Improving the experience of kitchen: a design thinking project

This is my first project on design thinking, in fact my first ever try at the whole user experience concept. I was working on the course by growth school (growthschool.io), and this is the first assignment which was given to me.

In this assignment all the participants were divided in the group of five and each allotted with a different room in a house. To this, I was to improve the experience of existing interaction. I was given the kitchen as the room and the other four were the users for whom specifically I had to identify problems and propose a solution in this design thinking project. The solution could be anything not compulsorily digital, could even be a suggestion of existing service/product.

I conducted interviews with the four group members individually to get to know their interaction with their kitchen and get to know their perspective on it. also I was a stranger, I had to get a general view on their behaviour I even got some pictures of their kitchen in order to empathize more with them.

Also, to immerse in their point of view, and keep my biases at bay. And so I prepared questions with regard to kitchen. I did go with the flow in our conversations narrowing the questions further accordingly.

  • 3 out of 4 users are not happy with the small size of the kitchen as space becomes an issue for them.
  • 2 out of 4 users are frequent users of the kitchen
  • 3 out of 4 users are not happy with the arrangement for keeping the used utensils in the kitchen.
  • 2 out of 4 users are not able to find the thing they want in the kitchen easily.
  • 3 out of 4 users are not able to remember repurchasing things.

Here I have listed the ideal experience for the users,

wants to get rid of the messy look of used utensils in the kitchen and have enough space in the kitchen for more supplies.

user 1( working professional, male, infrequent interaction)

wants to have more space to store and remember things to repurchase on time.

user 2 (homemaker, female, frequent interaction)

wants to be aware of location and identity of the stuff in the kitchen and wants a linear arrangement of things in the cabinet for even better access.

user 3 (working professional, female, frequent user)

have no water splashing onto him while doing the dishes over the sink and no odor and flies over the utensils to be cleaned when kept in the kitchen.

user 4 (student, male, infrequent user)

Here I have defined various pain points of the users based on the data I collected from the users, to prioritize on a problem to further ideate over.

I focused on the overlapping points more even if not everyone had that issue also I kept them minimal.

Next I wrote down some solutions for these problems. I did this in 8 minutes, and made a list of as many as ideas that came up in my mind in that time frame.

  1. A navigating application to note down location of various stuff in the detail.
  2. A new type of jar which will have a unique identity code, connecting this information to an application.
  3. Modifying existing containers to identify what is stored inside, and connecting this information to an application.
  4. Designing a portable storage vessel to store the used utensils, such that it does not need too much space in the kitchen.
  5. Hanging cabinets which can be freely moved up and down for storage purpose.
  6. Making a magnetic sticking pad to write the things that one is going to run out in a few days, making a removable shield like structure this would be used for preventing splashing of water on the sink.
  7. Having name tags on the clear jars to identify them.

I went through the internet looking for similar ideas, and found quite a few to mention. Many apps already exists in the market for the recoding and navigating pantry storage (some mentions), but no one in India specifically uses them, so I went looking for the reason, as found that these kinds of apps are majorly designed for the American or European way of life where they mostly deal with packaged food with barcodes compared to Indian lifestyle where a majority of people still prefer fresh food from local markets which do not come with barcodes and printed details.

And to no surprise when I tried to search for specifically for such apps made for India, nothing came up.

This created a gap between the Indian user and the app, as the barcodes where the method of storing the information for many of such apps. So in order to fix that the app would have to change many ways of operation.

So I went back to my user interviews, to finalize on what I will be focusing on as I was lost with many ideas on my plate. I scanned through the data and realized that I was trying to push a very fancy idea to the users just for the sake of it as that issue could be solved by other means too.

I then shortlisted top 3 ideas out of the above to work on and selected one of them and discussed them,

Having name tags on the clear jars to identify them. This process would be very easy to do and to remember as there would be no confusion on the thing stored in the container. But there does exist a con, if that jar is used to store something else while not changing the tag on it, that may become inconvenient.

Modifying existing containers to identify what is stored inside and connecting this information to an application, much more convenient to get a single attachment to identify the material stored in the jar of their choice. Here too, the same problem may occur, if the jar is used to store something else which is not what it was tagged to, while not changing the tag on it, that may become inconvenient.

Designing a portable storage vessel to store to use it, such that it does not need much space in the kitchen. It will solve the problem of bad appearance of the used utensils in the sink in the kitchen. As it is compact and portable, so can be moved according to the convenience of the user. It will be able to blend in with the whole ambience of the kitchen. Thus, not attracting too much attention on it.

The appearance of used utensils and the odour and the flies that it attracts often is not a good experience for a small sized kitchen. This portable vessel will allow the user to move the container with ease and store the utensils. For the time being, and keep away the flies and prevent the bad odour. Also, it will not spoil the ambience of the room.

A Portable vessel like this is a way of storing, you’re used utensils for washing afterwards. It will be made out of stiff clothing material which will be waterproof and of preferred colour and pattern to go with the overall theme of the kitchen with varied size options to choose from. The vessel has adjustable height, with a removable lid to go with every height. Also, it comes with that detachable trolley like structure for moving it around, or to put it to stationary position, if needed. Inside the same will be washable. You just have to invert it. Also, it comes with a handle, easy to use and adjustable to the height for effortless motion.

Added this option while acting on the feedback I got in user testing. As one of the user was concerned that they would have to open the bag every thime to see what is in there and the other concern was that the lid would have to be shut really tight. to avoid this from happning I added the following feature to the prototype.

Car cover

Option of transparent bag is given, so it is easy to see through and know what is inside. With that a cover (like car cover) to this bag can be provided to hide what is inside.

Laundry bags

Also, the lid would be shut by a chain (like zip laundry bag) to be more convenient and keep the odour inside.

I then went back to those four group members with this solution and prototype I had come up with to get feedback and asked them to rate it on a scale of 1 to 5 and implement those feedbacks to my project.

User1

“Option is decent and it will also hide the utensils which were before visible and kept in a mesh bucket. Will obviously have to wash it every time or every 2nd day as Indian food is oily and curry based so any some food will always be stuck to the plates or bowls so washing it will be a task too and this cannot be washed in kitchen I guess. The lid have to be tight as foul smell should not go out at night.my rating 3.5”

user 2

“it’s good option. As you know, my kitchen has space issue. My rating is 4.”

User3

“I would give 3.5 as we would need to open and check what’s where.”

User 4

“pretty useful. It looks good to keep in the kitchen plus the adjustable height makes it a lot easier when. We aren’t using it, Trolley is also a good option.my rating is 4.”

UI/UX designer and a student