Always Hungry

Always Hungry

This project took the research and program from Dr. David Ludwig's groundbreaking book Always Hungry? and converted it into an app to help participants track their behavior and progress. Dr. David Ludwig and chef Dawn Ludwig were chosen as part of Boston Children's Hospital's Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator program.

In Always Hungry?, Dr. David Ludwig explains why traditional diets fail, and provides a new way of eating to help people lose weight without hunger, improve their health, and feel great overall. In the accompanying cookbook, Always Delicious, chef Dawn Ludwig provides dozens of recipes that fit into the Always Hungry? way of eating as well as templates for creating your own meals. The Ludwigs were seeking designs for a mobile app to assist participants in adhering to this new way of eating, emphasizing not only the food choices, but the lifestyle choices such as sleep and joyful movement as well. The program follows a 3-phase structure in which participants progressively learn what works for their bodies."

What I did

I conducted user research and created the intial wireframes and experience flows for the app.

1. Research

I began by running a Google Forms survey in the Always Hungry? Facebook group, which is extremely active and has over 16,000 members. The goal of the survey was to gauge engageemnt with the program and identify areas in which users felt they needed additional support. I received over 400 responses in less than 24 hours from people across all subsets of the program.

The surveys confirmed some assumptions we had and also revealed some insights as well. Some of the key takeaways were:

  • Participants who don't adhere strictly to the program don't progress to phase 3
  • Participants who don't stick with the program consistently have a much harder time getting back on the horse
  • Participants need significantly more support in the first 2 weeks (phase 1) of the program
You can download the survey report here, if you'd like.

2. Interviews & Personas

My next step was to conduct phone/video interviews with a number of participants to dive further into their needs. I spoke with 10 users across various phases, ages, gender identities, and geographic locations. From there, I created personas to represent the diverse types of users the app might have and began prioritizing the features they would benefit from.

From these interviews we found that the features we should prioritize are meal-building (both from scratch and from a recipe), quick compliance checking of specific food items, and tools for understanding food-mood triggers.

3. Wireframing

From there I began sketching and wireframing the key screens and prototyping the interactions between them. The main objective was to design an app that put the main uses front and center and was gamified in such a way to keep people engaged and coming back day after day. I included a simple UI for tracking daily meals and mood, which over time will provide insights (i.e. on days where you eat pasta you don't feel as energized), as well as detailed recipes replicated from the books.

Homescreen of the app showing daily tracking for meals.
App page showing daily tracking for mood.
App page showing details of a recipe.
Compliance checking

One of the most important features was the ability for users to quickly check the compliance of an item. We heard from many users that one of their largest challenges is being at the grocery store and not knowing what items to buy.

I started with a simple searchable list of items that is provided by the book for extremely quick reference for users. There are no foods that aren't "allowed" but foods are categorized into phase 1, 2, or 3 so users can make an educated choice about what will work best for their body.

App page showing a search bar for items and then results showing what phase the food is in.
App page showing a result page of a scanned item that tells the user the phase and breaks down the the macros.
Compliance checking, advanced

A larger problem than just individual items, users are frequently extremely confused by packaged goods which often contain hidden sugars disguised under complicated names. Many users told us that memorizing the list of added sugars was so overwhelming that they just never by new items and feel stuck in a rut with what they're cooking and eating.

We incorporated barcode scanning which would be able to parse the ingredient list and make a phase recommendation, as well as call out the ingredients in question in order to further educate. It would also tell the user the break down of macronutrients in the item, which is another key condisderation of the program.

4. Visual Design

My wonderful co-worker, Katelyn O'Brien took my wireframes and applied the brand from the Ludwig's website and books, as well as made some visual adjustments. Please note this is not my work, I merely provided feedback, but I think it's nice to show the wireframes all shiny! As of Dec 2020 this app is in development.

Homescreen of the app showing daily tracking for meals.
App page showing daily tracking for mood.
App page showing details of a recipe.

What I Learned

This project was my first time getting to run user research independently. It was a great way to learn how to take findings from research and incporate them into designs. I also gained comfort presenting to and working with clients and iterating based on their feedback.