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Project Types: Flow Chart, Prototyping (Linear, Interactive, Data-Driven), Videosketch
Timeframe: Varied from 3-6 weeks (Fall & Winter 2011)
Individual Project using Visio, Actionscript 3.0, XML Data, UI Design (with Apple’s iOS HIG)

01. App Overview and Vision

The idea for this application was born out of my desire to cook more, since it would be healthier and more cost-effective. However, I realized that many times when I try to cook, I encounter setbacks or delays such as:

  • Forgetting to defrost an ingredient or preparing something the night before
  • Forgetting that something is cooking
  • I don’t have something the recipe calls for on hand

Since many of these setbacks had to do with time management, I thought an iPhone app that would automatically scan the text of the recipe and set up relevant timers and notifications would be useful. Ingredients would be added to an automatically-generated weekly grocery list. When I’m ready to cook, I could follow along with the steps the app has parsed out. For some steps in the recipe, I would just start a timer embedded in that step and go do something else, knowing that I can check my phone anytime for a “dashboard” view of everything simmering, baking and cooling in my kitchen.

Because I had such a strong desire for an app like this to exist to help me with my cooking, I decided to explore this app idea further for the four projects we received in Prototyping class.

 


 
As I was working on these projects I developed in my mind additional features for the app (which also served as the basis for the last project):
 
 

My vision for this app is that it will be a constant reminder of a commitment to cook more regularly. It’s all too easy to succumb to fast food and quick snacks as substitutions for a healthy meal. Diet and exercise plans also frequently come with meal plans. Perhaps for some people cooking is enjoyable, but for some others it requires as much time and dedication as sticking with an exercise plan. This app aims to not only combine the typical grocery list app and recipe manager but change the way cooking (or lack thereof) is approached—essentially reframing it as a time management problem. It brings together many of the actions a person who cooks already undertakes into one app and integrates them seamlessly: making grocery lists, creating meal plans, crossing off steps in a recipe, and manually setting up timers either on a phone or kitchen timer.

 

 


02. Project 1: Application Flow Chart

In our first Protoyping project, we had to create a task flow for a complex task that required a number of steps and decisions. I decided to plan out the flow of my app, taking a stab at the logic that would be needed in a recipe-analyzing algorithm.

Download Flow Chart (PDF)

 

 
 

03. Project 2: Linear Prototype

In our second Prototyping project, the task was to create a linear clickable Flash demo that would showcase one or two functions of the app. I chose to demonstrate how a recipe might be added with the iPhone’s copy/paste function and how a user might follow along with that recipe while cooking. Though I had some programming experience, it was my first foray into using Actionscript 3.0 in Flash. (This demo by no means has the algorithm in place that actually analyzes the recipe!)
 

 
 


 

 

 


04. Project 3: Non Linear Interactive Prototype

For our third project, we were tasked with creating a non-linear Flash prototype that would present the user with a few decision points. I decided to create a prototype that would test one specific scenario: A user would like to add and have analyzed one of the recipes saved in the Notes app on their iPhone. Would copy and pasting the recipe details into the app be a convenient way to do it?

What I found out from this prototype and through internal user testing with my peers was that the copy/paste method of adding a recipe was acceptable as a back-up solution, but would not be the most convenient way to get recipes into the app. Their feedback reinforced features I thought would be necessary to the app: Either syncing with an online service like Epicurious.com or some sort of quick import-from-bookmarks feature.
 
 

 


 

 

 


05. Project 4: XML Driven Prototype and Videosketch

In the last project we were to create a Flash prototype that would pull in data from XML files. I envisioned a companion website for the app that would sync with the user’s cooking history. The site would have an “Analyzer” widget that would allow the user to analyze what they cooked in previous weeks—saved as meal plans. The user would be able to look at their meal plans and see which meals were the cheapest, healthiest or took the least time to cook. (The grocery price data would come from supermarket chains that provided it.) An even more advanced version of this widget which I would love to work on in the future would enable users to create meal plans on the fly so that they could see the data dynamically change, as well as be able to share and try out others’ meal plans.

In addition to the Flash prototype as a final deliverable, I also created a videsketch showing the Analyzer used in a typical scenario.
 

 
 

 


 

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