Los Angeles Community Fridges

2021 2 months

UX Researcher & Video Demonstration Editor

Los Angeles Community Fridges (LACF) is a community fridge network operated by volunteers on various disorganized channels. At the time of this project, fridge users had to navigate a Bubble.io site to find fridges and their contents. Still inquiries had to be taken in a different channel. This project was an exercise in user experience for a dual facing user base application.

A new way to approach community fridges is through a unified digital app that helps both volunteers and fridge users.

The Problem

The Empathy

The team examined the various channels which were not benefitting fridge users who would interface with Bubble.io site. Both desktop and mobile use cases were not ideal for the average user of any technical proficiency.

As shown in the video above, the website is neither desktop nor mobile optimized and could have harmful effects as a result the errors.

The Solution

We noticed that volunteers' were driven by their need to give back and were frustrated that there were too many volunteer organizations they were a part of. This made current volunteers unsure where there time best benefitted a particular organization.

Creating a dual-facing app for both volunteers and fridge users would help the community more aligned with issues pertaining to fridges.

An app for two user groups demands capability to perform a variety of activities. The sheet above is a list of user stories I made to clarify what various stakeholders may search for from the app. It was important to clarify that a volunteer may include an individual in a unique position to help, like a community manager or business owner. This reframed the ways an app like ours could be used and thus, designed.

The tasks related to fridges were broken down into different sections:
1) sustainable stocking
2) operational activities
3) dignity and respect considerations
4) using fridge to gain respect, and
5) capitalizing off fridges.

Working on a class project to support a community organization without conducting usability testing feels a bit off. Beyond the fact that it's not quite possible to explore if an idea is validated, not interfacing with the community with this project was an off feeling. As far as personal processes go, it became important for me to know that any project I do, should undergo even a small round of testing. Creating community awareness that a group of designers, researchers, and activists is working to address food insecurity could only strengthen the dialogue.

Most of the projects I worked on with my peers subsequently was able to accomplish some level of testing.

Lessons learned

Made with Adobe XD, Miro

A USC Student Project

The team researched deeper into the resources provided by LACF (social media pages, the Slack group, Google Documents, Airtable forms, and Google Sheets) and compiled user personas for both user groups: volunteers and fridge users.

We could also identify that fridge users were also volunteers, but also may not feel comfortable receiving food from fridges in their local area. This was important for building an app, as it would be key to maintain anonymity for users.

In determining which tasks were best suited for an MVP, we looked at the number and intensity of tasks associated with each domain. We decided on three areas of interest:
1) sustainable stocking
2) operational activities, and
3) dignity and respect considerations.

We clarified these basic offerings into four categories:
1) stocking fridges,
2) finding fridges,
3) managing fridges, and
4) reporting issues with fridges.

The team had sought inspiration from sites like Google, Uber, and Yelp. So following a Crazy-8s sketch session, I created a wireframe in Adobe XD attempting a similar approach.


The wireframe above led to discussions on how we would make a user journey map that prioritized the potential activities.

The user journey map helped us define the balance of fridge user and volunteer activities within the app and ways they may overlap. As such, we moved forward with a low-fidelity design.

The low-fidelity design made it clear to us that we needed to simplify our design. We had a lot of information about fridge stockings right next to a detailed satellite view. The design had to be pared down to a need-to-know level. Less Google, more Uber.

The team built on the wireframes to create a high-fidelity design.

We kept receiving feedback that the user journeys were a little confusing. In our final high fidelity iteration, we removed redundancies and only made it possible for users to interact with the app as a volunteer or a fridge user.

The onboarding process would ask if users would like to stock a fridge or find a fridge. Since the user flows were more clear, it seemed plausible that users would know how to go back to this screen from whichever view they are currently in.

Another key issue was with information organization, making the design implausible in a real-life setting. Had the team continued the project, a goal would have been to attempt another design and test it with volunteers.

Feedback issues

I remapped the user flow with the new screens and created video walkthroughs of our designs.

Volunteer Screens

A volunteer stocks a fridge.

A volunteer resolves a complaint.

User screens

A fridge user locates a fridge.

A fridge user reports an issue.

Clickable Prototype