Product designer

Ubiquitous Computing at Whole Foods

Ubiquitous Computing | Interaction Design Studio

Team members: Min Zhou, Ian Go, William Kurniawan, Louise Zhou

Duration: 4 weeks

Fresh Band Overview


What does the future of grocery shopping look like? How can technologies help consumers make more informed decisions, save time, and find the right products? For the theme of Interactive Environments and Ubiquitous Computing, my team and I designed a seamless grocery shopping experience at Whole Foods. We focused more on the assisting communication between the user and the existing space rather than developing an immediate and realistic solution. 


Exploratory Research


We began by brainstorming about different spaces we were interested in looking at. Some of the areas we wanted to research further were the customer/employee communication, grocery store suggestions, and educating customers.


Field Research: Individual-centered Mapping


We headed out to our local Whole Foods to look at people’s shopping behaviors. I used behavioral mapping to document location-based observations of Whole Foods shoppers. After scoping out the Whole Foods located in the East Side district of Pittsburgh, I created a store floor plan and made a behavioral map based on what I discovered. This following map was created after observing shoppers at Whole Foods from 4:00PM — 5:00PM on a Monday afternoon. The three colors represent the paths of three different shoppers from the start to the the end of their shopping experience.

Methodical path: produce>meat>frozen foods>dry foods>deli>checkout. People sometimes double back to exchange a product.

Methodical path: produce>meat>frozen foods>dry foods>deli>checkout. People sometimes double back to exchange a product.


Place-centered Mapping

I also created a place-centered map to see if we could analyze the traffic patterns and key points of interaction. Each star represents a shopper. The map reveals that most of the congestion happens in the checkout stations, especially the express checkout.




While I gathered information about general customer patterns, one of my other team members shadowed two other shoppers and interviewed one shopper at Whole Foods. 


From our field research and interviews, we summarized the following key takeaways:

  • People at Whole Foods value atmosphere, quality customer service, quality products

  • Packaging and appearance is a big factor in determining quality of products

  • Shoppers generally shop for foods in the same order

  • Long lines tend to form near the higher number registers (closer to the end of the store)

Customer Journey Map

Starting from the decision to go grocery shopping to bringing everything back home, we drew out a user journey map for the end to end experience of shopping at Whole Foods. We used the RBT (Rose, Bud, Thorn) method in our brainstorming activity. For each step of the user journey, we identified Roses (good things), Buds (opportunities) and Thorns (pain points).


We looked at the following questions:

  • How do people make purchasing decisions?

  • Are customers having any questions/problems picking among similar items?

  • Are there any parts in the store that get left out due to the structure of the store?

  • What are the most crowded spots?

In the end, we focused on three main points of intervention. Promotions, In-store Product Comparisons, and the Checkout experience. We came up with various ideas involving a smart shopping cart, use of holograms/surfaces, and wearable technology. View storyboards here


Speed Dating

To test our ideas, we used the Speed Dating method with 5 different users. We showed users our 8 storyboards and asked question about what they thought of the scenario and the interactions. 



  • People are worried about information overload

  • People are concerned about privacy

  • Concerns exist if some solutions will make the grocery store more confusing


  • People want to know what others like/have bought (Rating system)

  • People like the idea of seamless checkout in your cart

  • People like having personalized and simple experiences


Final Experience

We wanted to show the following interactions of the shopping process in our video: Entering the Store/Getting set up, Purchasing things, and the Checkout Experience.


More information about our project can be found on Medium in the links below.

Exploratory Research | User Journey Map and Storyboards | Speed Dating | Video Sketch and Photo Montage