Ideation, Branding, User research, Information architecture, User interface, Graphic design
Foodly is a start-up company based in Vancouver for which I had the opportunity to work from its very early stages. As the only designer on the team, I was responsible for the company's various design initiatives as well as its product design. Initially, the services offered by the company consisted of designing custom web and mobile applications for restaurants located in the Greater Vancouver area. Over time, the product evolved into a platform combining all the available restaurants into a single application named Foodly. The app was available both on the web and in a native mobile version.
“Custom applications present several challenges related to user acquisition and retention, which hinder business growth and viability. How might we create a platform that combines all the restaurants available to offer an online food ordering experience distinct from similar applications based on user engagement?”
1 | User interviews
The first step involved talking to existing customers who were using one or more of our custom applications. These interviews revealed elements that were appreciated and disliked about our products. One of the main discoveries was the importance of the points-based rewards system we had put in place for each restaurant. This system allowed customers to accumulate points for every dollar they spent on the app, which could then be redeemed for certain menu items.
2 | Competitive analysis
Since most of our users also used apps such as Doordash and Uber Eats, the user interviews were also an opportunity to gather their impressions of some of our competitors’ products. A detailed analysis of these apps was then carried out to identify common patterns. At that time, few of them offered points-based rewards systems to their users. Therefore, our system represented an interesting opportunity to stand out from the competition.
3 | Designing the new platform
The next step was to design the new platform. Since Foodly was a start-up company in its very early stages, the design and development time was of paramount importance. Our team then only had one developer. Therefore, close collaboration was crucial to ensure that the design decisions could be realistic according to their necessary development time. Core features were prioritized to create the minimum viable product.
4 | Implementation / Product launch
When designing the new platform, our team was offered a chance to participate in the Vancouver Chinatown Festival. This opportunity was exciting, especially to officially launch the new Foodly application. However, it added an additional time constraint. Ultimately, we completed the application on time and were able to promote it to the festival’s audience. In addition, we used promotional material inside restaurants already using our services to advertise the new platform, which significantly impacted user acquisition.
Foodly’s website homepage was updated when the new platform launched. The new design’s primary purpose was to provide easy access to the web application for online ordering and promote the native mobile application. Additional links were also included for restaurants wishing to become partner members as well as for users interested in becoming delivery partners.
Information pages were designed to provide further details about the platform to Foodly partners. The first page was intended for restaurateurs interested in being listed on the application. It included content related to the platform’s advantages, how it works, and its pricing. The second page was targeted at users interested in becoming delivery partners. Its structure was similar to the information page designed for restaurants, presenting relevant content for this target audience.
The mobile app allows users to use the Foodly platform at any time on their phone and to access certain native features such as push notifications informing them when their order is ready. It also allows them to find nearby restaurants using a list view or a map. They can track their order’s status on the app once it has been placed with a restaurant.
Points-based rewards system
The points-based rewards system aimed to be one of the main differentiators of the Foodly app from its competitors. This feature was generally appreciated by users of custom apps we had developed for restaurants in the early stages of the company. The system was adapted to work at any restaurant available on the platform. In order to add an element of gamification, missions were integrated to allow users to obtain additional points and corresponding badges.
Delivery partners app
A food delivery service was offered in the months following the launch of the new platform. Initially, delivery was provided by team members, thereby representing an opportunity to have direct contact with users. However, as the business grew, we quickly had to resort to delivery partners to support demand. A mobile application was then designed and developed specifically for them.
Restaurant partners app
Partner restaurants received a tablet with an application allowing them to accept orders placed by customers on the Foodly platform. The application developed during the initial phases of the company had to be adapted to integrate functionalities of the new platform, such as a delivery service. Restaurateurs were interviewed during the design and development phases to offer an adequate solution.
Participating in the very early stages of a start-up company has been an enriching experience for me. The company’s founder being a close friend, I had a lot of fun working with him to realize the project from the beginning. The constraints and realities of a start-up, including access to limited resources that require imagination and autonomy, have taught me a lot. Some findings include:
- Although a pivot represents a critical decision for a company, it can have a significant impact on its viability;
- A company’s unique value proposition is what sets it apart from the rest of the competition and can be an interesting source of inspiration for design;
- Prioritize features that impact users’ perceived benefit when building the minimum viable product.