We are in week three of our quarter-long project using our research into the financial behaviors of contract workers in creative industries (i.e., “makers”). We have made concept maps to understand our research better and sharpened our insights to become more provocative, to help us to come up with more impactful design ideas. This week we settled on three ideas to storyboard and begin sharing with potential users for feedback.
This week’s goal was to determine what design ideas we wanted to pursue and create materials (Lean Canvas business model, storyboard, and interview script) to share those ideas effectively with a potential audience. We chose the following three ideas, which range from directly influenced by our research with makers to only tangentially inspired by our findings:
- Tinder for Food: A swipe-based program that helps you decide what to eat by showing you pictures of food that you can swipe left on (reject) or swipe right on (accept). You can decide whether to use the app to find restaurants or recipes to cook at home. If you’re eating out with friends, you can match with friends to help determine a restaurant that is of interest to everyone. You can create a profile and save favorites and share them with others, helping to build a community and encourage greater use.
View Lean Canvas model
- EZ Save: An invoice app for contract workers that allows you to determine what percentage of your invoice to dedicate to checking and savings accounts. It automatically sorts those funds accordingly. Furthermore, you can use the software to create savings goals by category and move funds easily between those subaccounts, without having to create actual separate bank accounts.
View Lean Canvas model
- Blue Apron for SNAP: This program would be modeled after the popular Blue Apron/Hello Fresh food box delivery model, but would focus on providing basic staples for cheap with refreshing recipes to keep meals varied and healthy on a tight benefit. The goal would be to keep the price low enough that people receiving SNAP benefits would be eligible and able to afford the service.
View Lean Canvas model
We interviewed five people for the Tinder for Food and EZ Save ideas, and four for the Blue Apron for SNAP idea. Because we had not worked with a population receiving SNAP benefits for our research, it required a bit more work to find appropriate interviewees for this project idea.
For Tinder for Food, we interviewed a mix of makers and acquaintances. With an app as broadly appealing as this, we had more leeway for finding interview prospects. For EZ Save, we interviewed many of the same makers who we conducted our initial research with.
Our interviews lasted roughly 45 minutes each. We first discussed a series of questions pertaining to the problem area identified and the subject area more broadly, to gauge the participant’s perspective. We then discussed the principles of our design ideas, asking for their reaction to each core idea. Finally, we unveiled our storyboard, asking for their reaction to each step of the story specifically regarding the story’s clarity, the resonance of the identified problem, and the feasibility of the solution.
Most interview participants conveyed positive reactions to the three project ideas, but some reactions were tempered with skepticism and disinterest. Insights per project as distilled from our interview results are listed below.
Tinder for Food: Everyone we spoke to was enthusiastic about this project, but most people had questions and suggestions for how to improve the concept. We thought we had been thorough in detailing the nuances of its use, but people still raised important issues. Would users be able to outline their food preferences beforehand? Would they be able to choose the timeframe for eating at a restaurant, and then make reservations directly? Would distance play a factor in results displayed? Overall, it was clear that we would have to strike a balance between front-loading too many parameters to dictate results and taking too hands-off an approach that would provide too many unappealing options. The community component seemed especially promising, though, as people liked the idea of being able to choose places to go with friends. One person got excited for the possibility of polls to help gauge community interest and including other interactive components to drive greater engagement.
EZ Save: Most people we spoke to appreciated this idea. The more savings-oriented makers we spoke to liked the prospect of being able to put aside savings directly from their invoices. As one person put it, “anything automatic is valuable,” and they liked being able to reduce the step of having to log into their bank account to move funds around. However, as they pointed out, “It’s saving you a minute — it’s not a huge savings.” We think the greater benefit, though, would be in reminding people of the potential for saving, and making it easier to do so, perhaps encouraging more people who aren’t currently saving to start doing so. Whether this would be effective is unclear: one maker we spoke to who currently does not save said this was not relevant to his life and would not encourage him to save. He said he doesn’t make enough money to save and that he puts everything into checking. Another maker said the app would be helpful for “Type A people and people with enough money to care.” It’s not clear how many members of our target audience would see the benefits of this service. Still, even those skeptical of the idea saw its potential benefit for others. We also heard from many makers that if the program allowed for greater tax help (e.g., determining how much to put away for taxes and what tax breaks they were eligible for) then they would be very inclined to use it, and one maker expressed interest in combining scheduling with invoicing to create a unified system of booking and verifying contracts. There is significant potential for further exploring and perhaps expanding upon this service as it pertains to this specific audience.
Blue Apron for SNAP: Everyone we spoke to thought this was a noble idea, but this, too, was treated with some skepticism. One interviewee noted that SNAP users may not have regular access to electricity or gas and may not have the appropriate cooking tools to make meals (e.g., measuring cups, pans). Another noted that many older folks may not be able to use apps. One interviewee said that his Latina mother always liked to cook with the same ingredients and make the same things. She couldn’t read English and couldn’t use computers or a smart phone. While we envisioned the service to be helpful in introducing meal variety on a budget, many interviewees expressed interest in using the service to quickly and easily meal prep for a week, making large batches of just a couple dishes and storing them. Perhaps the meal plans would have to be split into different types for different users, to address the needs and desires of our audience. Finally, multiple participants also pointed out that buying junk food is often seen as a treat that can be purchased for children cheaply when there may not be much else that they can buy. Psychological factors like this will need to be considered when developing this idea and considering its appeal and likely adoption.
This week, we will revise our storyboards as necessary to reflect our preliminary feedback. We will then bring our storyboards to additional interviews and get more feedback on our design ideas. We hope to reach five more participants for each idea, so that we can get a stronger idea of what is working and what is still unclear, and what aspects of our ideas have the widest appeal and the greatest chance for success.