The platform that redefines the way restaurant managers organize their assets
Forklift is a restaurant management tool that helps managers organize their equipment, documents, vendors, repairs and maintenance services.
According to the client, new users had challenges understanding how to use the platform even after a walk-through. The client wanted a more intuitive interface to improve usability. A redesign was conducted.
The project lasted three weeks and I worked in a team of three. My primary role was a UX/UI Designer. The other two of the team worked as UX Researcher and Project Manager.
While I was actively participating in the user research and project management, I was mainly responsible for ideating solutions, defining information architecture, transforming concepts into graphics, validating ideas with testing, and deliver the design with a beautiful and interactable prototype.
Before going into the user research, we performed a C&C analysis to see if Forklift has any competitors, and to learn what features they are offering to make sure we don't miss something critical.
According to our time-limited research, Forklift currently has one direct competitor named Humrun which tracks breakdown and repair on restaurant equipment. There is also an indirect competitor named UpKeep which is a general CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System).
While Humrun and Forklift are more optimized on restaurant equipment, all three platforms share a similar feature list. The only thing Forklift seems left out is a mobile version.
To better understand the client's initial concern regarding why users had challenges learning how to use Forklift, and to discover other potential usability issues, we ran a heuristic evaluation on the current version. The heuristic evaluation was focused on the key task flow which is to add a service to a piece of equipment.
We started on the homepage/dashboard of the platform. The first issue we ran into was that we couldn't locate a call to action. In other words, we were confused about how to initiate the task. It turned out that the circular button with a plus in the center is where we should click to add a service.
Step2: Call to action options
After we clicked the circular button, a dropdown menu showed up. However, the "add stuff" option was very confusing. No one understood what "stuff" could be.
Step3: Fill the form
We clicked the "add service" option to continue the evaluation. A modal window with the title "NEW SERVICE" showed up. As we were filling the form, we realized that the dropdown list for equipment was long and overwhelming even for a test account we created.
Step4: Submit the form
As we finished filling the form, we were looking a button to submit. At the bottom of the modal window, we saw three options which were "Save", "Cancel" and "Archive Now". We knew we didn't want to cancel, but we were confused why would we archive the form and if "Save" will submit the form and add a new service which was our goal.
In conclusion, the key task flow was unclear and difficult to complete. And by running this heuristic evaluation, we had a better understanding of the user's pain point and created an empathy with the user.
To further study the user's pain point and need, we conducted three in-person interviews and usability testings with current users of the platform. First, we asked the user to perform a pseudo-task which was to add a repair service to their oven. We asked them to speak out-loud of what is going on in their mind during the task. We recorded screens and made observations on the user. Then, we asked the user about their first-time experience with Forklift. We asked them what difficulty they had and how did they overcome it.
User#1: General manager Zack
General manager Zack had challenges even to initiate a task when he first started using Forklift. He was able to use the platform after given a walkthrough, but he still doesn't enjoy using it. He emphasized that he is not good at tech stuff.
User#2: General manager Travis
General manager Travis had to spend some time poking different buttons to make it work when he was first introduced to Forklift. He was able to use the platform after some wrestling with it. He believed the platform has a lot of things to improve.
User#3: Restaurant owner John
Restaurant owner John couldn't find where to add a service the first time he used Forklift. And he still gets lost trying to navigate around the platform every once a while even after given a walkthrough.
After the user interviews and usability testings, we organized the observations and put them on post it. We hosted an affinity mapping with our client Jason to discover trends and key insights.
This collaboration with the client not only allowed us to gain insights from him but also allowed us to build a consensus on the research findings with our client.
According to the affinity mapping results, all users more or less agreed that the platform wasn't easy to learn, but among all the issues they have complained and we have observed, the following two seemed to bother them the most:
Users often get lost trying to navigate through the platform and to add a service.
Users have an overwhelming amount of information to enter and felt discouraged while adding a service.
Considering Joe's behavior pattern and the nature of his work, I concluded a problem statement:
Restaurant managers are usually too busy to spend too much time learning new tools. Moreover, since they are usually in the field, they only have fragment time to use a computer.
Joe is having challenges in learning how to use Forklift. How might we help him pick up this tool quickly and operate it efficiently?
With the problem statement in mind, I realized that Joe's frustration mainly revolved around learnability and efficiency. And as I recall the heuristic evaluation we did, it appeared that the navigation and the input form are the major places that were causing those two usability issues. As a result, I proposed my solution:
We believe by providing intuitive navigation, a form which requires significantly less effort to complete, and a feature that allows users to return to an unfinished task; we will make Forklift easier to learn and more efficient at organizing restaurant equipment.
We will know this to be true when we see users pick up the redesigned Forklift faster and perform tasks more efficiently than those who use the current version.
Based on the hypothesis, I have decided the three prioritized key features this redesign should aim to accomplish:
Navigation with easy elements to interact with.
An input form contains less required fields and enables predictive input.
A draft feature that allows users to return to an unfinished form submission.
I have also defined a user flow which highlights the key user interactions of the platform. Both the sitemap and the user flow served as guidance as I drew the low-fidelity sketches.
Equipment needs service
user create a pending task
Vendor fulfills service
User marks service as completed and attaches invoice
Following the sitemap and the user flow, I hosted a design studio where each one of the teammates makes his/her sketches. And in the end, we collaborated and combined our ideas into one set of sketches.
I created a wireframe of all sketches that my team agreed on. And I built a clickable prototype with them for usability testing purpose.
To validate my solution and to discover other potential usability issues, I conducted two usability testings with the clickable prototype.
New users were not only able to independently perform the pseudo-tasks we asked, but they were also able to complete them faster.
In addition to that, I observed two interesting insights:
1) Unlike equipment in the residential kitchen, most of the equipment in a restaurant requires weekly maintenance such as cleaning for ovens.
2) Unlike traditional digital calendars which start a week with Sunday, restaurants managers prefer a calendar starts with Monday.
The insights were noted, and improvements were made when creating the high-fidelity mockup. The smart default of routine maintenance frequency was changed to weekly. And the calendar starts with Monday.
To allow my teammates to collaborate on the creation of the high-fidelity mockup and still preserve consistency, I created a style guide.
To demonstrate what the functional product would look like, and how my proposed features can interact, I built an animated prototype.
Each page now has a call to action button with clear signifier and attention-grabbing affordance.
The plus button on the global navigation bar allows the user to have access to add a service/equipment/vendor any time on any page.
Redesigned input form
The redesigned input form now only requires minimal information to be entered. The rest are optional. The design concept was to give the user maximum freedom while making sure the product still works.
The redesigned input form now features a predictive input which allows the user to type in the name of equipment or the category or even just related keywords. The concept is to help avoid lengthy and overwhelming dropdown menu and minimize the user's effort.
The draft feature
This newly designed draft feature will cache a user's input whenever he/she starts a form. If the user gets caught up from something else and accidentally closed the browser or tab, he/she will be able to find his unfinished form in the draft section.
Below is the prototype which demonstrates the complete flow of adding a service, and mark it as finished.
In case our client wants to continue refining the platform, I have also included a next steps section with features that will help improve the user experience.
A vendor rating system that helps restaurant managers select the best service.
A mobile app that allows users to use the platform remotely.
A document scan feature that makes document uploading easier.