Pursuing Clarity and Efficiency
Farmers’ Markets are the few remaining places for shoppers to meet the people who grow what they eat. The industry has grown rapidly in the US from under 2000 markets in 1994 to 8,600 registered by the USDA today. With exploding demand, seasonal food supplies and disarming unpredictabilities, I saw an opportunity to design an engaging experience that helps farmers reduce their 20% produce waste by letting shoppers to purchase in advance from their up-to-date inventory.
My challenge was to develop an experience that was robust enough to represent the interactions at a market, but would fit into the existing processes of farmers and shoppers. It had to be feel simple to use yet flexible and representative of the culture and personalities at play. It had to empower farmers to continue doing what they love - growing their farm, but keep them operating within the bylaws of their market.
For this 5-day design challenge, I solely covered research and the whole user experience design.
What's the big deal with Farmers' Markets?
The first stage was for me to to explore farmer’s market and understand their unique structure, stakeholders, tools, processes and methods. After visiting a Farmers’ Market, it was hard to ignore that there is alot more going on than a collection of buyers and sellers. There’s an atmosphere, one as palpable as the atmosphere required for these foods to be grown.
There's a lot going on here!
I didn’t have the time to design and conduct effective interviews, so I tapped into the Perdue Extension YouTube series where they did just that. I’m grateful for the great resource they made available, since I pulled some remarkeable insights from this.
- The Farmers' Market has culture: “For us, the farmers’ market is fun - its very social. You get immediate feedaback - good and bad”
- The Farmers are passionate: "People are buying you and your product", " ..The Joys of watching a seed grow into a full plant"
- The shoppers are deliberate: "Before I go, I build a shopping list of produce that are in-season", "Regulars come very early because they know that's when the best things are on the table"
- The market is unique: “What is at a market depends on a combination of location, season, and market rules about what can be sold”
- The pricing strategies: “Prices change from week to week” , “Underpricing hurts everyone, We’re here together to help grow the local food economy”
- The business of vending: “Customers don’t buy the last 20% of produce on the shelf. So, farmers bring more than they plan to sell”, “Produce have perishability, seasonality, shrinkage”
Updating an age-old tradition
Farmers’ Martkets are old! It’s estimated that agriculture for self sustainance began in 17,000 BC while specialization - and the neccesity of markets - took root five thousand years later. Let’s build a platform that captures the energy and vitality, culture and personality, trust and transparency, exploration and transaction of Farmers’ Markets - one of the oldest traditions that we human beings have engaged in.
Improve existing farm-to-market processes: Help farmers differentiate their offering while staying competitive within their markets.
Redesign current shopping experience: Help shoppers get the best value at the local markets that they frequent.
Extend the conversations and interactions: Let shoppers and farmers connect virtually to stay engaged in the community they love.
Mapping the content
Structuring the interface
Objective of Inventory Header: I wanted to give the farmer as much contextual infomation of the inventory list they are looking at including specfic market and date. I also wanted to give them the ability to search the list, add new items, and view orders from that list.
I redesigned it about 4 times, making sure to account for farmers’ technical familiarity.
Drafting the flows
Farmer - Build Inventory: The farm-to-market process includes picking and cleaning, packing and pricing, loading and transportation, and lastly setting up and staging the market booth. I believe Freshly’s Inventory Builder would fit nicely into this process, specifically between the packing and loading stages. The Farmer needs to be able to quickly build profiles for each item she sells. She will jump between using the app and adjusting, weighing and loading items. So I though it was important that at a glance of the app, she needs to know know which stage of the ‘Add Item’ process she was in.
Shopper - Build Shopping List: I found out smart shoppers know not to go to the market on an empty stomach, but even further, they know to bring shopping lists with them. In app, the interactions shoppers have with vendors will be within the context of the shopping list they build. From here, they can compare items, read reviews, and pre-ordering specific amounts of an item. Shopping lists are themselves built around a specific shopping day at a particular farmers market - they can have multiple active lists at any time. They should be able to search and add items to the list while specifying the amount.
Tweaking the look and feel
Farmers’ Markets are very colorful places and that doesn’t stop with regards to the food items. At vibrant display are the personalities, the booth staging, the conversations and emotions. I wanted Freshly to allows for this beauty to shine through the app, so I opted for a very spartan visual language with whites and greys. Any color visible would be from the items, the posts, and the the profile pictures of both farmers and shoppers. I even experimented with user-selected color accents that would let alot of personality decorate the interactions in app.
- How does a farmer deal with a no-show? What effects do no-shows have?
- How likely or easy is it for farmers to adopt technology like this?
- How much time does a shopper need to build their list and pre-order? How does this work with the pipeline of the farmers?
- Will shoppers be open to having the farmer pick the produce for them, rather than pick it themselves?
- What if, at the market, the shopper wanted to change the quantity of the produce they reserved earlier?