Recipe App Case Study

Everyone can cook. It’s easier when you know the recipe.

“I am waaay too tired to think of something to cook”, “there is no way to browse for recipes now”, “my mind is shut right now… I’m just gonna order take out”.

The problem

How many times have you heard this? How many times did you think it? Me too! That’s why I was determined to think of a way to simplify this process and reduce the time from thinking of a meal and begin to cook. The endless wondering of what to eat is a burden to us all and I think that this app will help a lot of people.

Secondary research

I started by exploring the related existing apps and websites. Most of them were either too broad or too specific. There were just a couple of apps that offer similar service to the user but the experience was not very user-centric so I decided that I have to do some user research myself. I conducted a survey with potential users of the app and after I got the results and conducted 3 interviews.

Research Plan

The research seeks to become acquainted with the user’s habits when it comes to preparing a meal.

The primary goal is to define how many people are finding themselves in a situation where they have almost all primary ingredients and don’t know what to prepare.

How often do you cook? How often do you shop for groceries? How much time do these actions take? Do you decide easily what to cook? These and some other questions are what this research is interested in.

The participants are already selected. They will be a diverse group. Both skilled in cooking and not so experienced. Different age, gender and occupation. Some of them live with their parents and don’t cook regularly, others live by themselves and most of them live with a partner/room mate and cook often.

Survey Questions

Do you prefer home cooked meal or fast food?
Do you cook?
Do you cook by/for yourself or do you do this with/for somebody else?
Are you skilled at cooking?
How often do you cook?
What kind of meals do you prepare? Easy, intermediate or elaborate?
How often do you know exactly what you want to cook?
When it comes to shopping do you know exactly what you want to prepare before getting the groceries or do you just buy the essential products and then figure out what to cook?
How much time does it take you to decide on the exact meal/recipe?
Do you like traditional recipes or do you like to experiment with more unfamiliar meals?
Do you collect different recipes?
What kind of foreign cuisine do you prefer?

From the collected data we can conclude that the problem at hand is confirmed. Almost 76% of the survey subjects state that they do cook but small part of them say that they are skilled at it (26%). And yet more than 76% say they spend considerable amount of time in the kitchen. People like cooking at home their own meals and people do have a problem getting from the step where they decide to cook, to the step where they actually start cooking. Only 13% of the survey subjects say that they know exactly what to cook every time. 33% don’t have a problem deciding on the meal and more than 53% have trouble deciding on the meal. From this data we can concur that the problem is real. People have a little free time during their busy day for planning the dinner. And when they do have time to plan this they have a major problem deciding on the exact dish. Most of them prefer to eat home-cooked meals because they can be sure that the ingredients are fresh but getting the groceries, deciding on the meal and preparing it are a time-consuming and tiring activities.

Observation on field

From the observation “on field” we can see that the subject spends considerable amount of time getting ready for the cooking. The subject likes to browse for recipes and interesting ideas. Her social media feed consists of lots of cooking channels and pages. However she has some “filters” considering what to prepare for her because she is a vegetarian. She also likes to eat healthy and chooses the ingredients on that base. Twice a year she follows a strict eastern-orthodox religious diet called “posti”. During this period she cannot consume meat (that’s not a problem for her, since she’s already a vegetarian), dairy products, eggs and more products that comes from animals. As you can understand sometimes these conditions make it hard for her to find the right (or any) meal. She lives near 2 supermarkets with a big variety of products but once she gets home she doesn’t like to go out again just to go to the supermarket so it’s very important for her to have a variety of food products at home.

User Personas

Competitive analysis

I researched for similar apps out there and made a heuristics analysis for the 3 most related and used ones.

Heuristic Evaluation

This analysis focuses on apps exploring and helping users with figuring out what to cook and how to prepare the meal. The analysis focuses on some of the important features and areas that could help the user with his/her goal.

The evaluations is based on these characteristics:

  • Simple exploring for recipes based on the most conventional division.
  • Searching for recipes based on ingredients.
  • Easy and simple structure, user control and freedom.
  • Aesthetics and overall design style

User Stories

Features — main function — recipe finder

Content Strategy

After that I needed to map the experience and to spend some time to form the information architecture of the app. The summary of the personas and the user stories helped me clarify the overall look and feel. Here is the initial site map for the app.

I begun sketching and wireframing. I had to make a MVP so that I can test it. Here are the initial screens.

App Testing and Evaluation

Main tasks:

  • Search recipes based on specific ingredients
  • Search for meals divided in categories
  • Explore and browse through trendy and seasonal meals and recipes

Secondary functions:

  • Easy access to the shopping list function
  • Easy way to save recipes

Interview script:

I’ve been working on an app that allows you to access recipes with minimal effort. It’s for users that are both experienced cooks and beginners that just want to search for easy and fast recipes. It will save you time and will reduce the lingering when you have no time to think about what to cook. It has 3 main tasks/functions and provide additional functions like shopping list and recipe save box.

There are 3 simple things I would like you to do:

  1. You have bread, tomatoes, pesto and some chicken in your fridge. Find out what can you cook with these ingredients.
  2. You have a lot of beaf in your freezer and what to cook it. Search for any recipe that uses beaf for a main ingredient.
  3. Like / save some of these recipes and find out where can access them.


  • The user has no problem searching for recipes either by ingredient or by category of the meal. It is easy to orientate through the interface.
  • Sometimes the user experiences difficulty finding the shopping list right away. It appears that it’s not clear enough what does the section “User” contains.
  • It appears that after the user has accomplished the primary goal he tries to go back to the main / home page in order to look around the app. The inability to go there and the fact that all of the information and content is combined into the bottom menu is confusing. And if I just add a home button to the bottom menu bar there is going to be some redundancy and the home screen will be useless for the flow of the app. The solution to this problem might be to combine the home screen and the explore screen. It appears that if the login or registration process is not essential to the app, the home screen isn’t significant to the wireframe.

After iterating the design I was able to update the wireflow and the design of the app.