Footprint is a mobile app on a mission to decrease the amount of material waste in our environment and increase the amount of materials reused for future products.
Solo UX/UI Designer
Research, wireframing, prototyping
The concept of disposing of material waste correctly is nothing new.
We are taught the importance of sustaining a healthy planet at an early age and numerous initiatives can be found across the globe engaging people to contribute in positive ways everyday.
I recently learned that only 9% of recyclable materials make it to the proper facilities for re-purposing. The remaining materials either end up in landfills or in our fragile ecosystems.
I wondered, If recycling is such a prominent message in our society, why is this number so low? What is the disconnect? How can we improve the system?
I suspect that people are recycling materials incorrectly or not all, and need a way to keep themselves accountable and engaged to make positive change.
Defining research goals
From the beginning it was crucial for me to keep my research goals simplified, ensuring detailed accounts of a common behavior. My research was focused on three key goals:
Why do people recycle?
How do people recycle?
What are common struggles of those who recycle/aspire to recycle?
Meeting the recruits
5 Recruits | 2 women, 3 men Ages 27- 42
When selecting my recruits, I wanted to evaluate if where a person grew up and where they currently live influenced their recycling habits as well as their view on sustainability. To test my theory, I made sure to interview a diverse group of individuals.
People from small towns/ People that live in small towns
People from urban cities/ People that live in in urban cities
People from outside the US who live in the US
its been fun
Prior to conducting the interviews, I felt strongly that there would be a clear distinction between people who recycle and people who do not recycle.
When I imagined what possible solutions could look like, I assumed I would be designing for a problem focused on getting people to want to recycle and make a difference.
An immediate take away after conducting interviews was that people were mindful of doing their part to keep the earth healthy.
That mindfulness included recycling, composting, and curbside pick up.
Main points of frustration fell into three key points:
Impact. Good intentions. Confusion
People view their impact as small and have a hard time visualizing their personal contribution.
People justify not taking the time to recycle or compost due to their impact being too small to make a difference.
If a person observes others recycling, they assume enough people are doing their part, and they don't have to.
With the intention of doing good, people recycle all plastics, cardboard, metals, etc., without realizing there are specific guidelines per material.
Most people don’t realize that recycling a material incorrectly could contaminate the whole batch as well as other batches in close proximity.
People intend to follow a sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle when they can find the time.
People don’t understand what materials can be recycled curbside and what materials need to be taken to a separate location for processing.
In order to be up to date on local recycling and material waste guidelines, people feel they have comb through a lot of information to get a clear answer.
When traveling, people find recycling to be difficult, due to being unfamiliar with the areas guidelines.
“ I feel guilty when I decide not to recycle, I'm aware of the damage plastic creates after ending up in a landfill, but I don't see how I make a difference “
“ I usually end up recycling items every other day. The area I live in now
recently stopped accepting straws and glass. These items often end up in the trash because I don't know what to do with them “
“ I feel frustrated when communities are not clear about material waste guidelines. Materials that shouldn't be recycled end up in recycling centers and whole batches are often trashed due to contamination“
How might we
Help people visualize their daily impact and support sustainable goals.
Bridge the educational gap for recycling and material waste management, for individuals and establishments.
Modernize the the physical and emotional landscape of sustainable habits surrounding recycling, composting, and curbside pickup.
If an app was created that allowed people to track their impact on a daily basis, then people would feel encouraged to dispose of material waste correctly based on individual materials and their local guidelines.
Meet our pal,
Taking a look at competitors
After scoping out features offered by competitors, I realized most services offer a singular piece of the puzzle.
How can I design an experience that follows the full user journey.
Decide on features that support a holistic approach to sustainable habits (view MVP decisions below)
Now - Key features
Now - Key features
Based on key trends from user interviews and comparing competitors, I had stakeholders vote on features that benefit the users journey.
Stakeholders were asked to group features into three categories:
1. Now - Features stakeholders expect to have in the the apps first rollout.
2. Next - Features stakeholders hoped to have after enough data supported them.
3. Later - Features that may or may not be revisited based on data and stakeholder needs.
Value to the user
Priority matrix to clearly communicate features by importance.
Track impact - (landing page) users are able to log their impact daily by taking a photo/scan of the material they recycled.
Local guidelines - Users can easily locate guidelines in their home town or in a new location.
Drop off - If a material is not curbside recyclable, users can easily locate a drop off location by taking a photo/scan of the material and retrieve directions.
Goal set up - Do users need to set up personal goals?
Detailed Tips - Would users benefit from a designated tips page?
Reward system - Do users need a reward system?
Articles - Where would the articles
come from? Do users need to pay for a subscription?
Developing user flows
I began building user flows to better understand how a user might interact with the features stakeholders felt added the most value to the experience.
Track impact. Local guidelines. Drop off.
With the three main user flows as a guide, I began developing paper prototypes to collect early insights from our users.
Understanding where our users made mistakes and experienced confusion influenced each design decision made in later iterations.
"This layout feels limited and to boxed in. Can the information be broken down in a more impactful way?"
"This page feels very small, could this feature take up the whole screen?"
"I love that you can take a photo or scan of the item you want to dispose of properly. Feels easy and un-fussy"
Users felt that the
IA did not match with the rest of the app.
"Having tips featured at the bottom feels like an after thought and easy to miss"
"This process feels similar to the Tracking Impact feature. Can the scan and photo options be implemented here?"
Users did not want to scroll down a list of materials. They wanted a process that did the work for them.
"Can you list what is being searched for in maps? Incase I forget what I am currently searching?"
Here, the main goal was to design solutions to problems identified by users while navigating the paper prototypes above.
Challenge: One of the most difficult parts of designing Footprint was, finding a way to offer as much information possible without overwhelming the user. Displaying the right information was invaluable in keeping our users attention.
Though users liked seeing I.e. wildlife saved, users felt this screen was too packed.
The drop off feature has been streamlined with the track impact feature. Photo and scan.
"Is there a way to combine recently tracked impacts and the drop off? This screen explores a possible solution.
the city zip from the signup auto populates as the default. Users can change the zip code as needed.
Users felt having two rows of information would be hard to follow. Could we explore an option of a single row.
A description of the material being searched has been added to the map view so users know what they are browsing for.
"I appreciate the instructional flow incorporated in these new screens."
"Do I need to add both the weight and the pieces? Or just one? Can this be clearer?"
Tips were moved to the guideline main page for improved discoverability.
Users get to see their impact in real time, with a quick photo or scan.
Users can easily access their Municipals guidelines and get informed.
Curbside wont take some of your materials? Users can complete a quick search to find nearby locations.
Creating the apps on-boarding was an opportunity to introduce users to the three primary icons and the features they correspond with. Users can easily skip ahead to the main event by selecting skip on the bottom right corner.
Working on this project was eye opening and I cannot wait to learn more about the relationship between peoples behaviors and the act of recycling and reducing waste.
Errors - Thanks to the on-boarding, users were successfully introduced to the icons and the action that they correlate with. This design decision minimized user error when completing a task.
Progress - Users were able to see their continual progress and were inclined to continue to track that progress using Footprint.
Time - Users we're satisfied with the time and effort it took to complete a task.
Partner with data scientists to calculate impact as accurately as possible.
Start testing in a city that is close in vicinity to the suburbs to get data on city users and suburb users.
Partner with municipals and building owners to collect accurate data.
Determine which feature are used most frequently.