Cooking Made Social- A UX Case Study
Food is one of the most social parts of culture and society, yet we are very limited in the ways in which we can share recipes with each other. People with an interest in cooking love to find new recipes and love seeing what others are cooking, but besides seeing pictures of the finished product on social media, not many people are actually sharing their cooking adventures.
As fewer and fewer young people use Facebook, which is the current easiest way to share cool recipes from the likes of Tasty and Tastemade, cooking has become even more of an isolated event within young people’s lives. Even harder to see is how the recipes they share actually turn out.
Currently, if someone wants to find a new recipe, they must turn to the family-friendly, squeaky clean haven that is Allrecipes, Epicurious, or other food blogs. Many of those website’s overall design and language, despite being fairly neutral, can often make younger or newer cooks feel that they aren’t the target audience and become discouraged or disinterested in cooking. Some may even find their way to Tasty, who’s worked hard to appeal to a younger demographic, but still lacks the sense of community and transparency that is nonexistent on recipe sites.
Another issue many are faced with when dealing with online recipes is that many sites assume that their user has at least a moderate level of expertise in cooking, or that they are willing to google anything they don’t understand. With a little pre-research, the users can figure out how to cook the recipe but it’s an extra step the user must take to understand the recipe.
I come across these frustrations and issues often in my own life as a young and independent college student. Searching for recipes is a chore and more often than not the recipes that are shared on social media look delicious but aren’t worth the risk of wasted grocery money.
I thought about what I would like to use to remedy these issues and spoke with my friends about their own experiences. In the end, my solution was simple; combine the interactions and connections of social media with the huge databases found on recipe websites, then wrap it all up in an easy to use app that lets you take a step into your friend’s kitchen.
Ovenmate is a prototype of an app that focuses on connecting people’s kitchens by letting friends share their own recipes and recommend new ones with each other whilst leaving comments and photos documenting their own successes and failures with the steps. Ovenmate is a huge archive of recipes created and curated by us and our users, all of which can be shared, saved, and commented on.
Users are encouraged to share photos and comments about their process and their finished product so other users can see what to expect and help guide them in their own attempt at the recipe. Another way to help guide users through the recipe is helpful tips embedded into the steps that give a quick explanation of certain words or actions.
To solve the ever-present messy fingers problem, Ovenmate has a guided step by step mode that keeps your screen on, sets up timers to keep your cook times on track, and can provide a guided voice over so that you don’t even need to pay attention to the screen to know what to do next.
So in total, not only is this app design with the aesthetics familiar to the demographics aged 16–35, but it also gives users a way to find new recipes, see what their friends are cooking and how it went, and when faced with a recipe the website helps guide users who may be more unfamiliar with cooking or just those who want to make the cooking process easier. By doing this service and having all of these features, Ovenmate stands out among the other recipes websites and cooking sites that are solely an archive of recipes.
Initial Research and Development
The first step of this research was to understand what was already out there, and what was lacking. I began by doing my own exploration of the most popular recipe websites such as Allrecipes, Tasty, Delish, and Epicurious. I looked at how they organized and presented recipes, and the features available to users who’ve made an account.
To learn more about what existing apps offered, I downloaded the app versions of each website as well as all the other cooking/recipe apps I could find and repeated the same exploration process. I sat down with and spoke to several peers and professors about how they find recipes, their opinion on the existing sites and their experiences with them, and pain-points they have surrounding the cooking and recipe finding process.
To better understand who would want to use my app and how, I created several user personas varying in age, occupation, skill level, and budget. Ovenmate is an app that can appeal to many demographics over a wide range of ages and backgrounds.
The Design Process
Card Sorting and the Prototypes
The first step of building the app was figuring out exactly what it did. By using post-its and brainstorming everything that the app could possibly do, I was given lots of possibilities. After sorting the cards into categories based on their function, I asked my peers to look through and see if everything was where they thought it would be.
From there, I started developing a sitemap and user journey, following every path the user could take and which actions would be available to them from a specific step. This step expanded the functions even more and helped me visualize the different pages that would be on the app.
Taking this sitemap, I began to put each action and function on paper and began to develop my paper prototype of the app. Starting from the home screen, almost all the possible screens that a user could encounter was roughly sketched out on note cards. Changes were made and pages were added in this process, and even more, features were included.
Bringing this version onto digital made the app grow even further. The content of each page was specified even further and the way users would use certain features were changed. Specifically, the “group meal” page changed more from group boards to a private messaging and group chat function.
Research and development for the visual identity of the brand began with logo research and analysis of the competition. Online recipe resources usually come in the form of either a website, an app or both. The majority of brands utilized warm colors, with the occasional color outlier.
I looked at the designs for major social media apps and decided I wanted to keep my logo very clean and simple. The logo started as quick pencil sketches and mock-ups in Illustrator and eventually developed into a rounded rectangular form meant to mimic the shape of an oven. A pot was added on the top of the stove to give more context and interest to the logo.
The type for the logo is Gotham Rounded and the type for the rest of the identity is normal Gotham. The colors for the brand were based on a warmer color palette after some research provided that reds and yellows stimulated viewer’s minds in a way that is beneficial for food-related brands.
The interface for the app is very image-focused, with a dual column layout for the endless scroll homepage and search pages. The images and icons all have clean rounded corners to carry the style established by the logo throughout the app. Each photo has a minimal amount of type and icons in order to give priority to the recipe being shown. The colors for the interface are primarily white, with bars and accents of red, blue, and dark brown from the brand’s colors.
Application of the Brand
As an app whose target audience likes to share posts and connect with people online, I decided to design a promotional social media campaign with Instagram and Twitter advertisements and a website banner. The attitude of the app is fun and fresh so the concept for the advertisements was to utilize short quips and bright colors. The ads are visually eye-catching with lively photographs and color fields, and the witty taglines are meant to attract new young users.
Branded merchandise like aprons, oven mitts, and kitchen towels give the brand a physical aspect and help to solidify our user’s familiarity and connection to the app.
Ovenmate is a fresh approach to recipe finding and sharing that encourages users to connect and bond with their peers over recipes and cooking whilst making the recipe finding process easier and more fun.
Art Direction: Abby Guido
School: Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Graphic and Interactive Design
Graduation: Spring 2020