ROLE: UX Designer
TIMEFRAME: 3 weeks
TOOLS: Axure, Sketch
The FanFood app allows sports fans and concertgoers to order concessions for in-seat delivery or express pickup, operating in ten stadiums and concert venues across the country. FanFood approached my team to diagnose and address several user pain points within the product as they prepared for expansion. We knew the market was massive, as millions attend large sporting events every year, not to mention the users across FanFood’s other venues.
Meeting the client
We spoke with our client to focus our research, identify business constraints, and define the problem from the client’s perspective. During our initial meeting, which included the CEO, CFO, COO, and several other stakeholders, we assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the current product, as well as hopes for the project.
The client mentioned known pain points, including the lack of notifications or messaging between users and food runners. Fans often input the wrong seat information, and runners have no way to contact or locate them. This lack of error prevention and recovery led to a frustrating experience for users and runners alike. We also learned there was a significant drop-off after initial download, followed by a second drop-off before placing an order. These issues led to our challenge from the client:
Analyzing the competition
With a better understanding of the FanFood product and the challenge from our client, we began research. Though the landscape for stadium and large-venue food delivery wasn’t crowded, there were several competitors active in the domain. We knew FanFood struggled with messaging and notification options, so we assessed how others in the domain handled this issue. We also compared layout and types of offerings, looking for areas FanFood could improve upon the competition.
Seat Serve directly competes with FanFood, providing real time notifications and up-to-the-second order monitoring: an area in which FanFood fell short. Layout of the Seat Serve and FanFood apps were similar in terms of item listings.
FanFood (left) features attractive images of food items, while SeatServe (right) relies on logos and basic images: a potential advantage for FanFood. Neither offer options or descriptions beyond these listings, which was an area for FanFood differentiation.
While SeatServe focuses on concessions and merchandise, VenueNext is integrated with every element of a fan’s mobile experience. Not only does VenueNext support concessions ordering, but fans are able to manage their entire stadium experience from seat upgrades to parking. We wondered what effect this high level of integration had on the fan’s experience.
We noted that unlike FanFood (left), VenueNext (right) placed the delivery fee information up front, providing additional information about the service. We wanted to know if this helped set fan’s expectations for the app.
We did not want to emulate one element from the direct competition: the scathing reviews. Competitors struggled with inconsistent user experiences and customer service shortcomings. FanFood could differentiate itself by offering stellar customer service and ensuring a consistent experience across venues, again highlighting the importance of communication between the product and the user.
With a young domain it was important to look at indirect competitors to understand user’s expectations around food delivery apps. We knew the lack of messaging, communication, and notifications within the FanFood app was a pain point for users, so we looked at popular mobile ordering apps for familiar patterns.
Indirect competitors such as Ritual show progress, time estimates, and offer directions. There is also a clear “Support” link on each notification screen. This allows the user to plan their pickup, while providing an immediate avenue for error prevention. A points program drives loyalty and user engagement. These elements served as inspiration for our fresh take on the FanFood app.
Analysis showed drawing inspiration from our indirect competitors would help address issues we saw with the direct competitors. This comparison provided a broader view of the user-base, revealing possible expectations around mobile food apps and opportunities to elevate FanFood from its competition.
Completing the picture
I found FanFood’s site-specific nature really exciting. A location based product can transcend demographics and improve a shared experience. Our team needed to understand the product environment, so we attended a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. We conducted unmoderated observation, noting the patterns, behaviors, and pain points of potential users. Wrigley Field was not a FanFood client, so we focused on the current state of concessions.
The first issue I noted was the number of “cash-only” vendors in the stands. A fan with a credit card had to go down into the concessions area to purchase food and drinks or find an ATM. This was a significant barrier for those who didn’t want to miss the game.
In the concessions area I saw huge lines, consistent with the client’s description. Between innings I timed several lines, the longest of which took 13:20 from entering the line to receiving food. Many fans took advantage of the large condiment stands to customize their burgers and hotdogs. This brought to mind the minimalist item listings and lack of customization options from the competitive analysis. A fan wanting particular condiments on their burger has no option other than waiting in line: a major opportunity for FanFood to improve the stadium experience.
I saw a number of families struggle at the concession stands. Parents with two or three children had difficulty managing five meals, applying condiments, and wrangling kids. Purchasing alcohol increased the stress, as vendors pour alcoholic beverages into open cups prior to purchase. Observing families highlighted the importance the makeup of a group plays on a stadium experience.
Speaking with users
In addition to seeking context for our Wrigley observations, we needed to understand how users operate at sports events and concerts, as well as unpack users’ mental models and expectations of food delivery apps. We wanted to find the trade-offs between convenience, cost, and incentive, and how the setting or event affects that decision. Though FanFood operates in several venues, the early state of adoption and limited user base prevented access to current users. This was an opportunity to bring a fresh perspective to the product, and we tailored our interview process to potential users.
We spoke with six potential users; all sports fans and concertgoers. However, while they attended sporting events at large stadiums, they went to concerts at smaller venues with short lines and concessions close at hand. Knowing concession delivery wouldn’t be applicable in the concert venues our users frequented led us to limit the scope of our work to sports venues and fans.
Mary, an avid baseball fan, attends several games a month at Wrigley, as well as making pilgrimages to MLB parks across the country. She purchases food and and drinks regularly, and hates when waiting in line forces her to miss the game. Her gluten allergy makes finding food she can eat particularly difficult.
Priti and her two sons regularly attend Bulls games at the United Center, as well as other sporting events around Chicago. Though her sons are now in their teens, she has clear memories of choosing between getting what she wanted from the long concession lines, and taking her kids to the bathroom. A vegetarian, she told us she often spends 25-35 minutes circling the stadium, looking for items she can eat.
All of the users we spoke with hated the lines at events, and would consider paying to avoid the wait. This confirmed my observation of the frustrated fans at Wrigley, and validated the FanFood concept.
Users were more likely to get up and walk around during a baseball game due to the slower game pace; a basketball or football game kept people in their seats until halftime, contributing to a concession line surge.
Users’ event behavior changed based on the group they were with. This corresponded with my observations of the varied groups at Wrigley. Users attending events with children planned around their kids’ needs for food, drinks, and bathroom breaks, which distracted from the game. Users attending with friends might only purchase drinks, and planned those purchases to coincide with breaks in gameplay.
We heard from Mary, Priti, and several other users, that any sort of dietary restriction means they have to spend extra time away from the game in order to locate something to eat.
Discussing online ordering behaviors, we learned users often resented delivery fees, particularly when not clearly stated. Many interviewees were cost-conscious, informing delivery decisions.
We saw patterns in our interview data, but wanted more context. To increase our understanding of the FanFood service model and test some of the client’s assumptions, we spoke to several subject matter experts.
Speaking with two FanFood runners affirmed the lack of communication between the user and the runner as a major pain point. Conversations with SMEs highlighted the importance of error prevention and recovery, as well as the need for flexibility in the app.
Looking at the entire affinity map, two major themes emerged.
Users with specific dietary requirements needed a way to find the right food options. We also saw the need for communication between the user and the app, whether being able to contact the runner or receiving order status notifications.
Users’ behavior changed with event type, venue, and group makeup. Flexibility was required in order to maintain a positive experience for users.
I suggested not creating a persona. This was a first for me, as I previously found persona creation very helpful. However, the potential FanFood base is huge, and the demographics and behaviors of the users we interviewed varied widely. It was more beneficial to build our solution around a pair of use cases: a family with kids at a baseball game, and a group of friends at a basketball game. This allowed us to address user issues based on the elements that affected their game experience. With use cases and areas of focus identified, we began to define the problem we wanted to solve.
Defining the problem
To align on the direction and purpose of the project, we created a problem statement. Our interview synthesis demonstrated the need for a flexible and communicative product that allows fans to enjoy the game without the hassle of waiting in line. However, fans were also frustrated by the amount of time it takes to find the specific food or drink they want.
With these pain points in mind, we created our problem statement:
Fans want to know about available options for a variety of reasons including diet, preference, and budget, but finding the right option in a stadium is time consuming. They need an expedited and informative way to find concessions that meet their preferences in order to increase their time enjoying the game experience.
This statement clearly reflected the frustrations we heard from users, and we needed design tools to support our process. Through combining the value proposition of the current product with the needs of the potential user, we developed three guiding principles.
We needed to make the process as succinct as possible, to ensure fans spent less time in the app and more time enjoying the game. In addition to responding to the needs of users, this helped us focus on the FanFood value proposition.
The amount and placement of information was key, in order to meet the needs of users with dietary restrictions or specific preferences. This diverged from the current product state, but addressed our problem statement while differentiating FanFood from its competitors.
Our data synthesis showed that users’ behavior varied greatly based on the type of event, as well as the group they attend with. A flexible product allowed for a better user experience and a lower rate of error.
With a defined problem and supporting principles in hand, we returned to the client to address business goals and incorporate feedback. While the current product isn’t geared towards premium or diet-conscious offerings, the client enthusiastically cited trends in the concessions industry indicating we were on the right track. Our solution provided the framework to support robust menus in the future, while making allowances for the current state. Confident in the alignment between our problem statement and FanFood goals, we began exploration.
Bringing divergent thinking
Ideating to bring divergent ideas to the FanFood product, we incorporated insights from SME interviews in order examine product pain points alongside potential user goals. Addressing themes of flexibility and communication, we built momentum through group sketching.
We selected areas to explore through individual concept sketching, with several goals in mind. We needed to learn:
What level of onboarding is most helpful?
How do users want the product to communicate with them?
What level of flexibility do users need and expect?
What information is needed when deciding to purchase?
In order to answer these questions, we tested our concepts with potential users.
Testing showed that users wanted minimal onboarding and maximum flexibility, particularly when customizing orders. They liked clear, visual notifications and communication of order status.
Though the data addressed our testing goals, the large volume of concepts, along with the lack of context, prevented real analysis. To better evaluate and contextualize our results, we iterated on our concepts, returning to and solidifying the use cases we identified during synthesis.
Fleshing out the use cases allowed us to tailor our concepts, and we edited and reassembled our sketches into two distinct concepts. We knew the type of event along with the makeup of a group affected behavior. Users with families told us about struggling with arm-fulls of concessions and taking children to the bathroom at inopportune times, so we designed a flow that allowed them to stay in their seats while increasing flexibility. Many of our users attending games with friends told us they might not spring for delivery, but liked the idea of pickup, especially during fast-paced games where everyone storms the concession area at halftime. The second flow focused on a desire for express pickup, with options for dealing with large groups and multiple payments.
We wanted to test these flows side by side, and assess where they serve the needs of a single use case and where they serve both. In order to test the new flows, we worked with users who matched the use cases at the center of our redesign.
The tailored flows and specific context allowed users to compare across concepts. We found, despite the specific use cases and differing experiences of our testers, the second round of testing validated our first round results. Users didn’t prefer one flow over the other; they liked elements of each. Insights corroborated and validated those from our first round of testing and gave us direction moving forward.
Delivery focused with some onboarding, providing notifications and flexibility.
Users chose to explore rather than sign up
Onboarding was viewed as a hassle
Users liked condiment options, but didn’t care as much about dietary restrictions
Visual notifications were popular, particularly having a picture of the runner
Users appreciated condiment options, but didn’t feel the need for the other dietary specifications. This contradicted some of our initial research, and we needed to further explore how best to apply the principle “Stay Informed” without overwhelming the user with unnecessary information.
Express pickup focused with minimal onboarding, allowing multiple payments on a single order.
Users didn’t want explanatory information, but had no clear idea of the process
While users were interested in order splitting, most thought they wouldn’t use it
Rewards were REALLY popular
Users responded very well to visual notifications in both concepts. They liked seeing the status of their order, though some of the proposed flexibility confused them. This presented a challenge, confirming a lack of mental model around stadium delivery apps. As with the onboarding process, users didn’t want explanatory information, but had no clear idea of the process. We needed to revisit familiar patterns from the indirect competitors to help guide the user.
We brought our insights to the client, continuing the trend of alignment and checking against business goals. The use cases resonated, and the client liked the continued direction of the project. They asked us to examine the importance of ETA information in users’ decision making, as well as opportunities to upsell. With actionable feedback from the client and our users, we began work on the final prototype.
Solving the problem
Seeing overlap when testing, we created a single flow to meet the needs of both use cases. Based on our concept testing we knew users wanted to get to the food quickly, so we minimized the onboarding. Allowing the user to see the app before signing up was important, so we allowed guest checkout and delayed the signup ask until we could show value.
We needed to continue testing our iterations and solutions, and created a prototype to test with potential users. Our testing goals centered around questions of onboarding, account creation, item information, and notifications. The test group contained representatives of both use cases.
Login, create an account, or continue as a guest.
All users we tested with chose to continue as a guest, and were irritated by any attempts at onboarding. Consistent with our concept test findings, users lacked a mental model of stadium food delivery, but didn’t want to read explanations. This brought us to a large and very simple takeaway: users need to know what they are getting before they sign up. The distaste for onboarding and the lack of mental model meant the quickest and easiest way to demonstrate the FanFood value proposition was to remove any barriers to entry.
Item listing screen
Customize by selecting condiments, sides, and specifying dietary needs.
Users loved the options for customization, with the “condiments” section remaining popular. Looking for ways to balance dietary requirements with the need for trim information, I moved preferences into a “notes” section, satisfying testers with dietary restrictions. Users liked the addition of a “sides” drop-down: a great opportunity for improving the user experience while meeting the client’s request to find opportunities for increased sales.