Contextual Inquiry-Group:Epileptic Eels

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Group Members and Contributions

  • Divya Banesh: Interview 2, Task Analysis Questions, Analysis of Tasks, Problem and Solution Overview, Scenario 2
  • Andrew Finch: User Interface Design, application interface mockups, general editing and formatting
  • Arpad Kovacs: Interview 2, Target Users, User Interface Design, Scenario 3, Analysis of Task ideas, general editing
  • Daniel Nguyen: Interview 3, Interview Results, Target Users, Analysis of Approach
  • Saba Khalilnaji: Interviews 1 and 4, Target Users, Analysis of Tasks, Scenario 1

Target Users and Interview Customers

The Target User Group:

The target user group consists of grocery shoppers who have food allergies, intolerances, or other dietary restrictions. Unlike most people who shop for groceries, members of this group must carefully read through every ingredient on the labels of the items they wish to purchase in order to avoid buying items that are unsafe to consume.

Why We Chose Them:

We believe that a quick, accurate, and effortless way of detecting offending ingredients in food products would be hugely popular with this group of people. It would be very beneficial if they could avoid the tedious and time-consuming process of meticulously reading ingredient labels, and looking up each item they are unsure about. There is clearly a niche market for a unique iPhone application that addresses such issues.

Customer Background:

Interview 1:

The customer is a single, 38-year old man who lives alone with two children in college. Having been laid off this past year, the client found a new job in an unfamiliar industry. His priority is to do well at work, learn new things, and maintain his new job. The customer likes to maintain the status quo when shopping for food. He tends to purchase the same familiar products he knows he can eat. The interview explored the situation of trying to purchase an unfamiliar product.

Interview 2:

The customer is a divorced, retired 61-year old French man with no children. He moved to the Berkeley area about 2 months ago, and is still in the process of adjusting to his new environment. The client's chief concerns were eating a healthy, well-regulated diet and staying in shape through exercise in order to prevent the recurrence of a sclerosis heart condition triggered by consumption of salt, caffeine, or proteins. The client also sought to limit intake of carbohydrates, fats, and calories to reduce stress on his gastrointestinal system.

Interview 3:

The customer is a second year undergraduate male student who has recently developed lactose intolerance. He only goes grocery shopping approximately twice each month, so his main concerns when shopping are speed, ease, and remembering to get all the right foods while at the store. He shops at a combination of local grocery stores, large wholesale stores, and sometimes small markets for specialty items. He maintains a relatively normal diet and does not go out to eat frequently, usually choosing to make quick meals at home.

Interview 4:

This customer is a 20-year-old, second year undergraduate female with a very busy life-style. This particular customer regularly uses her school's cafeteria and visits a grocery store only about once per month. Her highest priorities include her schoolwork and grades. As a pre-med student, she prefers to spend her free time catching up with friends at the cafeteria rather than preparing meals and reading food labels.

Problem and Solution Overview

The problem we are trying to address with our iPhone application is that shoppers with dietary restrictions must read the labels of every food product they consider buying and make sure that each product is free of ingredients that are harmful to their health. For example, shoppers with nut allergies have to inspect the label of every product and ensure that the product contains no nuts or ingredients that are commonly made from nuts. Examining the label of every product takes a lot of time and can become frustrating if the shopper is busy. Our iPhone application seeks to solve this problem by allowing a user to set up a personal profile that contains a list of his allergens as well as other ingredients he seeks to to avoid. The user can then scan the barcode or manually input the name or UPC code of a product, and instantly find the nutritional information and ingredient list for the product. In addition, the application will scan for ingredients listed in the user's profile and report back to the user on the safety of the product.

Interview Descriptions

Interview 1

Subject Background Overview: Male, age 38, allergic to milk and egg

Description: I used the master-apprentice approach in this interview, hoping to learn as much about the "job" as possible. We went to the local Safeway on Shattuck Ave so I could observe my client as he showed me how he shops for food. The interview turned out to be quite insightful as I learned about the problems of finding safe foods. From experience my customer knew exactly what to look for in the ingredients list.

Tasks/Themes: Reading the nutritional label/ingredient list, trusting previous experiences with products, difficulties managing multiple dietary restrictions

What we learned:
1. Ingredient lists can be long
2. Common allergens listed at the bottom

My interviewee gave me some background information on allergies and intolerance:

  • Intolerance is common, allergies are not
A large percent of the population has an intolerance to ingredients, while a very small portion of the population has actual allergies. An intolerance often causes diarrhea, bloating, and cramps while allergies are more serious, and will cause swelling, hives, vomiting, and in some cases, difficulty breathing and anaphylaxis.

About the process:

  • The same product can have different ingredients
Different versions of a product may contain alternative ingredients, and in fact, different sizes of a product can sometimes have different ingredients. So the jumbo box of your favorite munchy might be include a slightly different mix of ingredients than the snack size you usually eat!
  • Reading the ingredients list can take some time
The customer has to go through the ingredients list on new products to ensure it does not contain anything he is allergic to. Ingredient lists can be long and tedious to read, especially for unfamiliar products.
  • Ingredients can be hidden
There are many different names for different ingredients. For example, if you are avoiding egg, you have to look for egg, surimi, ovalbumin, meringue, lysozyme, albumin and more! If the user has allergies to eggs, they would have to familiarize themselves with all the industry names for it.
  • Some allergens are listed at the bottom
The FDA now requires manufacturers to list any of the eight most common food allergens their product contains on the label. These allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts), fish (such as bass, cod, flounder), shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp), soy, and wheat. The problem is that these lists only account for the eight most common allergens, and do nothing for people who are allergic to other things, have intolerances, or other specialized dietary restrictions. Also, these lists can be incorrect and fail to mention an allergen that does appear in the full ingredient list.

Interview 2

Subject Background Overview: Male, age 61, with dietary restrictions that prohibit consumption of salt, caffeine, and proteins due to sclerosis heart condition. The client also preferred to limit intake of carbohydrates, fats, and calories due to gastrointestinal difficulties.

Description: I utilized the master-apprentice model of contextual inquiry by meeting the client on-site at the local Safeway store, then discovering the structure of his shopping routine by observing and questioning the details of each prospective purchase.

Tasks/Themes: Reading the nutritional label/ingredient list, trusting previous experiences with products, difficulties managing multiple dietary restrictions

What we learned:

  • For packaged goods, stick with what you know
The client heavily preferred making repeat purchases of familiar pre-packaged items, and stated that he only purchased pre-packaged goods from either Trader Joe's or Safeway. In fact, I was surprised that he did not have a written-out shopping list, but rather he followed a standardized path around the store, and made purchases based on past experience. Interestingly, this limitation did not apply to fruit and vegetables; he was willing to buy non-packaged-good products from other sources he was previously unfamiliar with, such as Berkeley Bowl.
  • Store brands cater to local demographics
The client really liked the Safeway store brand, since he claimed that each branch of the store performs analytics on its customer's purchases. In particular, he claimed that the Berkeley branch of Safeway customized its private label brand products to provide a greater selection of salt-free and reduced-fat products (eg soup broth), compared to national brands such as Campbell's.
  • Price doesn't outweigh familiarity
Small differences in price did not change the client's purchase habits. He described a 2-for-1 price cut on a competitor's item as 'tempting', but not worth the hassle of familiarizing himself with the product and comparing its ingredients to his usual choice.
  • Scanning ingredients is a time-consuming process, but you only have to do it once
If the customer had inspected a product previously, he could immediately recall whether it contained off-limits ingredients. However, for unfamiliar products, he had to first carefully scan through all of the ingredients, and make sure that it did not contain any salt, caffeine, or proteins. He then proceeded to check nutritional facts, and if the numbers were acceptable, he would proceed with the purchase.
  • Select according to features, then exclude according to ingredients
When purchasing cereal, the client immediately selected a "Frosted Flakes" product he was familiar with, because it featured 500 grams of fiber. He then justified the purchase by stating that it did not have any of the "no go" ingredients, and contained only a limited quantity of carbohydrates, therefore it was an acceptable purchase.
  • Purchase by the numbers
The client took a very quantitative approach to determining his purchases by carefully inspecting the nutritional facts label. Based on a daily value of 1800 calories, he would determine a target number of calories to consume for each meal of the day, and then select purchases that would not exceed these numbers. He also made sure to keep his total consumption of fats below 20 grams/day; if any item would cause him to exceed this amount, he would exclude it from consideration.

Interview 3

Subject Background Overview: Male, student in late teens/early 20's, recent onset of lactose intolerance, shopping on a budget

Description: The inquirer accompanied the subject to a local Safeway grocery store and utilized the master-apprentice model of inquiry, followed by a short closing interview. While being somewhat inexperienced at shopping with dietary restrictions, as well as grocery shopping in general, the subject was very diligent and cautious when it came to products he had not encountered before. In contrast, he was quick to trust previously used products.

Tasks/Themes: Reading the nutritional label/ingredient list, trusting previous experiences with products

What we learned:

  • Not all dietary restrictions are life-threatening
The client tried to avoid products containing dairy/lactose, but commented that even after consuming large amounts of dairy, his reaction would usually be of moderate severity, resulting in discomfort and inconvenience in most cases, and minimal pain in the worst cases. Because of this, the client still bought a few items containing dairy, including butter, cream of mushroom soup, and even a small amount of milk for baking and other minimal use situations. This indicates that there are varying levels of severity across different dietary restrictions.
  • There are often a variety of alternative products
The client did not have much trouble finding replacements for products he was trying to avoid, most likely due to lactose intolerance being a fairly common condition. Basic items such as milk and cheese were easily substituted with soy-based alternatives, and several frozen foods were advertised as being lactose free as well. There are many specialty products being developed as the public becomes more health-conscious and aware of food allergies and intolerances.
  • Some user groups share restrictions with other groups
The client picked up many vegan foods while at the grocery store, because these items were guaranteed not to contain dairy products, which are derived from animal byproducts. This made it easier for the client to shop quickly, and resulted in much less checking of ingredient lists than expected. This is most likely applicable to only a few dietary restrictions, but indicates a necessity for comparing items.
  • Repeated purchase translates to safety
The client did not feel a need to recheck the ingredients of products he had bought on previous occasions. Sometimes if he could not remember the results of buying a product, or the product advertised a change in formulation, he would become anxious, but more often than not, he was comfortable with simply picking up the previously used product and moving on.

Interview 4

Subject Background Overview: Female student, age 20, allergic to avocados and walnuts.

Description: This interview was performed over the phone with a question-answer style of conversation. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts and time restrictions prevented a more contextual method of examination.

Tasks/Themes: Reading the nutritional label/ingredient list

What we learned:

  • Some people with allergies get lazy
My interviewee admitted that she sometimes gets lazy with trying to figure out which foods contain ingredients she's allergic to. "It's easy to avoid guacamole. I just don't dip my chips in it, but when it comes to walnuts sometimes I just take a nimble of something I'm not sure of and if I taste walnuts I spit it out."
  • Users who don't shop too often are not bothered by the hassle
The interviewee finds her allergens easy to avoid. Reading labels and scanning ingredient lists are not an annoying task for her. However, as a college student using the school cafeteria, she only finds herself in a grocery store about once a month.
  • Ingredients can change over time
Products change over time. If a company decides to refresh a product, they may modify the ingredients. If the user does not pay attention, then they may not notice the alteration!


Although the four interviewees had fairly different backgrounds, restrictions, and approaches for controlling their diets, there were several common themes throughout each interview:

Necessity of reading the nutritional facts/ingredient list:

All subjects agreed that they necessarily do this at one point or another while they are shopping. Although this does not apply to every product of concern that they buy, products that they don't check have already been checked at an earlier point in time. The nutritional label usually has most of the required information, but is sometimes hard to interpret or translate into applicable terms. Allergens and other offending ingredients can be disguised by alternate names, or just buried in the middle of an extremely long ingredient list. The listing of the eight most common allergens at the bottom doesn't help everybody, and can be incorrect.

Difficulty in maintaining multiple dietary restrictions:

The subjects who had only one or two dietary restrictions were much less knowledgeable and careful about what they bought and how they went about buying it. In addition, those who frequented grocery stores more were more weary of possible hidden dangers and knew much more about their own restrictions and how to cope with them.

Learning from experience

A common method of avoidance was learning by experience. Subjects were quick to trust products they had thoroughly tested themselves and more cautious about items they had not seen before or had not tried. Also, some information they provided for us about the entire process seems to be gained from experience, such as different ingredients between different sizes.

From these interviews, its easy to see that the most important and difficult part of the entire process is not necessarily getting the information, but processing it. It is not guaranteed that allergens will be obvious when looking at a nutritional label, so it would be a good idea for our application to provide more straightforward information. Also, keeping track of multiple items and restrictions when shopping is a difficult task that could be addressed by our application. Restrictions that add up, such as limits on sodium or carbohydrates, can easily be mismanaged during a long shopping trip and catering to the needs of multiple people with dietary restrictions is just as difficult.

Task Analysis

1. Who is going to use the system?

Some typical users of this product are shoppers who have food allergies or other dietary restrictions and might be pressed for time. When analyzing the shoppers at a local Safeway, it was clear that many shoppers want to buy the items on their shopping list and move on to other chores of the day. However, shopping quickly is usually hard for people with food allergies, people who are lactose intolerant, vegetarians, etc. because they have to look through the labels of every product they want to buy to make sure it fits their dietary needs. Users of this application consist of iPhone users who may be of any age starting from around fourteen to fifteen. Kids around this age start driving, so their parents start asking them to go down to the grocery store. Also, it is around this age that students in schools are educated about the importance of proper nutrition, so it is natural that they start examining their own nutritional habits. No special ability is required for the user to use this application except for a basic understanding of nutrition, such as information about carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, fats, calories, etc. However, most shoppers are already familiar with this information. The only requirement for this application is that the user knows English, since the application has an English-based user interface. Also, since the iPhone will be using its camera to scan the bar code of the item the user wants to find nutritional information about, busy mothers with children or people shopping with baskets in the other hand (more common users that were spotted at Safeway) can easily use this application through a point, shoot photo and gather information procedure.

2. What tasks do they now perform?

Currently, users find their shopping items through one of two ways. They either come to the grocery store knowing exactly what they will buy, or they browse the isles of the store finding the ingredients on their shopping list. During the interviews, interviewee 2, the 61 year old man, came to the grocery store knowing exactly what he was going to buy. He had memorized the relevant ingredients of his usual purchases, and bought only foods he was familiar with. However, this method does not work for everyone, as demonstrated by interviewee 4's (the female student's) concerns that ingredients do not always stay the same because sometimes companies decide to refresh their products. So, shoppers, especially shoppers with dietary restrictions, have to look through the labels of their products to make sure the product is safe. If the user is browsing through the shelves of the store, especially if the user has dietary restrictions, they also need to look through the labels of every item they want to buy. Interviewee 1, the 38 year old male, in particular mentioned how time-consuming this process was. Shoppers on special diets or people shopping for others on special diets need to remember all the restrictions of their diet and make sure to buy products that adhere to these restrictions.

3. What tasks are desired?

To make the shopping process easier for shoppers with food allergies or other dietary restrictions, there needs to be a way for shoppers to easily remember what dietary restrictions they are confining their purchases to, and which products fit their needs. For example, through our iPhone application, users can create profiles to mark the dietary restrictions of themselves or a member of their family so they can shop easier. Users can also take a photo of the barcode of products on the isles to get quick nutritional information about the product. They can also select one or more profiles and ask the application to return information relevant to those restrictions, making it easier to tell if a product is safe to buy or not. Several of the interviewees mentioned that they needed to be very careful not to eat anything that could result in serious reactions, and with this application, they can make informed decisions.

4. How are the tasks learned?

Shoppers learn about what products are good for their diets through repeated checking of the ingredients label and nutritional facts. Once they become familiar with the brands in their local grocery store, their shopping process becomes much easier, but until they learn which foods are good to eat, versus which are not, shopping is a time consuming chore. If they are shopping for their families or other people in their household (such as roommates), they also need to learn and memorize any restrictions those people might have.

5. Where are the tasks performed?

The tasks of examining and buying products are performed at the user's local grocery stores. Grocery stores are usually well lit areas where consumers can read the labels of the products they want to buy. However, most shoppers do not have access to the internet or a computer at the grocery store, so if they come across an ingredient they aren't familiar with, and they are concerned it may affect their diet, it would be difficult for them to find out at the grocery store. Any help they might get for from the store clerks depend on how well the clerks know about the product ingredients.

6. What's the relationship between user and data?

A person's dietary information is very important to a shopper because one mistake might result in a serious allergic reaction or other medical emergencies. However, it is easy to sometimes forget about these restrictions, especially if the shopper is shopping for someone else with the dietary restrictions. Another shopper we talked to mentioned that his mother forgot he was allergic to nuts and accidentally bought food with nuts in them. The shopper also has access to all the nutritional information about a product, but it's time consuming and difficult to read through the list and check every product. Also, if the user comes across an ingredient they don't recognize, should they go home, find more information about the ingredient and come back to the store, or just take a risk. Interviewee 1, the 38 year old man, talked about how 'eggs' were listed several different ways in the ingredient list and he had to find them all.

7. What other tools does the user have?

If a shopper has a phone with internet connectivity, they can examine unfamiliar ingredients online but this is also time consuming and results of their searches are not guaranteed to be accurate. Also, if the user has a phone and they don't remember the nutritional restrictions about the people they are shopping for, they can make a call. Shoppers can also read the labels of every product they want to consider buying but this is very time consuming and it is easy to make a mistake. For example, a vegetarian might quickly scan the ingredients list to make sure there are no meat products in the food, but might miss the chicken stock that is listed as a sub-ingredient to one of the main ingredients.

8. How do users communicate with each other?

Users can communicate to each other through the phone, internet or in person. If one user was shopping for another, they can record all the dietary restrictions of the other in the iPhone application for easy access. Mothers can look up the user profiles of their family members in the iPhone application for easy access to all the dietary restrictions they need to abide by. However, most shoppers do not communicate with each other while shopping, so users do not need another person when actually buying the products.

9. How often are the tasks performed?

The number of times a person shops per week or month depends on the shopper, the number of people they are shopping for and their shopping methodologies. For example, interviewee 2, the 61 year old man, said that he now shops once or twice a week and stocks up on everything he needs. However, before he was divorced, he used to shop every couple of days. Nevertheless, if the shopper goes to the store very frequently, they usually remember the ingredients of food items so they spend less time per trip looking at the ingredients list, but a lot of time overall. On the other hand, if a person shops less frequently, like once a week or once a month, they won't remember all the ingredients of every item in the shelves, so they end up spending a lot of time, figuring out the best item for their diet, every time they go to the grocery store.

10. What are the time constraints on the task?

Any time constraint the user has while shopping is based on their personal schedules. Shoppers come by after work and before heading home, in between appointments, after workouts, after or before classes, or as part of their morning routine to get their chores done. The problems with shopping for dietary restrictions do not matter when shoppers have a lot of time, but become important when there is little time to shop. In the latter case, shoppers want to know what they're buying and move on to their next chore; they don't want to linger in the grocery store. In this case, our iPhone application becomes a powerful tool, allowing them to get their work done efficiently and quickly.

11. What happens when things go wrong?

The consequences of a shopper violating their dietary restrictions depends on the particular restriction and how bad the person's reaction is. For example, interviewee's 1, 4 had food allergies and might get serious reactions if they accidentally ate something they were allergic to. However, interviewee 2 stated that if he had too much fat or calories one day, he would try to even out the consumption by eating very little the next day. However, all interviewees had to pay close attention to the labels so that in the long term, they were eating within the limits of their diets.

Analysis of Tasks


Scan an Item / Type in Item's Name in Search Box

One task that a user would perform is using the camera to scan the barcode of a product they want to buy or typing in the name of the item in a search box. The user would just point their camera at the barcode of the product or if they can't find the barcode (or can't reach it or no barcode exists), they could type in the name of the item, or the Universal Product Code (UPC) in the search box of the application. Our application would make use of third-party barcode scanning software (such as RedLaser) to analyze the barcode and get the UPC. This task would be the same level of difficulty as looking at a product they want to analyze since all it involves for the user is a point and click procedure.

Create User Profile

Another task a user performs with this application is creating a user profile. The difficulty of this task varies according to the user because a user with one dietary restriction would have much less information to enter than a user with many restrictions. In this task, the user creates their profile by recording details about their dietary restrictions for future reference. This task does not have to be performed at the grocery store since the details about the user profile will be saved for future use.


Log Cumulative Nutritional Data

Aside from avoiding certain allergens, we have found that users tend to avoid/limit other things in their diet such as sodium, carbohydrates, or caloric intake. Keeping track of all this can be difficult and time consuming for the user, and may sometimes lead to guesswork and gaps in logging. Fortunately, computers are great at keeping track of things! So our application will make it very easy for the user to log their nutritional data and keep track of their cumulative standing throughout the day.

Combine Multiple Profiles to Shop Efficiently for Many People

Another task a user can do with this iPhone application is to use a combination of different nutritional profiles when shopping for more than one person. For example, if a person was shopping for a family, where one person was diabetic and another person was allergic to eggs, the shopper would be able to select both profiles as restrictions, so when he or she scans the item and follows the procedure from the previous task, all dietary needs would be met. This is easier than the current method of remembering the dietary needs of everyone the shopper is buying food for, since it is easy to forget the dietary needs of a person if there are many restrictions. However, with the saved profiles in the application, the shopper simply has to click on the user profiles of the people they are shopping for and the application will automatically let the user know if they are about to buy something that violates the restrictions of someone's diet.


Compare the user's allergens to the ingredient list

Once a user has decided to consider a product for purchase, they much recognize all the allergens on the ingredient list. From our interviews, we have learned that some ingredients (like eggs) have several different names that manufacturers use in their lists. In order for a user to be able to match their allergens to the ingredient list, they must be familiar with all the derivative names for their allergens and compare it to every ingredient until they find a match and decide not to buy the product, or exhaust the list and decide to purchase the food item. This task can be tedious, especially if it has to be done for several items in the grocery store. With our application the this task will be very quick and easy. Once the item is entered into the application (via barcode scanning or typing the name in manually), the application will scan the ingredient list and nutritional data against the active profile(s) and instantly tell you whether or not the product is acceptable. If it is not, the problem ingredients will be highlighted for the user to see.

Match nutritional information with dietary restrictions

One of the main tasks a user would perform with this application is matching the nutritional information from a product with their dietary restrictions. Using the information from the user profile they created, and the results of the barcode scan (or text entry) from the application, they would get get information about a product and how well it suits their dietary needs. For example, if a user wanted to limit his intake of salts to a certain amount, he would first enter this into his profile. Then, he would scan the barcode from a box of crackers, and would immediately get an indicator (color coded from red to green) that represents the amount of salt per serving in that box of crackers, and whether or not this item would push him over the limit he set in his profile. Without the application, the shopper would have to look at the nutritional facts of every product, calculate the amount of salt per serving, and check to see if it conforms to their restrictions.

Interface Design

This will be a tab-based application, with the following 4 tabs:

1. Scan
This tab allows the user to scan the product's barcode. When this tab is selected, the camera is activated, and a barcode scanning interface is presented. A live preview of the camera's field of view will be shown. This preview will be overlaid with an outline box that shows the preferred coordinates of the barcode for optimal recognition performance. Once the scan button is pressed, and the program detects a legitimate, in-focus barcode, it will automatically take a snapshot and attempt to parse the UPC pattern. if barcode capture fails, an error message will appear, and the camera will revert to live preview mode, prompting the user to try again. Once a UPC number is successfully obtained, the user is taken to the 'Analyze' tab, where the product information will be shown and analyzed based on the active profile information.

2. Search
As an alternative to scanning a barcode, the user may go to this tab and enter a numerical UPC number or textual keyword description of an item into the search box. For user convenience, the textbox will implement autocomplete functionality by providing a list of items (described by UPC code and a textual description) that match characters that the user has entered so far. The matching items will be shown as a scrollable list. Each item in the list will be identified by a picture (if available), the item's name and UPC. The user may select one of these options to immediately go to that product's 'analyze' page. It will also be useful for users who want to browse through or compare a list of products rather than look up a specific item.

3. Analyze
Once an item has been scanned and recognized or selected from the list of search results, the user is taken to the 'Analyze' tab, where he is presented with a brief item description and the status of it's compatibility with the dietary restrictions of each active profile. Each profile is given a "green light" or a "red light" for the product. Tapping on one of these status listings will present the user with more detailed information about the compatibility of the product, which will include an ingredient list with the problem ingredients highlighted, as well as other nutritional data, etc.

4. Profiles
The 'Profiles' tab allows the user to mange the profiles each person who's being shopped for. When a new profile is created, the user enters a name for the person, along with allergens and other items the person wishes to avoid. By default, when an allergen is added, all ingredients that are similar but go by different names, or contain the allergens are also added. More specific details about which allergens are added, which nutritional information should be screened for, and the user's preferences can be customized. Profiles can be created, deleted, activated and deactivated. Only active profiles are used when the application checks a product.


Scenario 1

Task: Compare the User's Allergens to the Ingredient List

This user is trying to decide whether any ingredients contained in a specific item will conflict with his allergies. Instead of having to read and filter through all of the ingredients manually, he must merely scan the barcode of the item, and it will respond whether the item is safe to consume or not, according to his profile.

Scenario 2

Task: Combine Multiple Profiles to Shop Efficiently for Many People

This use case considers a shopper who is trying to satisfy the dietary needs of multiple people. She selects which preconfigured profiles she would like to take into consideration, and then proceeds to scan the items she is purchasing. The application marks each item as safe or unsafe based on the restrictions specified in the selected profiles.

Scenario 3

Task: Keep Cumulative Consumption of Ingredient Below Target Value

In this scenario, the user is faced with a quantitative restriction on the amount of sodium that he may consume. To keep track of this restriction, the user specifies "Sodium < 20g / day" as a nutritional rule in his profile. He then proceeds to scan items he is planning to purchase, which causes the application to look up the sodium content of each product he is searching for. The application keeps a running total of all sodium in the current purchase, and notifies the user if this limit exceeds the quota specified in his nutritional rule.

Analysis of Approach

The main aspect of the iPhone that our application utilizes is the convenience that the device offers. The iPhone offers portability of vital information, through hand held web browsing, and our application plans to take advantage of present network connections to retrieve necessary information from databases. The convenience of having this information readily available is very useful for our application, making it more attractive because of the immediacy of needed results. Also, a minor portion of our application takes advantage of the integrated digital camera present in the iPhone. Through this camera, we will be able to scan bar codes, making the chore of searching for hard to spell or relatively unknown products much easier.

Other possible solutions may include:

  • A search-able database of known allergens
This would provide the necessary information for users who are unsure what ingredients in a list will set off a bad reaction in a relatively small, succinct application. However, this would appeal to a smaller range of users than our application plans to target, and also involves more steps and effort on the user's part to get the same information. It is possible that the effort and difficulty of using such an application may result in the user not bothering with this option at all.
  • A search-able database of products
By allowing a user to search for a product in question, this type of application would provide the information necessary. However, this is not very different from simply reading the product label and requires the user to have a general idea of what each ingredient is, as well as keep track of the combination of several products on their own. A simple search-able database offers a much less friendly and interactive user experience than our application plans to and therefore may not be as appealing to the average user.

In summary, the pros and cons of our solution are:

  • Pros:
- Quick, clean way of getting the necessary information from a product, without the added effort of entering a name or selecting from a list
- User profiles that will keep track of a variety of dietary restrictions, ranging from sodium intake to allergens to avoid
- Shopping features to use a combination of several profiles to show the level of danger a specific product entails for a group of people
- A portable source of necessary information that can be accessed on the go
  • Cons:
- Possibly difficult to use for users who are new to the iPhone or have difficulty with shaking
- May actually increase the time needed to decide whether an item should be purchased or not, depending on the availability of vital information or the frequency with which an item is used
- Given time and patience, some tasks may be accomplished using a combination of other available applications
- Possible inaccuracy or limitations of the database the application uses, resulting in misinformation or wasted time


User Interface Mockups:

Scenario 1:

Scenario 2:

Scenario 3:

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