Cruelty-Free Buying Habits, Simplified and Positively Reinforced— A UX Case Study

It’s not unusual to find yourself vexed by shopping for cruelty-free or vegan items. We all set out with the intention to make conscious decisions in our daily lives, even if you aren’t restricted by diet or religion. But often don’t have the time to research our purchases. Or, we find ourselves in a Googling spiral and divert to our usual choices.

Problem

Those who wish to purchase cruelty-free items often find it inconvenient and time consuming to research items that are ethically sourced while shopping because of inconsistent labeling and lack of resources available to research products. How might we simplify the process of finding and making cruelty-free, ethical purchases?

Through this design project, I simplify the process of identifying cruelty-free items and encourage positive buying habits through the Bunny app.

Goals

  1. Create an app that makes finding and comparing cruelty-free items quick and simple
  2. Reward shoppers for making cruelty-free purchases

What I did

I was the main designer for the usability and interface of this app, as well as the researcher of this project.

Design Process

The largest role humans play in animal ethics is our consumption, whether that is the food we eat or the products we choose to buy.

I interviewed five people about their consumption habits, and the barriers they face in making ethical decisions. Following my research, I examined secondary sources about cruelty-free, ethical consumption. From this point, I tested paper prototypes, user flow and wire flow, before working out a low-fidelity clickable prototype.

The timeline was a one-week, lean UX sprint.

Interviews

I asked:

What are your barriers to shopping cruelty-free?

What would make it easier for you to shop for cruelty-free products?

These questions yielded the general response that people optimally would like to avoid animal tested products, but the inconvenience of identifying those products, or making sacrifices to quality and convenience, stands in the way.

Unclear labeling of items and inconsistent packaging standards make it difficult to identify which products are ethical.

“Time and effort are my biggest barrier to ethics.”

“Given the choice between two similar products, one ethical and one not, I’d choose the ethical product.”

“There aren’t enough resources for making choices.”

  • All 5 participants expressed a desire to prioritize cruelty-free items.
  • All 5 participants expressed choosing convenience over ethical items.
  • 4 out of 5 participants expressed difficulty with identify products that were not tested on animals

Secondary Research

According to a study by Psychology Today from 2016, 85 percent of Americans support some form of protection for animals. This includes the elimination of animal testing, as well as choosing items that support ethical animal practices.

Additionally, I examined the FDA standards of the cruelty-free space in order to pinpoint why labeling is inconsistent for many products. It turns out there is no legal definition for the terms “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals”.

The average person is supportive of cruelty free items, but often doesn’t know which items are ethical or where to find them. People also find it confusing and tedious to research ethical food and items, per my interviewing. Consequently, they forgo buying ethical items for the sake of convenience.

People optimally would like to avoid animal tested products, the inconvenience of identifying those products, or making sacrifices to quality and convenience, stands in the way.

This chart by PETA represents just a few inconsistent labeling standards used in cruelty-free packaging

Who are the Users?

A young woman looking for cruelty-free cosmetics items

A mother looking for ethical cleaning products

A holistic person with a vegan diet looking for animal-friendly home items

Design Process

I started sketching user flows and wire flows to visualize how the concept would work. Next I created paper prototypes to better figure how users would navigate catalogue of ethical items by category.

Initial user flow of barcode scanner feature

The items catalogue should make it simple for the user to jump from product to similar product, finding comparable replacements through the guidance of suggested items and user reviews.

An early wire flow of the item catalogue feature

I additionally wanted to include a barcode scanning feature to auto-populate information about products easily while shopping. I sketched out a mockup of how the scanner might redirect a user to item features and reviews.

Initial sketch for barcode scanning feature

Usability Tests

Following some initial mockups, I created a “clickable” paper prototype of the Bunny app. I wanted users to navigate the barcode scanner and item profiles easily, and made a few adjustments according to their behavior.

I then moved into Balsamiq, where I created some low-fidelity prototypes of Bunny.

Interactive Wireframe In Balsamiq

Next Steps

Finding brand partnerships to create more discounts for users would be beneficial to continue incentivizing positive choices and keep users coming back. Additionally, I would like to explore a loyalty program in relation to user retention.

This one-week sprint illustrated that prioritizing the user’s time is vital when creating an interface that assists in a basic necessary tasks such as shopping. This project requires more input and iteration with every step. I intend to spend more time perfecting the simple, intuitive experience of item sourcing and comparison.

UX Designer, Illustrator from Atlanta, Georgia

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