something I’ve become expert at through my training).

I then created several user flows to both quickly show relationships between various potential functions the app might one day have and these sketches also helped me visualize the clearest, easiest path a user could take to accomplish a specific task.

After two user flow sketches I felt like I needed to also see how these features might look on a device. When I began sketching out wireframes for my proposed mobile app, I wanted to create an experience that followed a similar logic as what I saw in the Spotify app as well as in a few other cooking apps. Thus was born version one:

The weekend before this UX Immersive began, I attended this awesome design studio event hosted by the great folks at UX Helpers. There we practiced rapidly sketching out wireframes. In one instance we were given eight minutes to create four landing pages for a proposed new website for the UX Helpers group. I found that exercise both challenging and rewarding so I used that same technique to help me quickly come up with a visualization of what this app I’m making for Byron could look like and do.

Version two came after I sought clarification from Byron that I had, in fact, actually understood what his problem was and that he was interested in the kind of solution I was angling toward in my sketches.

I was now ready to user test my app and so I sat down with Byron and asked him to complete the following task:

Please use this app to learn a new cooking technique and make a dish with that technique.

I asked Byron to also say out loud what he was thinking when he clicked on elements and I recorded this data along with my observations of his behavior in my notebook. I then was able to gather three other users to test my paper prototype following the same protocol.

With the notes from four user tests, I then synthesized my findings and identified potential solutions to address the challenges my users revealed when completing this task. With that information gathered I then used Marvel’s POP to quickly create a digital interactive paper prototype, which you can see below:

Because Byron is willing to invest a large amount of effort over time into his daily apps, as demonstrated by his Clash of Clans and Spotify behaviors, I thought it was appropriate to name this app “Kung Fu Kitchen” because 功夫 (gongfu or kungfu) can mean “time and effort invested.” In the Chinese cultural context it is entirely appropriate to talk about a chef’s gongfu or an author’s gongfu. Here’s a really neat article, “Can Bad Guys Have Good Gongfu?” by a scholar of Chinese Philosophy I admire.

As a scholar of Chinese Philosophy, I find there are many interesting techniques and tools within that philosophical tradition that can help train UX designers and researchers.