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CART - Smarter grocery shopping for special diets

Role: Research, Strategy and Design

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For the final project of the UX Certificate program at SMU, my team, Janice Fabunan, Vibhanika Ravichandran, Yutsen Cheng and I, chose to work on an app that makes grocery shopping easier for people who follow special diets, either as a lifestyle choice or due to a food allergy.

We used the Design Thinking framework and collaborated on every part of the framework.



Research goals

To understand the shopping behavior of people following special diets and their frustrations associated with it

User-specific Research questions

  • How do people with special dietary needs shop for groceries?

  • What are the pain-points related to grocery shopping for special diets?

Research Methodology

1. Generative - Survey to understand user behavior and pain-points​

2. Generative - 30 minute semi-structured interviews via Zoom

3. Empathy exercises - Empathy map and Journey map

4. Evaluative - Usability Testing to evaluate design


6 weeks

Target Users

  • People with food allergies

  • People who follow a certain diet ex. vegan, keto etc.

Participant information

Survey: posted on a Vegan and a food allergies sub-reddit

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User interviews:

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Findings and Insights


Role: Collaboratively worked on the survey instrument.

Link to survey

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  • A majority of the people surveyed, read labels.

  • The most time-consuming part of grocery shopping is navigating the store followed by reading labels.

  • A majority of the people surveyed considered themselves very tech savvy.

  • With respect to grocery shopping, money was the first priority for most people closely followed by nutrition.

  • Assumption before survey - Time taken at checkout is a major pain point; Finding from survey - Only 6 out of 51 people surveyed considered it a pain point.

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User interviews

Role: I conducted 2 out of 6 interviews . One of the participants followed a vegan and clean label diet and the other participant had a gluten and dairy allergy. 

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Just having to be more conscious of labels than the average consumer, especially when I'm trying to get in and out, is sort of a pain.

User with gluten and dairy allergy

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I want everything organized in my head before I go in so I’m not going back and forth between sections that are far from each other

User on a Keto diet

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A feature that would recognize that we have to purchase these items pretty frequently and recognize other items that I would most probably not need for the next month or so.

User on a Vegan and Clean label diet

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I always get the things I need first that are on my list and then I kind of just for fun, I'll just walk down the aisles and see if they've gotten any new gluten free, dairy free, snack things I've never tried before. And depending on how I'm feeling that day, I'll grab some of those.

User with a gluten and dairy allergy

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  • Users need an easier way to read labels

  • Users need to shop efficiently, which means having  knowledge of the proximity of different items in their list, from each other.

  • Users need help making shopping lists more efficiently and with minimum effort.

  • Assumption before interviews - Making the shopping experience easier would affect dwell time and in-turn retailer buy-in; Finding - A majority of the interviewees like to finish with their shopping list first before browsing the store for new or interesting products. After learning this, we realized that if the shoppers can get done with the items on their shopping list quickly using cARt, it could potentially increase dwell time and therefore impulse purchases.

Empathy Exercises

Role: Collaboratively worked on persona creation, empathy map and journey map



Based on the survey and interviews, we developed a Persona. Keeping in mind what she values and fears, her attitudes and behavior, kept us on track throughout the process. 

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Empathy map and Journey map

We consolidated all the pain-points that we gathered, through the survey and interviews into an Empathy Map and we then worked on a Journey map. The journey map helped us trace the steps that the user would take during a grocery shopping expedition, the tasks associated with each step and the pain-points to accomplish the tasks. ​​​​​​​

Empathy immersion

We did an empathy immersion exercise at Central Market to understand first-hand, what our persona would experience when she goes grocery shopping. This is what we found:

Time taken to shop for a pasta without any dietary restrictions - 20s

Time taken to shop for a pasta with a gluten allergy - 10 minutes

Time taken to shop for a pasta with a gluten allergy using the CART app (simulated) - 30s


We framed the Who, What, Wow statement from the findings of this exercise. 


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Competitive analysis

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KEY FINDING: All similar apps at present use a bar code scanner to help locate products that fit the user's dietary needs. It still involves picking up the product, turning it, scanning the barcode and comparing different products would be another process.

DIFFERENTIATOR IN CART: Augmented Reality feature to easily find products at the store.

Who, What, Wow!

Imagine that you can find a product that meets all of your dietary requirements in just 30 seconds. That includes locating the products, comparing them and picking one and putting it in your cart. Our Who, What, Wow is

The grocery shopper can find a packaged food that meets their dietary needs in as less as 30s.


Design Development

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Final Design




Role:  I facilitated 2 usability tests and sat in on 2 usability tests

No. of participants


Tasks Tested

1. Setup Dietary Profile 

2. Edit Dietary Profile

3. Add a coupon and viewing coupon code

4. Create grocery list

5. Add a collaborator for the grocery list

6. Share the list with the collaborator

7. Compare products in AR



  • Easy to use                                               

  • Well integrated                                       

  • Clean and simple design                  

  • Most would very likely use it


  • No way to get out of coachmarks and pop-ups

  • Some were not sure if edits on dietary profile had been accepted

  • Minor UI issues related to font size and color

SUS score

92.5 / Grade A / Excellent Rating

Design changes based on feedback from usability tests


A checkmark was added to the edit dietary profile views, to provide feedback to the user that their edits had been accepted

An exit button was added to the AR coachmarks


  • Now, more than ever, due to the pandemic, CART could help make life easier by letting the user know what's available or not available at the store before they get there.

  • A further addition could be to use AR to shop from the comfort of your home and get the items delivered.

  • CART can be adapted to work with AR/VR glasses, when that technology becomes more mainstream, for a more hands-free shopping experience.

  • We also received suggestions from users that CART has the potential to use robots to shop, while the user can sit at home and have the experience of shopping through the robot.

Project 4

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