A case study on how we designed a platform to strengthen familial bonding by sharing recipes.
In February 2019, we were given design prompts from the RSA Student Awards 2019 to choose for our final project. We chose Prompt #4:
"Develop a kitchen experience that enables people of different generations to cook and eat food, engage, entertain, and enjoy being together."
This inspired us to focus on how we could design for preserving family recipes with each generation. We were motivated by how food brings people together and especially how family recipes are capable of provoking nostalgia of one’s family and childhood. Learning how to cook one’s favorite family recipes can have a greater emotional impact such as spreading awareness of their roots, appreciating their culture and remembering the good times. That’s why we wanted to explore how we can inspire and make it more accessible to share family recipes so they can be preserved and built-upon between generations.
March - April, 2019 (3 months)
Design a solution to strengthen familial bonds through recipe sharing.
1. Competitor Analysis
Before setting out we needed to take a step back and explore existing methods and products related to food design, meal planning, recipe organization, and management. From recipe discovery apps to classic cookbooks to personal recipe organizers, and cooking guides, we analyzed their strengths and weaknesses.
Many tools already exist to help people browse for recipes and to save and share with others, none were specific to our primary focus of engaging with family members and each family’s unique set of recipes that have been passed down each generation.
This became our challenge, to expand an already saturated recipe market and discover a way to inspire families to come together and share their wealth of recipe knowledge so that everyone can have access to how to prepare homemade meals that engage the younger generation with their roots and inspire family nostalgia.
2. Semi-structured Interviews
Interviews were used to find out how participants feel about family recipes, how do they discover new recipes and how do they share recipes with the family members.
We identified two different target groups for the interviews:
1. Givers: People who have shared a recipe with a younger family member.
2. Receiver: People who have received a recipe from an older family member.
We interviewed 6 people and few questions asked during the interviews were:
3. Diary Study
A week-long diary study was conducted with each participant to understand their daily cooking habits with thoughtful writing prompts.
We used Affinity Analysis to find recurring patterns and identify themes from the qualitative data that we gathered through interviews and diary studies.
Key insights from the data analysis:
Cooking tips and techniques are shared more within a family than a recipe.
Most recipes are shared orally via calls or face to face interactions.
People experiment with recipes that they get and in the process create new recipes.
Most people do not want to use digital devices in the kitchen with their messy hands while cooking.
There is an even split between discovering recipes through family versus online.
Cooking together fosters feelings of closeness and bonding with family members.
Since we are targeting two different user groups, we felt that Personas would be a great fit for the project as it will allow the team to better empathize with both the user groups.
Using the gathered data, we had many brainstorming sessions to explore the breadth of possibilities. Initially, we collectively brainstormed many design concepts and quickly sketched them out to help express our thoughts and ideas to each other. We explored the breadth and depth of features very openly through the span of roughly 30 sketches.
We explored a number of solutions and decided to design a web platform with the following core features:
1. Family Circles
Users can set up family circles and invite family members so that any recipe they add to that circle will automatically be shared with only those members. We wanted to foster a sense of family closeness by limiting the visibility of recipes.
2. Recipe Sharing
Uploading recipes is the core of this application. A user can add a recipe through three different mediums — text, audio, and video.
3. Hands-free cooking
Cooking can be messy so we included a feature that allows the app to enter “voice mode” where users are able to navigate recipes through voice commands. The text will be converted through text-to-speech functionality.
Allows users to see variations of recipes created by other family members.
5. Collective Knowledge
Users can add notes to the instruction sections of a recipe to help each other out with their tips and techniques.
6. Social Interaction
Many social features are built in to help the app feel more engaging and foster familial closeness. Users can leave comments on recipes, add emoji reactions.
Before going into high-fidelity designs, we decided to test our low-fidelity prototype with 3 users. By observing our users perform their tasks, we learned that our users understood the basic premise of our application. The user results validated our design concepts and provided us with valuable insights that helped us in iterating over the designs.
Key findings from Usability Testing
1. Our users supported the idea of a cross-platform application since some tasks would be better suited for different devices.
2. Showing ingredients, time and difficulty in the recipe detail page aided their decision-making process on whether or not they have the resources.
3. Users had the instinct to highlight text in order to add notes for recipe instructions, as was our design for adding notes to text.
4. Voice Assistant in the recipe page was well-received but our users expected it to support complex commands and tasks we had not considered before.
5. One user wanted to document the recipe story for others to learn its origin. We later add a text field called “Recipe Roots” in our final design.
HIGH FIDELITY DESIGNS AND DESIGN RATIONALE
Users shouldn't be expected to know exactly what they are looking for. Roots help them find recipes by typing in a recipe name or even just ingredients.
Additionally, advanced filters help in filtering down a list of recipes to just the recipes that are more relevant to you.
With the surge of smart speakers, most of the users are now familiar with the concept of voice assistants and its undeniable convenience in hands-free web navigation. A similar voice mode in Roots allows users to ask recipe related questions during the messy task of cooking.
The research reflected on the fact that users use different media formats to share recipes with each other. While some users preferred text for recipes, some users preferred audio or video to document a recipe.
Roots allow users to document and share recipes in the media format of their own preferences. Further, the 2-step process makes recipe sharing a breeze.
Roots was a great learning experience for me. It taught me the importance of conducting a usability test way early in the process.
Our designs drastically changed from the low-idelity phase to the high-fidelity phase but we were more confident about the final designs since it incorporated the feedback we got from the usability test.
Further, I got to explore Adobe XD and play around with the prototyping functionalities which was a lot of fun.
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