Composting is an amazing way to recycle organic waste generated and enrich the soil. The EPA states that up to 30% of waste thrown away in the home comes from food scraps, adding to landfills and polluting the air with toxic gasses. If composting is beneficial for the environment, why do more people not participate? The fact of the matter is that composting can be a messy, unpleasant job. Considering that the process of composting generally involves storing food waste, maintaining it, mixing, and dealing with pests, it is not for everyone. That changes with Oliver.
My goal was to make composting at home easier than ever with Oliver. Oliver is a kitchen countertop composter that converts organic waste into nutrient-rich compost in a matter of hours. I created a mobile application alongside the composting device to make this process as simple and convenient as possible for the user.
To give my users one last motive to compost I added a community page that allows users to connect with others, participate in challenges with each other, and receive badges for reaching composting milestones. This adds the community aspect back into composting, traditionally an individual process, by being able to challenge friends while dealing with food waste and enriching the soil.
A goal of mine from the beginning was to make composting with Oliver a rewarding experience in both the act of conveniently composting and positively impacting the environment. I designed Oliver to track usage, then convert it into positive impact equivalencies to help users understand the difference they are making. To do this, I used the EPA greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator to give users approximate estimates of the CO2 they are diverting by using real-world examples such as the annual emissions from cars, or annual household electricity usage.
Overall, Oliver was created to be a clean alternative to traditional composting, making the experience stress-free.
The next stage in my research was to write and conduct a survey to study my users and collect more information. I wrote a survey using Survey Monkey and posted it to the Reddit communities r/composting and r/templeuniversity to ensure my questions reached participants both at Temple University and those who were interested in the subject of composting.
The following information was collected from 40 survey responses.
"It was hard to keep in my apartment, I tried bags, sealed containers, even freezing it but I was always bothered by the smell, fruit flies, and rats at the composting bins to continue to compost."
I conducted a small focus group to interview with some survey participants who compost in the city and was able to gather qualitative data on their feelings towards traditional composting. I found individuals and their housemates do not like dealing with leaking bags, fruit flies, the smells composting creates, and over everything else, the time it takes to dispose of the compost.
These key insights led me to develop the brands values.
The following information was collected from 5 interviews.
After reviewing my research, I developed my user personas based on my research and survey data. Each of the personas has unique occupations, locations, priorities, needs, and pain points.
From all the research I gathered, I came up with the following opportunity statements:
How might we help people who compost...
...embrace positive environmental impacts?
...involve friends, family, and the community into the process?
...learn tips and tricks?
With these questions in mind, I started designing!
Using what I learned through my research, surveys, and focus group interviews, I was ready to start building the prototype. I first started brainstorming all of the elements I wanted to include and began to organize them. Below is an in-progress site map.
I soon realized that I needed to conduct a card sorting exercise in order to help find the perfect spaces for all elements to live. Participants told me where they thought a certain element should live and why. By following UI design patterns and the advice of my professor Abby and classmates, I was able to find the most logical space for all elements to live.
The goal of creating my user flow was to put myself in one of my users' shoes and think as they might. My user journey for Jane was to show how she would interact with both the composter and the mobile app. By doing so I was able to confirm elements that were needed and how to flow throughout the app with the minimum number of clicks.
Next, I worked on building the wireframes. This process showed me elements that were missing and gave me a better understanding of the hierarchy and visuals for each screen.
Testing my wireframes in classes proved that I needed to take more time finding the ideal information hierarchy, specifically within the learn page. I wanted to prompt users who were new to composting how to compost and how to use the machine, but this information felt too repetitive, especially for users who are more experienced. I divide the information and moved some into the onboarding process to help those just starting.
The goal of the onboarding process was to show off that composting can be a fun and easy user experience for everyone to get involved in. I illustrated the three main steps users take; adding compost to the device, checking personal usage and impacts, and using the ready-to-go compost in a garden.
Above is the top-level navigation, users can navigate between home, usage, community, and learn. The composter status can be found on the home page, allowing users to control the machine with a click of a button. The home page also offers key insights for users such as positive impacts, ranking, and impact equivalencies. The usage page breaks downs each users total compost collection visually showing the progress they are making. The community page allows user's to connect and compete with friends as well as earn badges. The learn page features everything users would want to know from what to add, to FAQ responses.
Above features the process of navigating through a section of the learn page, from education to FAQ. While the screen on the right features a popup notification letting users know that a cycle has been completed.
This was an in-depth semester-long project that taught me the importance of the research process within design and UX/UI. I expanded my knowledge of how to design a new product from beginning to end as well as work more effectively with design systems.