Cooking at home shouldn’t be hard. The grocery store shouldn’t be mystery, and it shouldn’t be impossible to navigate a recipe on your phone or tablet. With this mission in mind, EasyCook, an app that let’s you do all of these things with ease, was born.
I am an avid home cook, and as much as a restaurant visitor. My phone is actively involved in all food decisions- from finding the restaurant, to what I want to eat and when I want to eat. I noticed that this was a fairly common trend amongst my peers. During further discussions, I found that many of them prop their smartphones or computers to view the recipe and steps when they cook at home. I also found that my frustration at the lack of easy navigation through these multiple step recipes was shared. Another common thought was the inability to find ingredients easily at the store. The most suprising commonality between my own experience and that of my peers was the fact that the mentality to avoid looking at the prices of eating out vs. cooking at home was present too. On further exploration of this aspect, why people avoided confronting costs was simple: It inherently felt bad to realize the amount of careless spending. I was surprised, and glad, that these were the big problems that extended beyond my little world.
With these things in mind, the creation of EasyCook began. I use several recipe resources like AllRecipes.com, Yummly, etc. on my phone. My familiarity with the ‘ok’ user experience with these helped seeding the idea. From there, the affirmation from peers loaned itself to creating EasyCook.
For my observations, I chose to talk to people about their eating habits. I split the interviews to cover what happens when they eat out vs. when they cook at home. I asked the participants to tell me about what their eating habits are like. Through the course of the interview, I narrowed the scope of the questions and looked for more specifc information like who decides on which restaurants, the frequency of eating out vs. home cooked meals, the importance of nutrition information, etc.
My running assumption was that all the participants would make the grocery shopping a planned affair, but it was surprising to find that neither of the three made lists. Their decisions were more about monetary state, and convenience of cooking.
Patrick is a city dweller. He fancies himself to be one of the worst cooks in a group. He leans towards eating out, sometimes 5-6 nights per week. Where to eat is mostly picked by someone else, or he chooses whatever is close by. When he does have to pick a place to eat outside, he uses the “Explore Nearby” feature on Google Maps, on his phone. Patrick is moderately curious about new food- he has to be “in the mood” for trying new food. Or if a place he’s tried before is closed.
Alexandria used to be lady of lists. But her new job, and higher salary, has led to having less time at home to cook, and more resources to eat out. She tries to limit her outside food consumption to Panera Bread or Starbucks, because they display nutrition information. She also thinks that they are good value for money.
Mr. Prakash lives in India. Most of his eating habits are dictated by the geography and the culture that comes with it. His daily routine is the same— three home cooked meals a day. Only special occasions warrant a trip to a restaurant.
When he does eat out, he chooses restaurants based on newspaper reviews, or recommendations by friends/family. For these meals, nutrition information isn’t of much value. But for home cooked meals, he cares about nutrition information. The home cooked meals aren’t usually his choice— it’s the cooks choice. It is fairly common practice in India to hire a cook or for a stay–at–home family member to do all the cooking.
Grocery shopping is a big part of everyone’s lives. Surprisingly, it is more trouble than people want to deal with. How can grocery shopping be made more efficient and personalized? A more guided way of shopping, with tool tips and alerts depending on what section of the store items from a list are located, or making recipe recommendations based on diffculty/prep time/ nutritional value/ cost, could help consumers feel more motivated to cook/eat healthy.
I came up with the following list of needs and wants based on the interviews:
Pros: AnyList is a pretty good app for making grocery lists, amongst other forms of lists. I like this app because it sorts the entries based on what section of the store they are most likely to be found.
Cons: The sorting is ify. It uses arbitrary logic to place items into categories that may or may not be accurate in a store. I hope to link the app to some sort of a store map/inventory list to create alerts about what is to be picked up in a section. Other potential feature would be to add bar code scanning so a user can build frequent/favorite foods.
Pros: Tracks where you go, rewards users for walking. I like that it gives markers telling people where they are and a little about the history of the marker.
Cons: Step tracking can be iffy. But, a similar tracking and markers could be a good way to incorporate store sections.
Pros: MyFitnessPal has been the top rated calorie tracker for a while now. It lets you scan barcodes to collect nutrition information, set health goals and syncs with activity tracking apps.
Cons: Because of its popularity, the database has gotten muddled over time. While it’s great to have all those options, its very confusing for people entering information. The app also doesn’t allow quick inputs between meals.
The first scenario dealt with with a user needing to buy groceries based on recipes they chose to cook. The idea was to use the location and store map provided by the store, in conjunction with inventory, to help the user find everything they need. The idea was inspired by IKEA’s technology that promotes self help and requires minimal struggle to find products in their warehouse.
The second scenario revolves around a budget oriented user, that has no inclination towards cooking. I pictured the user being able to select food based on budget, cuisine, and a couple of other ‘nice-to-have’ options. The most important filter/option available would be "what's open nearby or now". The app would provide directions to the chosen restaurant and users would be able to view the restaurant's menu.
The paper prototype run throughs were extremely helpful in indicating the key problems with both.
The first prototype, Ready To Eat?, was received with some confusion about the purpose of the app. The users seemed to have a clear understanding of its function…until the end rolled around. The confusion was regarding whether the app lets you place an order, or simply keep a list of what you’d want to eat there. Once I did tell them that it was more of a “discovery” than “order ahead” app, the reaction leaned towards being disappointed. They appreciated the “discovery” aspect, but expected more assistance in seeing their discovery through.
The second prototype, EasyCook, was generally met with a lot of enthusiasm. Aside from minor feedback about adding and removing certain things noted in the previous pages, the purpose of the app was clear, and thought to be extremely helpful.
Both apps could use better exit strategies, and some help in resolving the purpose of it all.
After receiving feedback on both paper prototypes, I made the decision to move forward with prototype 02- EasyCook. The application of the app was far more than Ready To Eat? and it stood at a better progress point than the other as well. UserTesting.com graciously provided credits for 4 user tests. There were a few key differences between the two versions of the app that were tested, mostly in terms of CTAs, and organization of information.
Here are some key feedback points that were taken in to consideration for the final development:
The preparation/cooking flow is what seems most provocative to me about this app, so I am hoping to get to try that out! Also, I’m wondering if I missed something in terms of how the app could let me group together items from multiple recipes’ ingredients list into one shopping list.
The above response gave opportunities for future developments, for example, individually selecting ingredients to add to a cumulative list.
I felt like overall, the app was very clean. The recipe feed had very similar info in between recipes. The hamburger menu is very clean and doesn’t have an overwhelming number of items. I really liked the lettering and felt like the options were very streamlined, minus the rating. I like the header font that they used. I was able to do most of the tasks and didn’t end up anywhere I’d expect to be. I was really hesitant about the the Favorite Recipe lists, didn’t think that I’d see them under My Lists.
I appreciated the comment on the aesthetics of the app. It provided a good indication towards the appeal of it.
I spent a few days reviewing feedback from the 4 users, and got some more opinions from friends and family. Based on the feedback, I added an onboarding experience to clarify the purpose of the app. I also added a couple of notifications to explain what stage of a flow the users were at. I had a friend revisit the app after implementing all the changes, and voila! Success!Watch the demo