Rescue food on the go.
REGO is a digital service that aims to tackle the immense food waste issue in Singapore. As part of our Final Year Project in School of Art, Design and Media, fellow UX/UI designer Valerie Lay and I decided to come up with system that could encourage businesses to cut down on food waste, promoting the message to businesses and consumers that being sustainable is enticing.
This is an ongoing project
In 2018, there were 809,800 tonnes of food wastage.
Source: National Environmental Agency
…which is 200m worth of F&B discarded yearly
Early Brainstorming - Our Mistake
Coming from the angle that food is a basic need that people struggle to afford, yet there is so much food wastage - this inspired us to create a platform where excess food can be donated to the needy. For example, there are organisations like Food from the Heart, Willing Hearts, SG Food Rescue that collect surplus unsold food from food outlets and distributes them to the needy.
Hence, we thought - why not be a platform that donors and recipients can be directly linked via our digital service, instead of needing to go through middleman organisations? Provide a digital solution to reduce excess food across the nation, by connecting individual food donors to recipients in an efficient manner - People can put up their excess, edible food for donation via the app and recipients can choose to pick the item up for free.
Sounds good? Not really.
As we progressed to find ways to develop our concept, by conducting our user interviews and research, we realised that we approached our project in the wrong angle - jumping into a solution that “sounded good” instead of delving deeper and understanding the problem first. We made assumptions that the needy will be happy to use a platform to receive more donations, people will think that donating excess food from their households = reducing food waste and helping others, etc.
We conducted a first round of interviews with 15 people, 11 students from NTU and 4 older relatives - to gain insights from donors perspective. More than 60% indicated that they would not give excess groceries or leftovers to others, citing main reasons as
“It’s weird to give leftovers”
“People are not beggars”
We also received feedback by our interaction design professors about the issue of dignity. They asked - What makes you think that the poor is happy to constantly be reminded that they need to live off others’ donations?
This really struck me, and reminded me the importance of empathy as a UX designer. We have not considered the views of the needy, also since we had not gained insights from them. But first we had to rethink our approach:
If a strictly a donor and recipient system, who is a donor and who is a recipient? Potential dignity, discriminatory issues and also results in a niche crowd which impacts little on food waste reduction
Is an app the best solution for this issue - there are community fridges around
Dignity issue: For recipients - What will people feel being labelled as “needy” by an app, and constantly having people delivering food to them? For donors - Fear of causing others food poisoning and many found it rude to give “leftovers”
We had backtracked and re-looked at the problem of food wastage. We felt ourselves moving back and forth in the brainstorming often.
Backtrack - More research and interviews
As we researched more into food waste, we realised that
90% of food wastage is by businesses
Interviews - Food Businesses
We interviewed 3 business owners in F&B to further understand why lesser steps are taken to reduce food waste like repurposing leftovers - Belicia Tan (Manna Pot SG), Daniel Tay (SG Food Rescue), Preston Wong (Treatsure). We learnt of 4 main issues:
Liability: Business afraid of liability issues from perishable food
Image: Positive - Some businesses carry out sustainable efforts of rescuing food to build branding. Negative: While some are more concerned about business mindsets (good business generates more waste)
Efforts & cost: Perceived to be cheaper to throw out + less effort needed
Bottomline - Convenience driven: Easier to throw everything, rather than waste storage or other efforts to salvage
What if you could inculcate the idea that reducing food waste is profitable?
Interviews - Consumers
We conducted a combination of both 10 user interviews and 86 survey respondents. We wanted to find out people’s views regarding food waste, as well as digital food habits. Our target age group was 23-30 years old. Our main insights were:
Mentality: Apathetic about surplus food (Good that people are making effort to curb issue, but not taking the step to take action)
Awareness: Unaware of the immensity of the issue
Unactionable: Skeptical of efforts made e.g. Community fridges come off as a good idea and willing to donate but don’t see themselves using it due to:
Fear. People don’t dare to use product, lack of trust
Convenience driven: Generally will not go for the extra mile to reduce waste, do not feel it is worth their time
Furthermore, Channel News Asia gave a great insight:
“The biggest reason Singaporeans choose to cut down food waste is not to save the environment, but the pocket.”
Creating an app that relied on people’s goodwill was not going to fly, more so in Singapore where environmental issues is a low priority to most, unfortunately.
Rego: Our perception
Through the insights that we gathered, convenience and personal gain were key factors in ensuring the success of food waste schemes. Hence, this is our proposed perception:
We want to create a win-win situation for both businesses and consumers - motivated by profits and convenience.
Looking at the successes of similar food waste F&B apps based in our countries, for example ‘Too Good to Go’ that boasts saving more than 390.750 meals a year, we had to think of a potential market in Singapore sell sustainability as lucrative, and a cause worth fighting for.
We listed the 3 most important design goals that our brand needed to convey.
Define - Personas
To better understand our target audience to form informed personas, we delved deep into our interviews/survey conducted with consumers - to form user insights and behavioural patterns.
From our user insights and behavioural patterns, we formed our persona, Abby.
Wireframing and Prototype
Through the eyes of Abby, we both had to brainstorm the features that would work.
Then, we moved on to paper wireframing, sketches after sketches.
After our process of paper wireframing, I designed to lo-fi prototype for Rego.
We are now in the process of testing this prototype with users and so far we have received these feedback:
Map out user flow regarding personal details (Address, Payment) - in this prototype they are pre-determined but yet the scenario presented in this prototype is a first-time user (Conflict)
Compact the selection process for food ordering
Surplus buying food concept can be made clearer
Mindful of communication, language - “Made for you” but food rescued is not made for you
Cater to possible scenarios - App at lunch hour, if user skips section to select preferences etc.
Moving on - Iterate and User Interface
This project is still ongoing and is set to be due on end May 2019. We are in the process of iterating the wireframes, and also coming up with visual language for our brand before delving into how the wireframes can translate into user interface design.
Stay tuned for more!