Design Process

Potential User Interviews

Users: Undergraduate and Graduate Students in the age range of 18 to 28 years living by themselves.

This user group was chosen because being a student myself, I face these problems every day and wanted to explore if it is a commonly faced problem among other students. And if so, gain a deeper understanding of the problem and come up with a solution.

Nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with graduate students at the University of Maryland, College Park. The interviews mainly aimed at answering the following questions:

  • How do they manage their meals currently? Do they think they are consistently eating healthy ?
  • How often do students cook at home? What do they do when they do not cook at home? What are some of the barriers when it comes to cooking at home more often? How do they decide what to cook? How long does it take for them to decide what to cook?
  • How often do they go grocery shopping? How do they plan their shopping?

The interview data was consolidated and themes were identified by constructing a simple diagram using Trello. For a detailed view of the themes, see the Trello board.

Consolidating User Interview Data and Identifying Over-Arching Themes

Key Quotes From the Users

User 5: “Tonight, I did not know what to cook. So, I thought of what I have and thought of a few options I could make with those ingredients and estimated the cook time. I ended up cooking the one that had the least cook time.”

User 6: “I usually cook about 3 days in a week and other days, I just bored and lazy to cook and I just eat out or eat frozen foods.”

User 7: “I am not picky about what I want to cook as long as it is time-efficient, cost-efficient and healthy.”

User 10: “When I run out of groceries, I usually eat bread, ready-to-eat packets, frozen food, and cereals until I go shopping for the next time, which could be a couple of days.”

User Persona

Based on the themes from the interview, a target user persona was created.

Brainstorming Design Ideas

Finalizing the Product Concept

After identifying various issues from the consolidated interview data, a few design ideas were brainstormed.

Considering the scope of the project and prioritizing the user needs, some of the design ideas were clubbed and polish to what turned out to be the Food Mobile .


The design phase started by making a visual storyboard to study how students will use our application in various different scenarios. Example scenarios include:

  • Going for grocery shopping and claiming vouchers
  • Planning grocery shopping by selecting recipes
  • Selecting a recipe to cook based on suggestions
Storyboard for few scenarios

User Flow Diagram

User flow diagram was created to lay out a skeleton for the mobile application.

Design Iterations

Paper Prototypes

Next, paper prototypes were made based on the user flow diagram and tested with four different users. Paper prototypes helped to test the overall concept with the users as well as test the interaction patterns.

Paper Prototype and Testing

Feedback from Testing

“Oh, this [the “Start Cooking” feature] is awesome! The app reading out steps to me while I am cooking will be great!”

“I get a voucher [?], that is pretty cool!”

“If this app were to be real, I would definitely use it! [This] will make my life so much easier!”

“What if I want to add ingredients I already have, like spices and grains to the ‘current stock’? How would I do that?”

When prompted by the facilitator to look for substitution options, one of the users said surprisingly, “Oh, I can touch it [the ingredient name]!”

“I would want to make a list of recipes I make frequently for quick access?”

“Can I add all ingredients of one recipe to the shopping list at once?”

Making It Digital

After incorporating feedback received from the previous testing round, wireframes of the screens were created using Sketch.

Mid Fidelity Prototype Screens (Wireframes)

Design Decisions

After receiving feedback from each of the testing rounds, the following design changes were made.

  • Users wanted to be able to view and edit their current stock, hence a new option in the bottom navigation bar called Refrigerator was added.
  • Users could not make out that each of the ingredient with the recipes is clickable. Hence made the list of ingredients to be a group of cells with select indicators.
  • Users said they wanted to be able to add selected or all ingredients to the upcoming grocery shopping from within recipe page. Hence added a button “All Selected Ingredients to Shopping List” within the recipe page.
  • Users wanted to quickly access some of the frequent recipes. Added a feature to let users favorite specific recipes and access them within “Favorites” tab on the Home page.

High Fidelity Prototype

Quick and Easy Recipe Suggestions Based On Ingredients

Searching for Recipes based on Ingredients
  • List of ingredients leading to pictures of ingredients along with substitution suggestions.
  • Add recipe ingredients to grocery shopping list.
  • Audio instructions for users while they are cooking. These instructions can be controlled by voice commands.

Explore New Recipes

  • Lets the user explore new recipes irrespective of the ingredients.
  • Set recipes as favorites.
  • The “Trending” recipe section is based on most cooked recipes in the area, considering student housing areas are close to the university.

Upload Grocery Shopping Receipts and Win Vouchers

Adding and Deleting from Current Stock
  • Keep a running tally of ingredients in the kitchen.
  • Edit current stock when ingredients are used or to add manually add new ingredients.
  • Upload pictures of shopping receipts to win discount vouchers.
  • Discount vouchers expiring in 15 days encourages consistent grocery shopping. Also, encourages healthier eating.

Plan Upcoming Grocery Shopping

Creating and Managing Upcoming Grovery Shopping List
  • Add/ edit items to manage grocery shopping list.
  • Option to add items from the previous list.
  • Select recipes to add those specific items to the list.
  • Reminder to add certain ingredients when the user is running low on those ingredients.

Manage Account

  • Set cuisine and dietary preferences for recipe suggestions.
  • Check active discount vouchers.
  • Register a payment method for grocery shopping receipt authorization.
  • Option to set reminders to cook when meal timings are approaching.

Try out the Sketch prototype here.

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