Thursday, July 12, 2012

UX To The Rescue of Healthy Eating

Driving down a San Diego freeway into the city on the eve of the opening of COMIC-CON was a challenge. Thank goodness for National Public Radio and the fact that traffic was moving so slowly I could put both arms behind my head, lean back into the headrest and coast with one foot ever so lightly on the gas pedal.

I was not attending that particular convention. Nor was I attending the San Diego Yoga Journal Conference, also in town this weekend. Everyone else on the planet seemed to be. However, luck was mine on many fronts as I managed to find a free parking spot a mere 9 blocks away from Red Door Interactive, the location of this month's UX Speakeasy meeting. (UX : User Experience)

What a view! From the 11th floor, plastered to the floor to ceiling windows, I looked straight down into Petco Park (home of the San Diego Padres baseball team) and across the Coronado Bridge all lit up in the twilight. A great backdrop for holding exciting, nerdy conversations such as the one I had with a developer about coding and the educational merits, potential and pitfalls of Khan Academy.

Defining quality in online education has more than just a little UX matter wrapped up in it, don't you think?

Before moving on to the meaty stuff, I want to provide you something in the "You heard it here first" department: Chad Martin announced to the group that UX Speakeasy will be hosting a one day Sketch Camp in the fall as a followup to the extremely well received UX Conference we held last Spring (read my conference posts starting here). Details will be forthcoming; if you are starving for information now or want to help out contact Chad at

Gema Almilli, an Interaction Designer from Red Door Interactive hosted our meeting this month and gave a very interesting talk about ways to obtain User Experience data when you don't have a huge in-house lab or bottomless resources (which is most of us). I couldn't help thinking about all the non-profits out there, the small businesses, who want UX research but think they can't afford it, or an organization of any size who doesn't "get" what UX is all about and why their business should invest in it. This talk was inspiring for any of us who work with these groups or aspire to do so.

Let's talk food. All sorts of fast food companies out there are pushing their iceberg lettuce salads and cardboard tomato slices in an effort to convince you they are healthy. However, there are other companies, sometimes known as Gourmet Fast Food companies, that take healthy choices seriously. Gema was working with one such company as they analyzed and re-designed their web presence. What this company learned was that not only were many customers going to their website and looking at the menus in search of healthy options, but customers really wanted to be able to search and filter based upon specific dietary choices.

Hmmm...I don't know how prescient the executives at that particular company were, but I certainly wouldn't have anticipated that a fast food place, even a "gourmet" fast food place, would have a dedicated audience of super healthy eaters. (Fast food? Healthy? Oxymoron?). Lo and behold, after some effective efficient and creative UX work, it turned out that gluten free  food choices were the Number 1 filter selection on the new online menu! In addition, this company learned that they could and should more actively promote the fact that the majority of their seafood comes from sustainable sources. They were doing the right thing already - they just needed to let people know more clearly. The UX data demonstrated that their customers really cared - it made good business sense to put this information front and center!

They learned, I learned, that healthy eating is on the rise in the most surprising of places! Fast food can be healthy and tasty food (bye bye iceberg lettuce) and it will sell if you make it easy for people to learn about it. Thank You UX Research!

I looked down and observed the greasy cheesy thing in one hand and the diet coke in the other hand. I could almost hear the little army of chortling fat globules making a beeline for my waistline. The miniature grease bombs had been the only vegetarian food available - not a raw carrot in sight.

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