UX-Centered Development: Making a Pre-Planning Survey

Here in week five, I have firmly established myself at Hackbright as the person with a UX background. (I have probably also established myself as the person who would like to tell you again that she has a UX background.) To give myself an exercise in applying my older skills to my newer ones and to approach this project in the way that I know best, I’m planning out a Very UX-y Hackbright Final Project.

Step one is a survey. Because of the limits of my time and budget (as in, I’m not paying anyone for this, and I do believe UX participant work should be compensated – at least if someone is making money from the product using the results), I knew I wouldn’t get anything resembling a scientific sample. Even so, I knew I’d feel better prioritizing my semi-planned product features with even a general sense of how people who are not me would use a web app like the one I’ll be producing through August.

In this post, I’ll explain how I came up with the idea, why I find it interesting, how I decided to use a survey to verify and prioritize my feelings as the unavoidable first user, and the principles I used to craft my short, very to-the-point survey. Read on.

Fish Waffles and Inspiration

My plan from the beginning, from before Hackbright was a possibility in my mind at all, has been to create a food truck tracking app. I came up with this idea in Seattle last year, sitting on a grassy slope with my boyfriend, eating a fish-shaped waffle. I’d never seen a fish-shaped waffle before, let alone knew they were something I could buy from a van within the city I’d occupied for nearly a decade. This bothered me, because I like to think I know most of the awesome things the places I live have to offer. Why wasn’t there an app for this? Why wasn’t this information more accessible, considering the ways I do research?

I originally thought of a mobile app, and I still have some interest in eventually going that direction with my work. We shall see. But when I was accepted to Hackbright and learned more about how their curriculum works, I never doubted what I would do. I would build the food truck web app that I wanted to see in the world.

Before we get into the actual coding part (oh, next week), I’m going to do as much research as I reasonably can. I’ll soon be reviewing the existing apps out there, web and mobile, to see what features are considered typical and expected, what information’s out there, and what seems to be working. But first: my survey. I kept it simple so that I wouldn’t be asking too much of people’s goodwill. This is a fairly central tenet of UX research done without participant compensation: make it fast, make it easy, and thank profusely. (Or maybe just a fairly central tenet of being a polite, respectful person asking people for favors.)

The Survey and My Strategy

I used a Google Forms survey to do this, passing the link via social media and hoping my friends would both take it and share it. (Many of them did. Thanks, friends.) I explained the scope of my project (that it’s for school; what the school is) and said some more grateful things because I was and am grateful.

The Survey Itself

1. How often do you eat at a food truck?

-Once a week

-Once a month

-Once every six months

-Once a year

-I’ve never eaten at a food truck

2. How do you find food trucks to visit?

The truck’s Facebook page

A mobile app

A website

Friends

Find them on the street

At a gathering or festival

Other

3. What do you need to know about food trucks to plan a visit?

Type of food

Prices

Location that day

Schedule for future

Method of payment

Other

4. What features would you like a food truck tracking app to have?

Text listings with search

Search by food type

Search by price

Links to truck social media or websites

Other

These were all required. The following were open-text fields and were not required.

  • What is your favorite truck, and what city is it in?
  • What is your favorite food truck-finding resource?
  • What is your favorite app or resource for finding places to eat? 
  • What’s the best food truck pun name you’ve ever heard?

I got 127 responses. Not bad! I’d decided I’d be pretty thrilled at 100.

How I Made My Choices

Here are a few things I considered when putting this together:

  • I wanted to be as brief as possible to avoid having people open the survey, think, “Oh hell no,” and close it without completing it. I’m pretty generous with my time on student surveys (UCD school will do that to you), but I have definitely said nope to too-long ones.
  • I wanted a clear picture of feature/information priorities, hence the “choose all that interest you” and “choose the most important one” questions.
  • I wanted to be able to correlate feature/information priorities to frequency of food truck habits – a person who has been to a food truck once will probably not have as clear a view of the relevant information as someone who seeks them out regularly.
  • I included other fields to ensure that respondent options were not limited to my own possibly incomplete view of the relevant information and features.
  • I wanted to expand my list of sites, apps, and other resources to look at as I get deeper into planning my project.
  • I like puns and like including an open opportunity for survey respondents to have a little fun.

What’s Next

I’m currently working on a Python program that will tally my responses. It would probably be easier to just use Excel or certain other existing tools, but I want the practice, and I get to have some fun with classes and objects while I do it. So: CSV and my own Python efforts it is. Coming up, I’ll post about my conclusions and observations and how it effects my features list and how I set my priorities.*

*Aside from the simple question of, “Can this fit in five weeks?” and “Is this strictly relevant to what I want to learn and demonstrate that I have learned?”

P.S. The image is from the book that gave me the first exposure I ever had to food trucks. As I recall, totally worth the time.

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