UX Research Project



UX Design
UX Research


Adobe XD
Adobe Illustrator


2 weeks in 2019
V2 - 4 weeks in 2020


Plateful helps people save time for cooking

Inspired by Pandora, Plateful is an app concept that helps people meet their nutrition goals while discovering new foods. I created Plateful in 2019 to explore mobile design and prototyping, but after taking human-centered design courses, I realized it was missing a key ingredient: flexibility for people with limited time.

I came back to Plateful in 2020 with a clear problem definition and a plan to incorporate user research into the design to address the challenges people face when cooking.


Students feel like cooking regularly is unattainable

In college, I noticed that my classmates loved to use social media to share the meals they made at home. From posting photos of their plates to listing the ingredients involved, cooking gave them a sense of accomplishment that they wanted to share with their community.

More often than not, people would also add "I finally found the time to cook."

This observation made me wonder: How can busy people be encouraged to cook more often?


Discover recipes while Plateful handles the rest


Redesigning Plateful with user research

After taking human-centered design courses from UCSD, I learned to develop a clear sense of the problem with research before designing solutions.

I ran a heuristic evaluation on my initial design and combined qualitative and quantitative user research methods (surveys, competitive analysis, personas) to understand the challenges people face when cooking from home.

Heuristic Evaluation

I walked through Plateful (2019) with a heuristic evaluation to identify areas to apply user-centered design principles and improve the app. This step helped me uncover opportunities to support people's cooking behaviors by increasing flexibility and customization on the app.

Heuristic: User Control and FreedomPeople couldn't adapt individual recipes to their preferences or generate new recipes without listing ingredients in their kitchen. Recipe discovery and preparation needed to be more flexible to match people's cooking behaviors.

Heuristic: Flexibility of Use
Terms like "weight loss" and "weight gain" emphasized weight-related goals, rather than supporting the goal of encouraging people to cook. Outcome-based goals don't need to be mentioned in each interaction with the app.

Heuristic: Mapping to Real Behaviors
Without user research to back up the design, I assumed people would diligently keep track of the ingredients they had. This was totally wrong! Allowing recipes to be discovered without restrictions gives people the opportunity to plan future meals.

Heuristic: Visbility of System Status
People had to do the math themselves to understand if individual recipes on their plate added up to met their nutrition goals. Highlighting the overall results of each choice can help people make informed decisions.


​​​​​​​I ran a survey to understand what the biggest motivators and challenges are for people who want to cook regularly. I found that people don't plan when they want to cook, and instead choose what to eat based on convenience. People said they have the most success when they have the right ingredients in their fridge​ ahead of time.

Who was in the survey?The 40 participants who responded were 18-24 years old. They were interested in healthy eating, but most cooked less than they want to because they don't have ingredients they need on-hand.

How do people cook?
29 participants said they have trouble deciding what to cook and often rely on ready-made food that is more predictable. They rarely grocery shop and try to use what's already in their fridge if they do cook.

How do people choose what to cook?
29 participants said that their mood dictates what they're going to eat. The most important factor is how the food itself looks.

Does nutrition influence cooking?
2x as many participants look at macronutrient ratios instead of calories when they cook.

Competitor Analysis

Traditional nutrition apps ask users to track the foods they eat, which often leads to attrition after a few uses. I used this insight to flip the nutrition app model upside down. Instead of logging foods, Plateful helps people meet their nutrition goals by creating personalized grocery lists with exactly the right amount of each ingredient and tracking which recipes you made.

Quotes from App Store reviews

  • "app-generated meal plans are too rigid"
  • "recipe directions are inconsistent"
  • "my dietary needs are not always supported"
  • "logging food is repetitive after only a few uses"

Research Summary

The biggest struggle people faced was with preparation before they cook, like shopping and choosing recipes that meet nutrition goals. I created 2 personas to summarize my research insights and design in the context of user goals, pain points, and use cases.


Use Case
Moved in to an apartment with a kitchen for the first time

Pain Point
Getting bored of making the few recipes he knows

Impress his friends with his cooking skills


Use Case
Try vegan foods to reduce animal products in her diet

Pain Point
Buying ingredients that are only used for one meal

Grocery shop efficiently and use all the food she buys


Design decisions based on research

Plateful helps people find, make, and share great food. In 3 steps, get cooking with personalized grocery lists filled with quality ingredients and tailored to your nutrition needs.

Plateful makes it easy to discover and cook new foods by creating grocery lists that meet your nutrition goals.

Ingredients, ready when you are

Save recipes with personalized serving suggestions.

Research Insight
Initially, I imagined people scheduling time to meal prep in a calendar. ​​​​​​Instead, I learned people want to open their fridge and see what they can make with the ingredients already there. Plateful helps people get the right ingredients on-hand by allowing them to save entire recipes to their shopping list.

Get creative while Plateful does the math

Get smart nutrition suggestions when you're ready to dig in.

Research Insight
Mood guides people towards their food choices. They're thinking more about the visual aspects of food than nutrition, but want to know their plate is balanced when it's time to eat. By adding recipes to My Plate, people can focus on choosing foods first and fine-tune quantities later.

A taste of community

Add your own recipes to Plateful and try out your friend's culinary creations.

Research Insight
People enjoy the communal aspects of cooking and eating; even when cooking alone, people are posting what they eat online for others to see. Plateful gets social with recipe sharing, so people can enjoy the foods their friends are trying.

Future Explorations

Visualize plate history & integrate fitness tracking

To take Plateful to the next level of personalized nutrition guidance, offering visual summaries (like Spotify wrapped) of user's plate history could guide people towards their daily goals and help them remember their favorite recipes.

Integration with fitness tracking could also add value to users by suggesting meals based on the intensity of their workouts. This could promote people's awareness of the relationship between their nutrition needs and activity levels.

If you want to get in touch about any of my work, feel free to reach out!

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