User Onboarding

Onboarding is a volatile stage in the journey of a user. Lots of strong opinions are formed during these first steps. A user is trusting you with their time and the very first thing they’ll see and interact with is a series of screens, actions and instructions that will set the tone for the rest of their experience. As we all know, first impressions are a crucial part of a user’s assessment of a product. That first meal at a certain restaurant, the first car you owned (Hyundai Elantra former owner right here!), your first camping trip, etc.

Information products have their own quirks and affordances. You might want to create an account for your user when they first open your app and get information to be able to tailor your service to them. In our case we need a bunch of info but we don’t know how users might react to some of our questions. At the same time we need to maintain near-zero friction for the user. Lots of variables here.

Lucky for us we’ve done our homework (literally) and know a thing or two about the importance of these first steps. We also have some talented folks amongst our ranks who are pretty passionate about understanding user needs during this process and how we can build an appealing, respectful and useful experience. Work is happening!

We had a successful surveying session with schoolmates and strangers and have amassed tons of eye-opening insights and critiques. For instance, most people have very personal “mental-flows” they use to review a menu and make choices about what to order. These flows are indicative of a person’s beliefs and priorities and they shed light on how our application should be structured. Stay tuned, more updates coming soon…


Some insights on cake

So, what is cake?

One could say that a cake is this spongy baked good made out of some sweet batter with some delicious toppings and other sweet flavors. What about cakes that contain ingredients that we wouldn’t normally classify as “dessert” foods though? Coffee? Carrot? Zucchini? We’ve realized that in order to understand cake, we need to acknowledge the different kinds of ingredients that can go into cake and that some of those ingredients aren’t normally dessert food.

In realizing that some cakes have “non-cake” ingredients we decided to look for more “cakes” to make sure we’d caught everything. To our surprise, we found several other “cakes” that we hadn’t been considering, savory cakes from different cuisines: fish cakes, latka cakes, salmon cakes, and crab cakes. Knowing this we now realize we need a way to have our system not get fooled by the word ‘cake’ and make assumptions about the dish. We’ll have to work to make sure our system knows about these different kinds of cakes, and what the key is to determining which kind of cake a particular cake is.


The project “buckets”

We’ve seen how this project unravels and expands and shows it’s true colors from day one. This is good and bad. New possibilities are exciting but they also mean a bigger backlog and in our case more technical debt. That said, in an effort to capture a high level overview of what we’re trying to accomplish we’ve grouped the main drivers into “buckets”, here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

  • What would be needed if we were to publish an academic article about this?
  • We need to understand how people read menus
  • Dietary restrictions and food preferences – what’s out there
  • Restaurants; how do they handle customers who have concerns? How do they organize that on menus?
  • Making decisions about the technology stack. What decisions should we make to support the functionality desired in this application?
  • How do we understand the information on menus?
  • Supplementary nutrition data such as calories, fats, cholesterol, sodium, etc. How could we collect, process, and present this to users?