Knife & Fork presents an accessible, curated collection of food and menus. The site offers users a chance to find content specifically directed to their needs. It acts as a resource for different types of inquiries surrounding food choices and menu construction. An appropriate site visit is available for all user experiences, from the casual drop-in to the site to longer, more sustained explorations.
There is no shortage of food content on the Internet. Users are inundated with restaurant advertisements and videos showing the latest cooking shortcut or trend to try at home any time the log on. Practically any recipe one is looking for exists somewhere on the Internet- users just have to have the determination and time to find it. But that time or interest level is not consistent across all user groups. What sets Knife & Fork apart is that it has all the content a discerning user is looking for, in one place. Different user groups can visit Knife & Fork, quickly understand its concept and find the information they are seeking. Knife & Fork is for the user who knows their way around culinary content, and has come to expect more from their sources. To that end, style is a major consideration in construction of the site. Viewers can leave feeling not only informed but aesthetically satisfied.
The aim of Knife & Fork is to build a user-friendly platform where users of all levels can access food content. It is a layered site that engages users on multiple levels. Users can find aesthetic pleasure, ease of use, and access to useful information all in one place. Knife & Fork is also meant to be a site that can be visited often by the same user. The site aims to differentiate the user experience between different presentations of information, so the same user can experience the site in multiple ways.
The value of this site lies in its focus on user accessibility, from both a structural and contextual perspective. Again, there is no shortage of culinary information on the internet, but that does not mean that all of it is worth its viewer’s time. This site aims to break through some of the onslaught of content and offer a well-curated and relevant presentation of food content to its audience. That means there will be less fluff and more direct results, tailored to the needs of the user. Many users who are accessing food media as a source of information have an idea of what search experience they would like to have- quick, direct, and one that makes them feel excited about what they are looking at. That being said, many users do not know the exact content they are looking for, which is part of the search experience itself. They are relying on their content resources to shape their results, so sites need to take their role as inspiration seriously. Trusted sites have the power to influence and motivate their audiences through the content they provide. Taking this into consideration, Knife & Fork also sets itself apart because it is not used as a passive search engine. By tailoring the user experience, and offering specific suggestions in each category, the site becomes an integral part of the user experience. In this way, it becomes a trusted resource for users. It is a site with more personality and presence than its competitors.
Another marker of site success will be the ability of the site to provide a cohesive experience that feels reliable and easy-to-follow for the user. To that end, the aesthetic of Knife & Fork will be consistent enough to make a mark with visitors. Because this site is experienced as multiple features in one gathered site, as opposed to multiple formats, it will be easier to develop and maintain this consistency. Through its different landing pages, Knife & Fork’s user experience will be distinguished by its ease of use and strong visual markers. The layout of each page is consistent across categories to maintain engagement.
User accessibility and intuition is a major mark of success as this site develops. This will be proved by evidence of satisfied user experience, which will be shown in multiple ways. One of the clearest ways will be tracking total site visits. There will be consistent tracking of SEO efforts made to ensure that visibility is increasing from launch date forward. Beyond these analytics, one of the biggest markers of this will be following this user experience through the comment and activity sections on the site. Much of digital food media’s marked success in the last decade is due to its high level of user engagement. Even when a site offers a near-perfect user experience, there is always room for that experience to be enhanced by the interactions that visitors have with each other through the site. This interpersonal interaction also changes the entire site experience for users as they add their own narrative and relationships to the content that the site offers. An active chatbot and vibrant, easily accessible community section encourage this activity.
Using this intuitive organization of content, tailoring side development through the resulting interaction, means the site is acting as a system where users can shape the information available to them based on their specific needs from a visit. The usability of the site will be dictated by what features users continue to visit. This means the site experience can be tailored to each user’s specific needs. The site experience becomes more finessed the more a user interacts with the site.
The Knife & Fork project is structured around the agile method. Client vision and feedback will be incorporated into every step of the project, and developer and client will work closely together to navigate goals and structures of the project as they expand and develop. With this collaborative element, the project approach becomes intuitive and relies on consistent tracking of site components. The first site aspect that will need to be built is the three different landing pages that offer different experiences for the user. These parent pages will be variable focuses of the user experience. They allow for information to be presented in different ways for users at different times, maintaining a consistent level of engagement and excitement with the site.
As mentioned above, information access is key for Knife & Fork. The primary focus for these landing pages is a clear presentation of content, both textual and visual. Knife & Fork’s approach to information access assumes the position that every user visit that does not result in click-through to parent pages (i.e. ending at the homepage) provided will not be repeated. Therefore, there is a strong emphasis on ensuring that the site communication is clear and compelling enough to ensure repeat visitation. The strength of this organization to reliably direct visitors to desired content moves the site beyond the simplistic relationship of information contained in one space. Achieving this while maintaining the user-friendliness that is central to Knife & Fork will rely on the information being un-packable across all site experiences. What this means for this site in particular will be strong separation of the site features.
While the visual layout is consistent, the search pages offered for the three user experiences will be highly differentiated in terms of content ordering to keep the information and experience separated from one another. Throughout the three landing pages, the primary form of organization will be by category- arranging like ingredients and menu ideas rather than presenting information alphabetically. In the three landing pages, the information hierarchy is clear, providing the most essential information at the forefront and allowing secondary information to follow. Below is a synopsis of all three site features and justification for their inclusion.
This is the site set-up that offers the most casual relationship for the user, or the least involved user experience on the site. That means it acts as more of a “drop-in” experience for visitors than some of the other site features. This is where a user can experience Knife & Fork without spending a great deal of time on the site. By inputting an ingredient name, or clicking through to one of the examples provided by the site, users are taken to a simple layout that details various highlights about the ingredient. There will be sections that present interesting facts about the ingredient’s history, data on where and when it is used most often, and editor tips on prepping and preparing the ingredients. This will be a site page that relies as much on visual information than as on written. Because this site page is meant to be experienced quickly, the page will be bright and eye-grabbing, but simply laid out so the user is able to easily find the information they are looking for without getting bogged down by extraneous features or data.
This is arguably the most involved user experience on the site. Users can input an experience they are cooking for or a cuisine they would like to focus on, and the site works with the user’s input to create a full menu selection that offers new and exciting content focused on the user’s search directives. There will be suggestions for each course and linked recipes to match each suggestion. Again, visual considerations will be critical here, as the goal is to emphasize the aesthetic and content-driven additions that Knife & Fork can make to users’ lives. This site page will rely heavily on the strength of its suggested results, as there will need to be appropriate links to all recipes and suggested additions, like wine and music pairings. Because of the high level of content that this page offers, the page itself will rely on a clean, simple layout that does not offer too much visual distraction. Additional external images can be accessed separately through the recipe links for more visual information.
This site feature follows the structure often seen in some of its competitors. It is included to increase the functionality of the Knife & Fork site experience overall. This is a search page where users can input a name of a dish, or browse the featured pages provided by the site, and receive a collection of recipes that are fitting results for the search. While there are multiple sources on the internet that offer a comparable service, Knife & Fork aims to tailor the collection results to the stylized, elevated content that the Knife & Fork user is seeking. This piece is also meant to continue the engagement of the repeat user on the site. Knife & Fork is meant to be seen as a site where users can collect all of the culinary information they need, whether they are planning their next big party or just need a quick recipe for a weeknight dinner. Therefore, the commonly seen and relatively simple “recipe round-up” continues to inform users that Knife & Fork is a reliable and trusted source for all culinary content needs, big or small. In keeping with the other two site pages, this page will have a clean layout. Although the content pulled from the user search will be from different sources, they are gathered together with Knife & Fork’s distinct visuals so the user continues to engage with the site.
Following the development of these three site experiences, the next piece of building the site will be developing the access points, or menu bars, on the homepage that leads to these pages. A well-organized and simple menu bar ensures the consistency in aesthetic, as called out above. This goal speaks to the idea of creating a coherent experience across multiple experiences and formats. Knife & Fork will be a highly visual site, where its tailored aesthetic and layout is essential to its overall information presentation. Because of the clear division of the categories that users can access, there will be three distinct landing page experiences. Each of these landing pages will present a new face of the site. The system of organization will be key to user understanding here. Throughout the three landing pages, the primary form of organization will be by category- arranging like ingredients and menu ideas rather than presenting information alphabetically. Blog posts are categorized to align with the three main pages, so viewers can gather information from different sources.
Scope of Work and Timeline:
Timeline of Deliverables
Deliverable #1: User Group Definitions and Attributes – due Week 1
Deliverable #2: Site Requirements – due Week 1
Deliverable #3: User Personas and Scenarios – due week 3
Deliverable #4: Content Inventor y- due Week 4
Deliverable #5: Site Map/Task Flow Rationale – due Week 6
Deliverable #6: Annotated Wireframe – due Week 8
Deliverable #7: Working Prototype of Site – due Week 8
Deliverable #8: User Research Plan and Analysis– due Week 9
Deliverable #9: Site Testing and Results – due Week 9
Deliverable #10: Final Site Presentation – due Week 10
Deliverable #11: Site Progress Reports – ongoing
The project timeline begins immediately. The timing of its deliverables will be in accordance with the agile process, so there will be repeated check-ins throughout to ensure that deliverables are still in keeping with updated goals as the site and audience grow. Developments made to the project will build upon initial deliverables so that the software develops with the goals of both the client and developer in mind. The initial mock-ups of each site experience will give the client a sense of the visual considerations that the site will incorporate. The hallmark of Knife & Fork will be its clean visuals with a cohesive sense of organization in its presentation of data, so visual drafts of the site will be created with this goal of clarity in mind. The approval of these initial deliverables will influence the timing and goals of the following deliverables. Immediately following approval of the mock-ups, the development of the parent pages will begin to ensure that the software supports these site experiences. The parent pages must present relevant results very quickly. Optimizing speed of the search bars and results will be essential. The Knife & Fork user knows that culinary information is available in many places. They want to know that the information they are looking for can be quickly and easily acquired. Following the development of the result pages, there will be a re-assessment of the site’s visual components to identify whether they are still in keeping with the client’s goals.
In keeping with the agile process, there will be consistent follow-up on the site to ensure that all benchmarks of success are being achieved. Based on user feedback, adjustments will be made to search capabilities and general aesthetic to ensure that all systems are working in accordance with software requirements and users are satisfied with the site experience.
With the initial implementation of the project, stakeholders will receive a summary of site features and accesses. This will illustrate the three unique experiences that Knife & Fork offers, and thoroughly explain the features available with each access point. They will also receive a detailed mock-up of each of the three site experiences to get a sense of the aesthetic and layout of the site. This deliverable will be followed by annotated wireframes to give a thorough presentation of the site. This will offer a chance to see the site goals in action. The mock-ups will provide an overview of the content display distributed through the three search options. These previews will offer a chance to see how Knife & Fork’s aesthetic and search capabilities can be translated successfully through multiple channels.
Users tests are conducted towards the end of testing to ensure workability of the site. In keeping with the agile method, results of the user tests will be analyzed and used to make final adjustments to the site prototype.
Following the site launch, stakeholders will receive monthly reports that detail the progress of the site. These reports will include data on the total number of site visits and specific visitor demographics. It will also detail the site features most used by visitors and a summary report of general user feedback from the prior month. The review of this data, by both developer and client, will allow for more informed decisions regarding Knife & Fork’s future potential and executions.
Deliverable #1: User Group Definitions and Attributes
There are two user groups identified for this site: those with more of an expert culinary view and others who are interested in exploring culinary content but do not necessarily translate what they look at into action. These user groups can also be defined by their anticipated relationship with the site: the casual drop-in user, whose site experience is contained to the time they spend on the site, versus the extended user who takes data away from the site to use elsewhere. Because the goals of these groups overlap, both groups influenced visual and content considerations for the site.
Research will focus on this user group primarily. This user group skews slightly more female and based on research that shows more women engage in food-driven content than men. The age range for this group is mid-20’s to mid-30’s. The population is most concentrated in American cities, where users have the most opportunity to find materials that are featured in some of the more ambitious recipes on Knife & Fork. Users have disposable income, and they enjoy spending their time and money on food-related pursuits. They like to see their interests and aesthetic echoed in the content that they support. They are willing to go out of their way to find information or ingredients beyond what is easily found. They enjoy when a site leads them to a project, but it is important that visiting the site itself is not a chore. They are frequent visitors to their preferred sites, and are loyal to them. They do not visit a high number of sites focused around this content, but they do expect that their trusted sources deliver all of their required content. Because of the specialized nature of their online activity, this group is technically proficient but not “techie”. They like their technologies to be in easy to navigate and in their language. Not only do they need to be led to their desired content, they also require that the content itself is worth their click. Compelling content, strong aesthetic and clear layout are critical for this group.
This group is split more evenly between sexes. Again, they are primarily American and their population is more concentrated in cities. The Seeker has less disposable income than the Cook, although this can vary from user to user. Unlike the Cook they might not be willing to take on a several-day cooking project that leads them to different grocery stores, however, they are interested in seeing what such a project might look like. They do not always have the financial or practical resources to produce all of the food content they take in, but they enjoy reading about it, looking at it, and taking inspiration from what they engage in. They visit more sites overall than the Cook group above, so are more technically proficient. They move through content sources quickly and are adept at switching quickly between sources. It is critical that sites provide enough interest that the Seeker remembers it as a site worth visiting in the course of their exploration. They are technologically savvy and want to derive content quickly from each source before they move onto the next. They spend a shorter time period on the site with each visit but visit it more frequently. Ease of use, readability, and quick engagement of the viewer are paramount for this user group.
Note: User Group Interview Summaries included in Appendix
Deliverable #2: Site Requirements
- Clean, cohesive layout
- Easy navigation
- Strong visual components
- Diverse, engaging content
- User interaction with site
The site requires an appealing visual layout, an easy-to-navigate search feature, and content, both linked and original, that shows the experienced ‘Cook’ and the less experienced “Seeker” user groups new and exciting material.
An appealing visual layout means strong photography, thoughtful font choices, and, perhaps most importantly, a clean presentation that doesn’t strain the eye. White space is appreciated here, when used thoughtfully. The layout will be focused on highlighting food imagery, with less distraction around it. This will make visits more impactful for the casual visitor who is scrolling through the site more quickly. It will also help develop a level of familiarity with the more committed user group. The goal of focusing on the layout is building a discernable aesthetic that user groups come to recognize and want to see again and again.
Users require a level of intuition with their content sources. They want to feel as though the site is communicating and thinking with them. Users want to trust their content source as expert. They also want to see that the search system, and suggested pages, understands their needs. A search system that easily picks up on keywords, and moves quickly to deliver original content related to the search term, will be a critical consideration in the site’s success.
The user groups expressed a desire for elevated food content. They expressed seeing a level of sameness with the existing food content sources and did not feel that another site that focused on the same material would stand out to them as a new source to incorporate into their routine. Rather, there is a need for aspirational content. The Cook will use this as ideas to further their development in the kitchen and the Seeker will enjoy sharing these impressive ideas. Content will pull from a wide range of sources rather than a few select ones, so that users get a fresh perspective on their common search terms.
An active “comments” section, prominently displayed on the site, will be necessary. Both user groups indicated that their experience was elevated by being able to communicate with other users and site administrators. This will influence the layout of the site overall. The comments section will be easily accessible on the bottom of each page. In this layout, users will be able to better access the comment section and begin their relationships with other users on the site more quickly. This will also require an active site presence to respond to comments, answer questions, and facilitate engaging and peaceful discussions between users. This communication is also facilitated by the presence of a site chatbot, available to answer introductory questions that come up on a user visit.
Note: Sample Chatbot script included in Appendix
Deliverable #3: User Personas and Scenarios
Natasha has had a life-long affair with cookbooks and cooking magazines. She loves reading about new cuisines and ingredients and bringing fresh ideas into her kitchen. On any given evening, you can find her busy in her kitchen, making magic for her friends and family. Lately, she has been wanting newer material than her library of cookbooks she has to offer. She has a few online sites that she enjoys visiting casually, but she would like a site she can rely on more to give her all of the content she needs.
“I love sites that show their appreciation of food as vividly as I do. I see food as a celebration of all the senses, from taste and smell to visual considerations. When sites are beautifully presented and have lots of great pictures, I get the feeling that the sites care as much about the food as I do. But even a great presentation doesn’t do much when I can’t figure out how to use a site! When I get a ton of pop-ups or can’t figure out the search engine, I’d rather just give up and look in one of my cookbooks. I would love a site that offers me new, challenging culinary ideas to try without challenging me too much on the site itself.”
Natasha is looking for a site with user-friendly navigation that offers her inspiring, aspirational content to push herself in the kitchen.
User Scenario: “The Cook”
Natasha was reading an article in the New York Times magazine about a young Japanese chef making waves at his new restaurant in Brooklyn. The magazine discussed how this cook was using old techniques with modern, locally grown ingredients. While the magazine itself did not provide any recipes, it gave detailed descriptions of classic Japanese dishes like katsu and okonomiyaki. Natasha, while being an experienced cook, had never cooked much Japanese food. She found the magazine descriptions vivid and exciting and wanted some guidance on how to recreate these dishes in her kitchen.
Natasha gets on her computer and goes to Knife & Fork. She easily finds the search bar and types in “okonomiyaki”. She immediately gets a recipe round-up of ten recipes for the omelet-like dish from diverse sources. She is able to see classic recipes from Japanese cooks, where she can see more about the techniques that make this meal. She is also able to see how other American home cooks have translated the dish.
Natasha sees that the recipes contains cabbage, and that gets her thinking.
From the “recipe round-up” page, she is able to locate the “ingredient highlights” search bar. She types “cabbage” in and is taken to a new page focused on the ingredient. From there, she learns that cabbage is the #1 consumed vegetable in Japan. She reads that the best way to select a cabbage is to pick one that feels heavy for its size, and that she should salt it before cooking to get rid of its bitter edge.
Natasha is feeling inspired and wants to focus her next dinner party on Japanese food. She goes to the “menu” search bar and types in “Japanese”. Knife & Fork presents a full menu focused on the dishes she was reading about, with wine and sake pairings and music suggestions. She is able to see the dish and information she just read about put into context.
From engaging with each site experience that Knife & Fork has to offer, Natasha leaves feeling informed and inspired. The site navigation was simple enough that Natasha could gain knowledge from each site page without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.
Zach spends a lot of time on his computer and likes searching for new interesting finds. He particularly likes looking at food media, both for marveling at what cooks can do and sharing the content with friends for conversation. As a frequent visitor to many sites, Zach is more likely to check out new sites that offer something new and different.
“I don’t cook for myself often, but I really like food. I’m a big eater who will try anything once, and I’m fascinated by people who are really great at cooking. I find myself looking at food sites a lot and sharing them with friends. Sometimes that even leads to someone cooking for me! It takes a lot for a food-driven site to hold my attention against its competitors, though. I’m looking for a site that shows me something different than the normal how-to videos and recipe collections that pop up on my Facebook all the time. Plus, I’m no snob, but I like looking at food I want to eat- not all junk food. And I like a smart layout that’s fun to play around with.”
Zach wants a site that is visually attractive and appeals to his proficiency as a user. He wants new food content that feels different from what he usually sees.
User Scenario: “The Seeker”
Zach is hanging out at work on a Friday afternoon. He’s almost done with his week and takes a break to cruise the web and see what’s new. He goes to his usual sites, checks his social media, and reads an article or two, but he had an early lunch and he’s feeling hungry. He goes to a few links posted on his Facebook where he posted recipes or videos for his friends to see, which take him to a popular cooking website. He clicks through for a while but can’t find anything he’s interested in, so decides to peruse Knife & Fork, a new site on his radar.
Through the main landing page, Zach sees a bright, artful display blog posts featuring pictures of food, some of which he recognizes, and some of which he doesn’t. He starts clicking pictures and is taken to various recipes. The site’s responsiveness and intentional layout feel satisfying to Zach.
As he is searching, Zach gets a chat from his friend who wants to talk about the football party he is hosting this weekend for their friends. His friend likes to cook but says he can’t figure out what to make. Zach finds the “menu” search page and types in “Superbowl”. Immediately a menu is available. Zach looks at the drink suggestions first. As a craft-beer lover, he notices a recommendation for a bottle that he’s never tried before and makes a note in his phone to pick up at the store later. Then, he looks at the menu suggestions. He sees an Asian wing recipe that looks good and chats the link over to his friend. After reading the recipe, he clicks on the “ingredient highlights” page and types in “shrimp paste”, as he has never heard of this ingredient before. He learns that this paste is made of tiny ground salted shrimp, and is available at two Asian markets in his town. He chats this info over to his friend.
From a quick visit to specific site features, Zach was able to find new and exciting information about food and drinks, and pass it along to a friend. The layout and content held his interest and was easy to share.
Deliverable #5: Task Flow Rationale
Knife & Fork’s site structure is simple to maintain engagement across the main two user groups- more casual visitors and high-investment visits. Because the varied features of the site are one of its main differentiating features, the flow focuses around highlighting these functionalities. There is a general site search feature on the homepage, and then individual category pages. The individual search features are directly linked from the home page. The search features are closely linked to encourage extended audience engagement. The search pages, and some results pages, are stacked to represent the multiple features that a user can explore within one site element.
The task flow is organized by various phases of action for the user. The site visitor begins their time at Knife & Fork in the Discovery phase, where they learn more about various site features and how to explore. This is the most viewed page on the site, so the page access and movement towards content is clear. They then hit a Decision point where they can log in or browse as guest. They then move to the Search phase, where they can orient themselves with the various themed pages on the site. The Search phase moves to the Action phase. The user can move to the Action phase where they can interact with the site through pages of content, where they can see their search results and view related shopping links. The content pages here are also stacked to indicate the multiple pages of content available to them. The Involvement phase denotes areas where further action can be taken. For example, in the stacked Shopping page, users can be further directed to external links to complete purchases. The content pages also have external links to recipes and other content.
Deliverable #6: Annotated Wireframes
The wireframes for Knife & Fork were created using the Pencil program. Throughout its master pages, the site takes on a simple visual layout so the user has easy access to their desired information. Each page relies on an integrated presentation of visual and textual information, as well as easy-to-spot external links to encourage as much user follow-through as possible. The 3 search pages take their design directives from the homepage, where the most site information is contained. Each page has slight visual differentiation to add a sense of identity to each page. The user can have a tailored experience based on which page they choose to visit.
As the landing page of the site, this page offers the most comprehensive overview of the site’s features. It offers easy access to other pages of content while offering its own unique presentation and features so viewers can get a sense of the site and its offerings from visiting the homepage alone.
- The user login is featured prominently at the top of the homepage so users are able to easily build their site presence.
- The three search features listed in the menu bar are the main functions of the site. They are accessible from both the top and bottom of the page.
- The “About” page clearly lays out the directives and unique advantages of Knife & Fork’s diversified search functions.
- The landing page of Knife & Fork offers a rotating feature of most recent posts, maintaining extended viewer engagement.
- The recent posts are categorized in the same names as the search features (i.e. Menu Planner, Ingredient Info, etc.) so all related content is accessible in one site location.
- The main search bar supports search functions across the entire site.
- The chatbot is available on all pages of the site. It allows the site to build personality with the viewer and help customize the site experience to the viewer’s specific needs.
Of all of the search features and content organization tools on Knife & Fork, this page is geared most towards the “Cook” or the highest-engagement viewer group. This page is rich with content, offering its own material and extensively linking to outside sources.
- After site visitors have entered “Menu Planner” mode, this page represents a sample search result from that content organization.
- External links are easily accessible from the main menu page.
- To avoid visual distraction, the focus is on one main image, but there is an additional image gallery that the viewer can click through to extend visual interest.
- The “Menu Planner” search bar is prominently displayed and easily accessible through any of the results pages.
- The footer remains consistent through the results pages, so viewers can easily redirect back to other areas of the site.
- The chatbot is available to help viewers navigate the results pages
This page is geared towards all Knife & Fork visitors, but its highly visual layout and accessible, abbreviated information is particularly focused on engaging the “Seeker”, or the lowest-involvement user of the site.
- After site visitors have entered “Ingredient Information” mode, this page represents a sample search result from that content organization.
- This page relies on an integrated presentation of visual and textual materials to enhance viewer engagement.
- The scroll bar allows the users to take in all available information at once.
- Users can click on these categories to find aligned content with the results page they are viewing.
- Users can access other results pages through the side search bar.
With the most familiar content and layout of all the varied search pages on Knife & Fork, this page offers a comfortable entry point to newer visitors. It relies on a highly visual layout and easily accessed external links to bring visitors a diverse set of content with a highly curated appearance.
- After site visitors have entered “Recipe Round-Up” mode, this page represents a sample search result from that content organization.
- The title is clearly labeled to anchor the viewer’s visual path.
- This page relies on external links for primary information, so they are prominently displayed in conjunction with the image gallery.
- Result pages easily link back to the homepage, establishing a sense of cohesion between all site features.
- The static site image offers visual anchoring for the viewer. It links back to the homepage, making the site visit more cohesive.
Deliverable #8: User Research Plan
To test user functionality and indicate a logical flow of information throughout the architecture of the site. Success will be measured by users reporting an understanding of site functionalities and its points of differentiation from its competitors.
The aim of finding a new subject for the user test was to find someone who shared similarities with both major user groups but did not fall cleanly into one category or another. The aim of targeting this sort of user was to deepen the understanding of how the site fared with the two main groups while ensuring that the site did not feel exclusive to these separate user experiences. Test subject is a hybrid of the main two user groups, the Seeker and the Cook. Subject, like the Seeker, has novice experience with the site material and is more interested in culinary material on a casual basis. Test subject, however, is more aligned with the Cook in terms of tech comfort. He is not technologically advanced and requires some simplicity with his site presentation. Based on the needs of this group, the site will have to strike a balance between high visual engagement and ease of use.
Methods of Testing:
This test incorporates multiple approaches to assessing usability. Because the site relies on taking a familiar, convivial tone with the user, the test placed focus on attitudinal vs. behavioral testing. When asked about the site before the test, the user stated that they would want to feel a level of personality and “bite” from the site. The test observed whether this desire was followed through on during the site visit. Did the user enjoy engaging with the chatbot? Did they want to have more opportunity to comment or interact with the site?
A major area of testing success on the site was ensuring its user functionality for more casual or less experienced users. To test this, the site test was using a scripted user experience to test the specific functionality of the three page features of the site.
This process went back to the agile method, where user feedback was incorporated into every portion of the site experience.
- Were users able to navigate where information was located on the site?
- Did users feel a sense of familiarity or personality with the site?
- Did users feel a sense of completion after their visit to the site?
- Subjects will be directed to the homepage of the site. They will be asked for general impressions based on the layout and aesthetic of the homepage. What aspects of the design make them want to continue their visit?
- Users will then test the chatbot feature of the homepage. Using simple yes or no answers, they will be led through a standard chatbot conversation that offers information on the site. Users will then be asked about their chatbot experience. Was the chatbot engaging, or fun to interact with? Did it feel helpful in terms of the information it provided?
- Users will then be asked to click through the three parent pages available on the top menu bar. Do the categorizations feel logical? Is the layout of each page appealing? What about the layout feel conducive to searching, and which visual or textual layers feel extraneous?
- User will then be asked to go back to each parent page and access the subpages available in each page layout through the search bar. Was the search feature logical? Did it direct to relevant content based on the user search term?
- Were these subpages easy to find? Did the labeling feel appropriate? The users will then click through to the subpages. Did the layout feel cohesive between different subpages of the same parent page? Was there enough information on the pages? Was there any information that felt unnecessary?
User Research Analysis
An immediate callout from the test subject was that usability could be improved. While the parent pages were easy to find, the current site functionality meant that it was not logical for subpages to only be findable through search features. While keeping the structure and idea of the site consistent, it was quickly determined that subpages needed to be featured more prominently, at least in this stage of site development. With the current amount of content, it felt more engaging to the visitor to be able to see the options for content laid out before them, rather than having to search.
Another major callout was about the general aesthetic of the site. The test subject thought the bright, colorful setup was engaging. They felt that quality of images could be higher. They also felt that while the site subpages felt aesthetically cohesive, the layout generally felt a bit amateur. In keeping with the agile method, user feedback will be incorporated into advancing each step of the site experience, from landing page to site exit.
In later testing with the subpages featured more prominently on the parent page, the test subject reported a much higher level of satisfaction with the site overall. Rather than feeling disappointed in a search engine that did not return results, the test subject enjoyed being exposed to content that offered inspiration. A focus moving forward will be continuing to refine the general site aesthetic. The site’s user friendliness across user groups relies in large part on being a strong source of visual inspiration, so increasing the quality of both the images and layout is paramount to the site’s success. In terms of other visual considerations, the test subject identified that he could see consistency with the aesthetic but wanted to see more distinction and differentiation throughout the pages. Next steps will include organizing the various layouts with more focus so the overall layout is cleaner and the individual pages are more identifiable.
In a longer view of forward motion, the site will rely on increased content over time to expand the viability of its search features. This will involve expanding the offerings from both a post and page perspective, so users can search categories through both site features.
- User Group Interview Summaries:
User Group #1: Research Subject for the “Cook” group is a 34-year old American female. In keeping with the demographics described above, she is based in a city. She has been a long-time food magazine subscriber and is gradually making the switch to primarily digital content. She considers herself well-versed in food media and enjoys pulling information from these sites to share with friends and use in her kitchen.
User Group #2: Research subject for the “Seeker” Group is a 27-year old American male, based in a semi-rural area. He works at a tech company and considers himself technologically proficient. He does not cook very much for himself but enjoys reading about what others are doing in their kitchen. He likes to share food-driven content with friends as a means of conversation.
As mentioned, there are some commonalities within these two groups in terms of requirements from the site. Both user groups expressed a desire for a layout that is easy to understand, and one that they feel “seen” in. They want the aesthetic of the site to be similar to their sensibilities. Continued research focuses on the “Cook” user group laid out above, as they are the more frequent user of the site, and the Seeker tends to follow sites that have built up a reputation with the more committed “Cook” group. The Seeker confirmed that he often will check out a site based on a recommendation from his friends in the “Cook” group.
Interviewees were asked what they liked and disliked about their current activity on food-related sites. They were also asked what they felt was missing from their current experience. Users primarily expressed a desire for content that’s different from the usual things they see on similar sites. They wanted to feel as though they were being exposed to new ideas or new techniques that could inspire them. Some dissatisfaction was expressed with existing sites that pulled content from the same few sources, often from sources in the same publishing family. They said that this led to a homogeneity of content that made them reluctant to visit sites repeatedly, as they got the sense that they had seen a lot of what the site to offer. They felt they could not trust the site to deliver on new inspiration, which in turn forced the user to continuously seek out new sites as opposed to sticking with their preferred sources. For the less technologically proficient user, they preferred that they could rely on a few trusted sites to deliver both familiar stand-bys and new ideas for them to try.
Users expressed satisfaction with existing sites that were easy to navigate and didn’t rely heavily on pop-ups or drop-down menus. They found these elements distracting and expressed a desire for cleaner presentations of information that focused more on content.
For the “Cook” user group, the subject indicated that interactivity is also an important consideration. She wants to be able to communicate with other users to extend the discussion around the content. She wants to be able to trust that the content provided by the site will be worth her time and energy. Users like her will influence the site by the interaction that they have with the site administrators and other users. The Cook group often likes to add their experience with a recipe or share tips with other users. The content needs to be compelling enough to hold their attention and easy enough to navigate so that they can communicate with other users.
- Sample Chatbot Script
Meet, Spork, the Knife & Fork chatbot. This site feature offers a series of short entry questions that allow the chatbot to guide the user experience. These questions can be stacked upon each other to create an extended experience with Spork, but each question that a user asks the chatbot is able to stand alone. Interactions with Spork underscore the friendly, sophisticated voice present throughout Knife & Fork. Users can learn more about various site features while gaining a larger understanding of the distinctive voice and style that sets Knife & Fork apart from its competitors. The chatbot strikes a balance between entertainment and viable information. Most mini-conversations, or dialogues with Spork, include tangible calls to action where the viewer can learn more about the site and get to know it on different levels. Spork can lead viewers directly to the various search features of the site, as well as community and shopping links. Additional resources are included in these dialogues to prolong and extend user engagement with the site. The user interaction with Spork follows a structured conversation flow, because it leads to examples of specific site features. Spork uses hyperlinks rather than overloading the mini-conversation with information. The interaction itself is short and witty, and users are encouraged to click through for more follow up on specific features. The chatbot aims to streamline the user experience, because users can find the specific site feature they are looking for without having to spend time navigating through the home page. The chatbot interaction concludes with specific calls to action so the user is encouraged to learn more on their own. The chatbot tone relies on user group research- each channel speaks separately to the main two user groups: the Seeker and the Cook. The two chatbot conversations do not contain any “loops” because the identified user groups are using the chatbot feature for different needs.
Introduction: Hi there! Welcome to Knife & Fork. We’re so glad you’re here!
Are you feeling hungry today?
User Replies: 1.) “Yes, starving!” | 2.) “Nah, I just ate.”
Response: 1.1) “Awesome! We’re always hungry. Are you interested in finding a recipe?” | 2.1) “Hey, us too! Let’s just plan what we’re eating next. Would you like to learn more about some of your favorite ingredients?”
User Replies: 1.2) “Yes, a recipe sounds great.” | 2.2) “Yes, tell me more!“.2.) “No, not right now”.
Response: 1.3) “You came to the right place! Knife & Fork collects the best recipes from all over the web and puts them together in one beautiful package. Click here for a round-up of some of our favorite pasta recipes from all over the world.” | 2.3) “We’d love to. Let’s peek to one of my favorites- coconut milk.” | 3.3) “Gotcha, we’ll connect another time. Have a look around!”
User Replies: 1.4.) “Cool! What else can I do on Knife & Fork?” | 2.4) “Whoa, that’s a lot of information. I can’t make that!
Response: 1.5) “We’re glad you like what you see! Let’s make a menu so you can show off to your friends. Here’s one of our favorite Mediterranean meals.” | 2.5) “Not to worry, the Knife & Fork Community is here to help! Click here to talk to one of our team members. They can help you find your next tasty treat. Or click here to hang out with other users and get tips.”
User Replies: 1.6) “Love it. How can you help me make menus like that?” | 2.6) “Ok, cool—I think.”
Response: 1.7) “We can’t wait! Let’s get your profile set up here. We can learn more about what you love to eat and cook and help you get inspired and get cooking.” | 2.7) “Not to worry—cooking can be overwhelming. Here’s some mesmerizing videos of our test cooks frosting cakes—that should calm you down. Let us know here if you have any questions, or find some cool shopping links here! Shopping helps. “