Retrospective: Exploring an Area of Opportunity for Epicurious

This project was about exploring a problem or area of opportunity for an existing brand. My team and I began with focusing on the problem of food waste and the area of opportunity for a food or recipe brand.

Opportunity

We chose to design for Epicurious due to it’s large user base and global recognition. Epicurious is in a perfect position to impact the waste issue by appealing to the conscious mindset of its users. The app’s recently launched “In Season” feature demonstrates the company’s appreciation for sustainable cooking. It is the next step in empowering Epicurious’ “passionate and informed” audience.

Research

We began our research by sending out a survey targeting home cooks. Our survey goals were to validate the problem, identify interview candidates, and reveal macro trends. We also wanted to get a feel for people’s cooking habits, what kind of food they waste most, and their overall attitude about wasting food.

Out of our survey’s 47 responses, 72% of people said they throw out food often. Fruit and vegetable remnants rank as the highest type of food that is thrown away, followed by whole vegetables and herbs. We also discovered that mobile is by far the most used device in the kitchen.

The next step of our research process was user interviews. We conducted eight interviews in order to gather deep qualitative user data. From these interviews, we began affinity mapping (a way to synthesize and group insights from the interviews) to identify trends in pains, pleasures, behaviors, and contexts.

Some insights from Affinity Mapping.

Key Insights from User Interviews & Affinity Mapping:

  • Home cooks care about food waste and would like to avoid it
  • Waste usually happens because they overbuy or ingredients get lost in the fridge/pantry
  • Many think about composting but the infrastructure makes it hard in certain locations

We concluded that the root of food waste in is poor planning and poor pantry management.

From the insights and trends we discovered during affinity mapping, we then created our three main personas. The main persona we created is Susan, a mother of three who cooks often, but tends to forget what food she has in the house. Overall, she wants an easy want to manage her pantry and grocery list together.

Our three personas. Main, Secondary, Tertiary.

We developed scenarios and user stories for each of our personas to get a better idea of their wants, needs, and what exactly they would be looking for in an app/feature that prevents food waste.

Feature Ideation

Before beginning feature ideation for our app, we conducted a heuristic evaluation of competitive and comparable companies’ features. We used Nielson’s heuristics to evaluate the usability of similar apps and sites.

Our heuristic evaluation determined that Yummly and Listease exhibited the best usability. We extracted some features from both of these apps to use as inspiration for developing new features for Epicurious.

Based on our research and personas, we compiled a fairly large list of features to consider. Next we placed the features in a 2x2 quadrant to filter the proposed features by feasibility and user impact. Then we used the MoSCoW method (ordering features in a “Must”, “Should”, “Could” and “Won’t” list) to prioritize all of the features. Finally, we organized the features by the page that they would appear on to beginning visualizing the app and start the design process.

2 x 2 quadrant
Organizing feature by page.

Design

To begin the design process, our team used the design studio method to rapidly generate multiple design ideas in a short period of time (we dedicated five minutes to design each page). Then we identified the best parts of each of our designs and collaborated on one final design for each page.

Design Studio results.
Final sketch of each page’s design.

We turned our sketches into medium fidelity wireframes and began user testing. Out of the eight user tests we conducted, we received valuable feedback that we implemented into our high fidelity wireframes. We did another round of user tests after the high-fidelity wireframes to test the usability and any designs changes that were overlooked in the first tests.

The key insights we received from our user tests were:

  • Some of the copy was confusing. For example, we had placed an expiration date next to the item in the “Use Now” section, but the user was unsure of what those numbers stood for out of context.
  • Images were too small. Users liked the different recipe categories and unique options, but thought the pictures that showed the recipes were unnecessarily small.
  • Users did not understand the purpose of the progress wheel in their profile. This was meant to act as an indicator of how many ingredients they have in their pantry, but the progress bars in the pantry already successfully showed this information. We realized this progress wheel was inefficient and redundant.
Iterations of the User Profile
Iterations of the Pantry Page

The main features in our design:

  • “Use Now” section. This will show the user what ingredients they should be using. This is mainly to remind the user of what ingredients they have, but also can inspire the user to cook with these ingredients.
  • Pantry summary. This is in the form of progress bars that show the user how much of a certain category they have in their kitchen. For example, in our wireframes the user can see they have a lot of fruit in their pantry. So if the user were shopping they could quickly check this and realize they should not be buying any fruit that day.
  • “Find Recipes” button. This will suggest recipes based on the ingredients in the users pantry. This will offer the user many unique ideas on how to cook with those ingredients.
  • Customizable profile. The user should be able to adjust the setting in their profile depending on how many people they are cooking for, dietary restrictions, favorite types of cuisines, etc. All of this is information that will help generate customized recipes and correct portion sizes.
  • Shopping list. This feature is mainly for pantry management. After the user has grocery shopped, they can import their grocery list into the pantry. This is an efficient way to keep track of the food they have in their pantry.

Link to the final prototype: https://invis.io/FX85LJNM9#/178748343_1-_Home

Mockups

Next Steps

  1. Add a “resource” page that provides information on how to use produce and other ingredients in unique ways. It could also provide general nutritional and seasonal information.
  2. An “explore” tab where people can post their own tips and discussions concerning food waste and recipes they have cooked.
  3. Make the grocery list collaborative by adding a function to import your contacts or sync with Facebook.
  4. Adding a cute character or game to motivate people to use up items in their pantry.
  5. A function to locate local composting or food donation sites.
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