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Olio's 40k+ volunteers distribute tons of food among their communities. How might we ease their weekly routines using design?

Olio connects over 5 million neighbours worldwide with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away.


There are over 40,000 Olio volunteers collecting surplus food all over the UK from businesses like Tesco, Pret A Manger, Costa, and others, and distributing it among their communities via the Olio app. 

my role: first product designer/user researcher on the team

User journey

30+ user interviews helped us shape profiles of Olio's current users and their, often time-consuming and laborious, volunteering routines.


Distributing the items is a very time-sensitive task: volunteers pick up the food in the evening hours, usually around 7 or 8 PM. A lot of the articles have to be used by midnight.


This leaves the volunteers just a few hours to sort the food, upload it to OLIO and find someone interested to pick it up. By the end, they're exhausted from the manual labour and questioning whether they will do it all over again the following week.


The current app design is not sufficient for Food Waste Heroes. We need to help volunteers easily distribute the items, check who is collecting what and when they are coming in order to reduce the time and manual labour.

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How might we help volunteers easily allocate the items and quickly check who gets what?

We ideated on the challenge as a team, using a selection of ideation methods such as Crazy 8's. One idea in particular got the most traction - we called it baskets. It was directly based on our research findings: we had observed that many users try to put items into baskets as they go or create lists on paper about who gets what


Baskets design

I developed the Baskets UX through an iterative process heavily influenced by user feedback. This was gathered through a mix of usability testing sessions, interviews, and observations.

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Baskets allow Food Waste Heroes to easily see what each requester is collecting, how many of each item, and to write any extra notes such as allergies, collection preferences or time of pick-up. 

User feedback

Baskets have been rolled out to over 20 000 Food Waste Heroes in 2020 and received positive responses from users. The image below displays just a few of many responses to Baskets that we received in a survey after the Beta release.

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Two years on...

Baskets are still helping tens of thousands volunteers around the UK saving tons of food every week. Here are some comments about the Baskets found on Olio's volunteer forum:

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