A sustainable diet goal app that emphasizes reduction rather than elimination
✔️ Overview
When complete elimination of meat and dairy is not possible, some users give up on their diet goals entirely. This is in spite of the environmental and health benefits of reduction alone (USDA & Michigan Center for Sustainability).

**The initial scope of this project was to help users lower their carbon footprint on the planet - however my research took a pivot when I discovered a major pain point related to sustainable dieting alone.

The final project goal was to decrease commitment drop-off in users for whom elimination is not practical, by emphasizing the benefits of reduction of animal food products.
⏰ Role & Duration

UX Researcher
SPSS, Javascript, Figma, Adobe XD, Illustrator, Data Analysis, Usability Testing, Contextual Inquiry, Survey Design, User Interviews

3 months

👏 Final Hi-Fi Screens

Here is the prototype and final screens:

Stage 1 | Discover

❗️ Problem Statement

**The initial project scope was looking at carbon footprint reduction pain points, but after interviews I discovered a problem for a niche group of users whom I diverted my attention to.

While switching to a diet free of animal products is a realistic commitment for some users, a subset of users report that their attempts are frustrating and short-lived.

🔎 Research Questions

  • What are the factors that lead users to quit their sustainable diet goals?
  • Why don't users update their strict diet regimens to a flexible one when they are unable to avoid meat/dairy strictly (despite environmental benefits for reduction alone)?
  • What factors are encouraging and discouraging during users sustainable diet change journeys?
📋 Methodology
  • Discover the pain points and the degree to which they lead users to quit their sustainable diet goals through ranked Google Form survey questions
  • Support primary research findings with existing data on habit change, diet commitment, and attitudes toward sustainability
  • Create most viable product (MVP) by combining existing solutions that are well received and ideating new ways to address pain points
  • Determine whether the product helped environmentally concerned users who struggle with strict elimination stay committed to their diet goals

📋 Interview Insights (n=12)

User Segmentation Matrix
Users varied in their abilities to stay committed to a "greener" diet. Of those who failed, none continued to reduce or attempted a flexible regimen.

**The interview phase is when I began my pivot from overall carbon reduction to meat/dairy related carbon reduction specifically.

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📋 Surveys (n=50)

Interviews revealed that users experienced guilt/shame, I implemented an anonymous survey using Google Forms to allow for honest answers. The survey was additionally designed to understand how encouraging/deterring factors were ranked in terms of importance.

The survey design went through multiple iterations to ensure that users with one failed vegan/vegetarian/reduction attempt (rather than successful eliminators) were the target. I also posted to r/samplesize to get a larger n.

Questions were designed to inquire further about frustrations and encouraging factors as well as rank their impact on their journeys.

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See/Take Survey

Stage 2 | Explore

📖 Secondary Research

Given that the new primary purpose of the project was to promote a behavior change, it was necessary to validate design decisions with existing literature.

1. Guilt: drives easy behaviors like recycling, but causes an aversion to harder behaviors (diet change) 

2. Cognitive dissonance: some users identify as strict vegans despite consuming animal products

3. Tracking: habit tracking apps are effective and notifications that remind users to remember on their own are the most effective

See References

Four R's of Sustainability






↪️ Pivot

The new target was the subset of users who struggled with strict elimination. I had narrowed my scope from carbon reduction for environmentally concerned users to meat/dairy reduction for environmentally concerned users who struggle with elimination.

📊 Competitive Analysis

I compared tracking apps, recipe apps, carbon footprint apps, and r/zerowaste on subreddit. I found that guilt, strictness, overwhelming amounts of information, and discouragement/low morale were the cons of these apps. Framing setbacks positively, encouragement, motivation, and low difficulty tracking mechanisms were received positively.

See Competitive Analysis

👩 User Persona

I narrowed the users down to those who had stopped reducing entirely after a perceived "failure" since they were the most likely to benefit from this app. The persona features an eco-conscious millennial. He cares about the environment but does not want to sacrifice quality of life (social dinners, health, etc) too much. He's highly influenced by social factors and is restricted by time/cost living in the Silicon Valley.

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❗️ User Problems

Ranked Common Frustrations

1) Missing the taste and the alternatives are not satisfying

2) Alternatives are costly, hard to find, or unavailable

3) Missing social/family gatherings

4) Time/effort involved in researching and shopping

Reduction Opportunity

1) Cheat days allow users to still have their favorite foods

2) Guilt-free if alternatives aren't available (e.g. traveling) 

3) Can still indulge in social dinners

4) Research can be done incrementally, especially since users are not missing nutrients from just reducing

📖 User Story

❤️ Minimum Viable Product

  • Positive encouragement (reframe "setbacks")
  • Fewest clicks possible for daily input (lower cognitive load)
  • Goals:
  • Easy/incremental/reduction-focused
  • "Skip certain days" and/or "swap daily meals" and/or "reduce weekly consumption"
  • Individualized/based on current consumption
  • Customizable (increase, decrease, maintain)
  • Research supported reminders
  • Statistics framed positively (overall carbon reduced)
  • Nice to haves: resources, beginner tips, world carbon and consumption data, alternative ingredients

Stage 3 | Test

💻 Wireframes

See Wireframe Prototype

💻 Usability Testing

Quantitative and Qualitative Tests
A usability test was conducted using the medium-fidelity wireframe prototype to assess understanding of the app's purpose usability, navigation and call-to-actions.

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Stage 4 | Listen

🗣 Usability Bug Review + Feedback

Several changes were made to the navigation, a back button was added, tracking became an overlay with "edit goals" link in the corner, and a comparison info page was added. The comparison page is unique to this app and has a unique icon.

Color Scheme
Many vegan diet or carbon footprint apps use a pale green. This choice makes sense given that they are "green" apps. I instead used an orange centered theme to evoke feelings of motivation and positivity and distinguished Reduce from other apps.







✔️ Way Forward

The next steps would be to compare users embarking on the diet transformation with a flexible and strict mindset and see if a reduction-based strategy actually decreases commitment drop-off. Currently, a friend who commended the idea is helping to lift the project off the ground by supplementing research and helping with the coding and development. I anticipate releasing this application to the app store by November. My hope is to study at least a handful of users interaction with the app and draw insights about the reduction philosophy's efficacy in reducing commitment drop-off.