Initially, the team and I conducted eight interviews. Two of the interviewees were professional chefs, and the rest were either cooking enthusiasts or considered cooking a necessary evil.
Here is the list of the most interesting findings:
- Cooking for a family whose members have a different diet is difficult. If one person is allergic to a specific ingredient, in the best case you have to find ways around it, and in the worst case you need to cook twice.
- Sometimes you forget about the equipment or ingredients you're missing. One participant realized halfway through baking a cake that they used up all the baking paper.
- One of the interviewees had a "compilation recipe note". When they found an interesting video online about a recipe they would jot down interesting ideas. When cooking the dish next time they would try out the ideas and either keep those ingredients or remove them.
- The preparation and cooking time of a meal has a major effect on whether they will try it out or not.
- It is hard to scroll online recipes in the middle of cooking, on the account of dirty hands.
- An interviewee listens to songs while cooking, and guesses approximate timing for recipes based on the length of songs they listen to.
- Ingredient lists are not localized. Two interviewees complained about not understanding the imperial units.
The interviews showed us that there were a lot of complaints about the recipe websites and applications that cook novices use. Therefore, we decided to primarily focus on the novice cooks, and improving the user experience of finding the right recipe.
- Experienced home cook.
- Loves cooking and French cuisine
- Thin budget, but doesn't mind spending a bit more for a better ingredient.
- Indifferent to cooking. Cooks out of a necessity.
- Appreciates good food, but isn't particular about what to eat as long as it gives him energy.
- An exchange student from the US living in Paris.
- Only understands imperial units.
- Rarely cooks. Usually eats out.
- Novice cooks who look for recipes online and want to modify the recipes they are planning to cook.
- They are currently annoyed by having to figure out how to convert measurement units in online recipes and how to calculate the right amount of ingredients per different sizes of groups of people.
- They have friends and family that have a special diet or are allergic to certain ingredients and they want to modify the recipes according to the diet and know exactly how much of every ingredient is needed.
We decided to do brainstorming in two parts. First, we met and, based on the analysis of the breakdowns our interviewees had when cooking, came up with a bunch of ideas. We then decided not to filter through the ideas immediately, but leave them as they are in a shared document. For the next few days, our task was to individually think and add to the list any idea that pops into our head. Because of that, we ended up having a bigger and more diverse pool of ideas.
The next time we met we went through all the ideas and voted on our favorites. We liked the idea of mixing and matching ingredients from different recipes and allowing the user to adjust them to their needs.
Analyzing all the breakdowns, workarounds, and ideas, we decided to create an app that turns static recipes from all over the internet into an interactive tool that helps to reduce cognitive strain when cooking. We found that although cooking is a very personal and creative process that requires a lot of attention, the recipes found on the internet are anything but that.
To push the idea even further, we held a participatory design workshop. We wanted to further improve on our concept by exploring interaction techniques. For that, we came up with three exercises that we would try together with our participants:
- Look up a recipe online and save it in any way for later. Modify it so that you can use it to cook for 6 people.
- You are given four recipes printed out on paper. Combine them into one recipe that seems to work the best.
- You are given four recipes printed out on paper. Combine them into one recipe without using a pen.
The workshop inspired some of the interactions that ended up in the final video prototype. However, due to a shortage of time, we couldn't brainstorm new ideas after the workshop was done. We think it would be beneficial to leave time for a brainstorming session after the completion of such a workshop in the future.
Finally, we sat down, took out some paper, markers, scissors, and tape, and started working on a paper prototype. Check out the final result below.
With three colleagues, we went through the video prototype breaking apart interactions one by one to see if they can be improved. Interesting suggestions came up that we simply didn't have time to implement in the end.
During the design process, we realized that each person we talked to had their own story about cooking. Everyone adapted the cooking process to their needs to some degree. It was no different during the design crit. Something as personal as cooking sparked a lot of interesting ideas. Participants wanted to add just that one more thing that would make their lives even easier.
Cooking is an activity that almost every person in the world performs at some point or another. It's a broad subject and by solving a small problem with cooking, we hope to improve the experiences of many people.
A list of improvements and wishlist for further iterations:
- There are many different extreme characters that we could explore: people with a lot of allergies, professional athletes, people on a very tight budget, people cooking for huge gatherings, people with limited kitchen hardware, etc. We would love to see how our solution could change if looked through the eyes of at least some of them.
- The solution mainly focuses on the ingredients of the recipe, we would love to focus on the preparation method as well in the future
- Time management: allow users to plan their days based on the preparation time of certain meals
- We would love to do another round of more focused set of interviews
Still work in progress, but feel free to check out working version of Editable the design system: