User experience focused interface design

The Modern grocery experience

  • Date: Jan - Mar 2017

Amazon Go is certainly making changes and becoming a powerhouse to the everyday mundane tasks of shopping. But shopping in a common store is still the same; you gather items in a cart, dump them out again at the checkout counters, wait for each item to be scanned, and then repack everything into bags.

A team of four Northwestern students - Virginia Van Keuren, Elena Dansky, Miriam Khan and myself - spent ten weeks developing a more accessible solution for the general grocery stores such as WholeFoods and Jewel. The final product is a small interface that would be attached to a common shopping cart; it would be able to weigh and products automatically, making the checkout process much faster and convenient.

Final Product

A standard shopping cart with an ipad-sized interface secured in the middle of the handle bar and a weight sensor at the bottom of the cart. The interface will also have a sensitive barcode scanner at the top so that it scans the items as customers naturally drop it in their cart.

Explore the final prototype by following the tasks below in order:
1. Get broccoli. Assume there is a sticker to stick on the plastic bag when you grab the broccoli from the shelf.
2. Grab Kellogg's Frosted Flakes
3. Remove broccoli by simply taking it out of the cart. (Click anywhere on the screen to assume the cart automatically detected the weight difference.)
4. Drop anything in the cart. (Again, click to move on)
5. Try calling for help.
6. Checkout easily! Payment can be done directly at the checkout counters without having to rescan everything.

1. Research

Multiple trips were made to various supermarkets, convenient stores, as well as similar concept food courts such as foodlife in downtown Chicago. We asked various parties involved extensively including sales, customers and managers.
Important takeaways:
• Self checkout systms don't work due to stealing.
• The most timeconsuming process is the unloading and repacking of items.

2. Brainstorming

We tried and tested extremely low fidelity prototypes of many different ideas including tap cards to scan every item grabbed (each item has a sensor on a corresponding shelf), an improved self-checkout system that prevents theft and improves UX, and a similar idea to the final design.

3. User testing and iterations

As the idea was developed further, many versions of the interface was tested to ensure the best user experience. One of the most drastic changes made was how produce were accounted for. Initially, the screen asked to search for the product in the database, select the right kind such as organic or non-organic, and drop in the cart for weight and final price. This was much too complicated for the user and hence it was changed to assume that all produce also had barcodes via stickers.

4. Future development

If this idea was to be taken further, the hardware needs much more testing and development such as the scanner incorporated in a relatively cheap but durable interface that can easily be attached to shopping carts. Furthermore, the weigher was automatically assumed to be perfectly working during this process. There is nothing economically feasible out there currently that would be suitable for this product.

Chicago, IL, USA
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