A time efficient application that tackles food waste.
UI/UX Designer to Team Lead
I started this project at XHacks, the design hackathon at CMU (fun fact: I plan XHacks now!) and it won Best Pitch. As it was my first time ever using Figma and was also created in the span of 24 hours, needless to say, it was a challenge. Then taking this product idea, leading a team, and redesigned it for another competition, Carnegie Mellon Business Association Product Development Bootcamp, we won First Place. The problem space stayed the same, but the overall research + background work was redone for the new design.
Overall Problem Space
How might we design a tool that effectively helps users reduce their food waste and can be easily integrated into their current lifestyle?
According to a study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, US households waste about ⅓ of the food purchased every year. Especially with the rise of COVID and stay at home regulations, more people are cooking at home. As the days go on, it gets harder and harder to think of good recipes that are delicious, not repetitive or wasteful.
Keep in mind, according to Feeding America, 108 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States yearly. That's about 130 billion meals and more than $408 billion in food thrown away each year. Nearly 40% of all food in America is wasted. That's a lot of food!
With HomeCooked users can...
Based off the ingredients that users have in their pantry and the closest expiration dates, HomeCooked produces tailored recipes that help users find things to cook quickly, easily, and without waste.
Get Tailored Recipes
We know it can be hard to update ingredients all the time! So, HomeCooked has a scanning feature where users can take a picture of their receipt and the ingredients are automatically inputted into the pantry.
Redesigning the XHacks Project
Looking back at the design, I realized that there could be improvement on the overall aesthetic and the addition of features that can improve the user experience greatly. Especially because I only had 24 hours to create an application, a lot of the user and background research could not be completed, so I decided to take advantage of the CMBA Product Development bootcamp to delve more into business and user research with my team, essentially starting from scratch.
We began to with a competitive analysis, analyzing the apps that tackle food waste. Many of the most famous applications focus on delivery services that send imperfect foods for a cheaper price. But this excludes those who might not be close to specific stores that sells imperfect produce or the delivery service does not deliver to a specific area. We want to create an application that focuses on accessibility -- everyone can use this app no matter the geographic area. This led us to the kitchen area, a very universal area, where cooking and waste often happens in the household.
In order to better understand what users want, we surveyed and interviewed 15 people ages 15-51+ years old on the decisions they make when cooking and their food waste habits.
Many said that they did not think about how much food they waste in their daily lives
Some people are reluctant to spend a lot of time and effort on cooking.
Some have a hard time thinking of new things to cook as they're not sure what ingredients they have for specific recipes.
1. Keep track and help decrease food waste.
2. Increase the convenience of cooking.
Our idea is to create an application that goes hand in hand with the cooking process -- creating an easy and sustainable method for the cooking experience.
We had a quick brainstorming session using the Crazy 8's exercise to solidify which few features we wanted to focus on. This led us to the idea of user inputted ingredients in which the app will provide recipes that use those ingredients, ensuring that no tracked ingredients would go to expire or go to waste.
As this point, we realized that there are other applications that have similar features, so we decided to conduct another brief competitive analysis to analyze where we can best improve our application that tackles the user's paint points:
Looking through these competitors, we see that some areas of improvement would be efficiency and convenience, and also making sure to include features that attempt to limit food waste.
Designing the New HomeCooked
To begin the design changes, I conducted a user feedback with 3 users, asking them to test out the prototype. We synthesized and decided to change and add a few features to out application:
1. Implement recipe videos in app to allow watching while scrolling.
2. Add voice input for more accessible design.
3. Specific categories of recipes for easier selection.
In addition to those features, I also wanted to improve the overall aesthetic design for a simpler, cleaner, and more understandable format.
Home Before + After
Recipe Before + After
Here's the Final Spread!
Cooking can be fun: As I was ideating, I saw possibilities where cooking could be gamified and/or made more engaging. There are many ways where we can incorporate decreasing food waste habits in a fun cooking application. Ex: users can explore favorited recipes of other users, amass a following, create their own recipes to share with others -- there's so many more exciting and interesting features that can spice up the application.
Research is super super important: Having solid background and user research can lead to a lot of interesting and innovative ideas that brings to light edge cases or areas that the designers did not think of. This redesign really proved this clearly.
Creating small changes in individual habits lead to group success: Although food waste is a huge area to tackle, applications such as these is the first step to change.