An app that allowed an eco-friendly service to scale
CAULIBOX / 2019
To tackle the 11 billion pieces of packaging waste produced every year in the UK, London startup CauliBox are creating the cities first reusable lunch box scheme. CauliBox partner with street food and food-to-go vendors to allow users to take their food away in a reusable box, and the box is then later collected and cleaned. After successfully trialling the scheme with Westminster City Council, they saw that they needed a digital product if their service was to successfully scale.
CauliBox had an analogue system: food vendors were given barcode scanners and scanned user's physical membership cards to verify them. This was expensive, laboursome and difficult to maintain. Furthermore, users were unsure of where CauliBox could be used or what steps were required. This wasn't going to be effective at larger scales.
To design an app and digital service that enables the scheme to become more efficient, effective, and reach more people. The app would act as an MVP, allowing CauliBox to run the scheme and validate their concept and business model at a much larger scale.
Role: Lead UX/UI design / Product strategy
Team: CauliBox founders, remote dev team, user researcher
Timeframe: 4 months (part time freelance)
Before going through the process, check out the interactive prototype below to get an idea of the final product (or use this link). I'll then take you through the user research, prototypes and product decisions to show you how we got to this stage.
Users: Eco-driven city professionals
Who are likely to be our early adopters and key users? That's the question we started the project with, and through user interviews and social media analysis, we came to these answers:
They'll be eco-driven city professionals, who are out on their lunch break and looking to try something delicious at a local food market. They'll always be looking to reduce their environmental impact, but will want to do so in a convenient way that fits with their lifestyle. They'll be economically comfortable, socially informed and politically engaged.
Product strategy and user flow
CauliBox don't have a dedicated ‘tech person’, so we worked on a system that was simple and flexible enough to be operated and sustained from a basic admin panel. This meant designing a user flow and experience that was fool-proof, required as little maintenance as possible from CauliBox, and that would be self sustaining over time. With a very limited backend, I explored how we could deliver features without sacrificing too much value for the user or business.
After onboarding the user, the app splits into 4 areas: Scan / Location / Rewards / Profile
Prototyping and testing
I collaborated with a user researcher to test interactive prototypes of the app. We conducted guerrilla usability testing in food markets to test whether users understood how to use the service after using the app. For example, were they able to tell us where they collected and dropped of boxes, or how much the scheme cost? This research led me to fundamentally restructure the app, splitting the 'Scan' and 'Locations' features into separate sections.
Onboarding a new archetype
A challenge of this project is that there are very few analogous products or services that work in similar ways. Though it seems like a simple idea, the service involves the user learning a number of habits that might be new for them (e.g short term borrowing, using QR code and confirmation messages, dropping off in a different location to collection…).
Upon first opening the app users move through a walkthrough that explains the service in simple and clear terms. To try and maximise user understanding I removed the 'Skip' option, numbered the steps to emphasise that this is a learned process, and offered a link to a YouTube video for those who prefer more visual content.
Step by step user flows
Much of the experience is new to users, but usability testing showed that people will skip the walkthrough without understanding how to use the service. Therefore my UX strategy was to focus on clear, definitive actions that lead the user to the next stage of the process. This means that text is clear and informative, buttons focus on commands and action, and the user journey is incremental.
Engaging and gamifying impact
Users are not just driven by convenience, they are driven by social impact. We looked to gamify and encourage users to make impact through the use of ‘CauliCoins’, which are essentially reward points that users get each time they use the service. CauliCoins are used to unlock rewards, and they act as a way of quantifying and demonstrating a users impact. Users can also see how many pieces of packaging they have personally helped keep out of landfill.
Visually communicating a sustainable startup
The challenge here was to present CauliBox as a modern, sustainability focused startup without falling into the stereotypes of ‘eco-design’. Typography and colour palettes were chosen to convey a character that felt friendly and approachable but still fresh, and perhaps the defining feature of the design is a white card on soft blue background. The pastel blue acts to soften the feeling of the whole app, giving it character and warmth whilst still feeling modern and sharp.
The messy real world
As planned and strategic as you can be with a digital product, there’s no escaping that much of CauliBox’s service exists out in the messy real world. Here there are many variations, changes and unknowns, for example:
Where will food vendors display their CauliBox QR code?
How will they display the QR code?
How will vendors display the CauliBoxes, and where?
Will the service fit within the way you order food at the vendors?
How will users deposit their boxes at the drop off points?
I am now working on designing QR displays that are flexible and informative, so check back soon.