This is: Reciplore

Reframing accessibility in the food experience by breaking its cultural barriers.


The Solution

Reciplore is an app that's informed and influenced by an understanding of what people need to break the cultural barriers of food. The beauty of design thinking is that it's human-centered and we have the opportunity to reframe the problem from the customers point of view. I designed this app to help users to feel confident and comfortable learning about different ethnic cuisines while ordering at restaurants or cooking at home. Its core functions aim to bring community, search easily according to your catered taste profile, and make food more accessible with guides to users that would otherwise be incomprehensible to them. Reciplore, resolving the cultural disconnect of food.


Spring 2021

Project Info

Personal Project


Figma, Marvel


How I structured the project (with lots of empathy and curiosity).

Identifying the problem

To unpack this problem further, I first set out to gather qualitative data and insights related to the goal to aid in the design approach and to understand the problem space. The objective of this primary research is to understand the common thoughts or resolutions that target users may have. The food industry is all about human connection and hospitality, so I narrowed the target users to five “Yelp Elite Squad” members and five food-curious students to focus on building a product for foodies and curious taste seekers. This is my first step to understsanding other perspectives and it helped me a lot in being able to negotiate and communicate with others effectively. I asked the following questions:

My second step in research was to take a look at the existing products that would be the competitors of Reciplore. In a product critique, there is a lot to go over but I looked at the pros and cons — uncovering the product's core objective, how they were using the best design practices, and how accessible the app was.

To expand on this idea of why users fail and understand them better, I built personas to create reliable and realistic representations of who would be Reciplore's key audience segments for reference. These representations were based on qualitative and some quantitative user research.

So, why do users fail?

Combining the research done, I learned that expectations often exceed what is feasible — which lead people to reject more modest and achievable goals. Some main takeaways from this are:

  • “I want to freely engage with my customers on my business page, but it’s frustrating to use the current market options.”
  • “I feel like the food community can be more accessible, transparent, and helpful than the products we have now as its hard to learn about many things, - dish ingredients, process, dietary restrictions, etc.”
  • “I have to manually google everything so I know what exactly I’m going to be ordering to eat”
  • “I want a community where my ethnic food is supported and celebrated, where I can share recipes from my childhood and also learn how to make cultural dishes.
  • “I feel embarrassed and frustrated visiting ethnic restaurants as there’s this linguistic barrier between the waiter and I”
  • “Current apps don’t cut the job and I don’t know where to look, so I settle on known establishments. It would be nice if I got tailored recommendations based on what I know I like at the moment.”

Synthesisizing Opportunities

The second stage was to synthesize the qualitative data into digestible pain points to explore opportunities and core functionalities on which the product could capitalize on. Through the analysis of data and insights, I was able to identify user problem areas that need to be solved for. Entering the perspective of a user, I first began to answer these questions:

  • How do people perform specific tasks and get things done?
  • How do you move people through the experience
  • Who are the target users?
  • What are you trying to get them to do?

To answer these questions, I created a user flow to better understand how to create an experience that allows the user to focus on their tasks, not on finding their way around.

Additionally, I created a concept map to better visualize relationships between the grander themes of my findings. Each concept and connection is supported by secondary research, user interviews, and independent studies.

Finally, the goal is to change the way people approach ethnic food in their community, so I used Nir Eyal’s framework of the hook to create a habit-forming-product. The hook model helped me to figure out what were the most important features to add to the app to better compliment the user journey.

Design Decisions

Here, I dive into what the UI framework would look like given the research I have done and bring in design guidelines to stimulate the experience of working at a company that adheres to a design system. Unfortunately, I haven't created or brought in an entire design system (think Polaris by Shopify), but AirBnB provides these great principles of design that I aim to follow to aid Reciplore in its creation to better serve target users and audience.

In addition, I recently learned of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and made up a design system that forms the baseline of Reciplore's vision using simple, adaptable, and extensible design guidelines alongside AirBnB's. The visual design uses brand elements and works to be as reductive as possible by only showing what is essential to the user.

The third stage was to ideate a solution in the problem space through rough sketching and wireframing while adhering to a design system with design principles. The goal in this stage is to render many different design ideas and have a conversation with myself — to find a solution most worthy of a more precise investigation, which has to involve user validation as well. I started to draw lo-fi wireframes of some important functionalities while keeping in mind some independent notes (pictured) I took earlier regarding design principles.

Keeping this in mind, I wanted to create wireframes that focused on the apps essential aspects of being one that would resolve the cultural disconnect of food. I wanted the wireframes to be created with clarity, simplicity and to be friendly. How I achieved this was by creating order out of an otherwise chaotic process of comprehending details of (unfamiliar) restaurants and their food. The home page would only lead you to your nearest restaurants or recommendations based on your taste profile. Beyond that, the menu or ordering process would be extremely easy in that it provides a list of ingredients, dish pronunciation and pictures with its price. I also wanted to provide users a community where they could foster their cultural food growth in an online medium. After determining the layout part of visual design, I decided the typography and colour of the project.

As for typography and colour, Uber Move has a fascinating case study on its background, but in general, it's a simple, modern and sleek font. The main colour of a bright blue reminds users of stability and reliability according to this online study.

Design Solutions

Upon really understanding the problem space and the users that would use Reciplore, the solution came naturally. I hope this was a solid desconstruction of how I got to this point. Here, I will go through user validation and break down in more specific detail how each screen came to be according to the research and ideation phase of this case study.

1. Final Design: Onboarding

Problem: At the start of the case study, I looked in to how I can incorporate the voice of the user and ensure that I am serving the needs of the user in the right way, and also how I could understand the emotionally resonant needs of who I'm building for. Users wanted features that allowed them to trust people from the same ethnic cuisine, find a community to share with or learn from, and look for authentic, ethnic cuisine. Here were some key points I had in mind while designing the onboarding screens:

  • Be clear, simple, and concise with the design
  • Solve the problem in an engaging and fun way
  • Provide features that allow users to look for authentic, ethnic cusine
  • Provide tailored dish recommendations by understanding the emotionally resonant needs of users
  • Bridge the gap between unfamiliar foods and people through translation and pronounication guides
  • Include trust factors in the design for users to more easily be guided through the process with security in their choices
  • Include AirBnB’s design principle of “embracing the adventure” to help users make decisions faster

Solution: The user’s information is spent for a more curated exploration result specifically for the user to better communicate, comprehend, and feel while ordering/making food in restaurants with cultural barriers. The taste profile seeks to give recommendations and warnings through the users choices, but it still gives the user control over redoing and filtering their options later on in the homepage. Below lists explanations of how the design is a solution to aforementioned pain points and problems across the user experience:

  • The taste profile builds confidence as per the Maslow's hierarchy of needs by listing concrete steps to be carried out
  • Microinteractions help users journey through the process (inactive vs. active buttons when questions are being filled out, colours fill in users tap a filter/option, progress bar as the user goes through the onboarding)
  • Provides accessibility filters to find preferences in atmosphere, diet, and food allergies
  • Plethora of food filtering options as users swipe right (for content in galleries, users like to swipe right)
  • Easily learn additional information (ingredients, restaurant options, recipes, etc) through help buttons about each dish
  • Clear, simple, and concise design that helps users embrace the adventure

2. Final Design: Food and restaurant views

Problem: Linguistic and cultural barriers appear when someone unfamiliar with their new environment begins to explore ethnic restaurants. Reciplore wants to break these barriers and make food more accessible. Here are some key points that I had in mind while designing these screens:

  • Help users search more confidently for food and beverage establishments according to your taste profile, with tap filtering and location services
  • Provide a pronounciation guide for items on menu for ease of use and comfort
  • Have visual depications of each dish through photos
  • Recommendations can be sorted from people of a similar, ethnic background
  • Able to easily see reviews and ratings for dishes
  • QR codes and scanning features for menus are available

Solution: The homepage and its subsequent pages were built using the best practices and industry standards found from competitive analysis, as well as the user research gathered earlier to determine how to make this app more accessible. In addition, aesthetic, functional, and strategic layers were built on the foundation of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and AirBnB's design principles.Based on the taste profile, we are able to see nearby restaurants, categories of food, and food recommendations based on the users taste profile. It's a simple home page that gives the user control of what food they want to try and learn more about. At the visceral level, I wanted it to be useful and easy but also ownable and delightful. I prioritized not adding unnecessary elements to distract the user from the information from the content and features which support Reciplore's purpose. In addition, The CEO of Google, Larry Page, talked about how white space can actually be really valuable because it helps you better understand what to focus on, hence the amount of white space on the designs.

Another one of AirBnB's design principles is to "create a world where anyone can belong anywhere." I find that Reciplore really resonates with that idea as we learned earlier that users might be unfamiliar with dish names and pronounciation. Reciplore provides translation guides with voiceovers to aid in the frustration of ordering out at restaurants. A main pain point in competitive analysis was a trust factor in reviews. Reciplore provides multiple criterion for reviews so that users are more informed. In the future, I hope to add a warning symbol to signify to users the credibility of the reviewer, as well as a screen to show that business owners can be involved with their page and interact with their customers easily and freely. Below lists explanations of how the design is a solution to aforementioned pain points and problems across the user experience:

  • Multiple criterion provided when users look at reviews to give a better sense of the restaurant
  • Tap filtering method to view the top picks for different ethnic backgrounds, taste profile suggestions, price, and more
  • Pictures of the establishment are provided with options to call, map, scan menus, and share
  • Food restrictions are clearly highlighted when you view a dish according to your taste profile
  • Community recipes are viewable from the dish you are curious about

3. Final Design: Exploring the Community

Problem: The community page reframes how users are able to connect with their ethnic community and get to know other ethnic communities. In building personas, one of the pain points were that users wanted a community to share adn learn from as they were losing touch with their ethnic cuisine.

Solution: Users are provided with pictures and are told the process of how the dish is made along with a detailed list of ingredients. Users can use the app to explore cuisines of other cultures — effcetively breaking the cultural barriers and gaining a sense of community. In addition, the profile shows your favorite posts, photos, and reviews and all the recipes in community are sharable to show to the people you love.

Final Design: Prototype and User Validation

I went over the app and screens with the same users that I had interviewed and validated a lot of the solutions that addressed the initial pain points I found. I first introduced the context of the project and why I designed Reciplore. Then, to put them in the shoes of the target users, I made up a scenario and let the users use the app while thinking aloud for me to gather feedback. After, I asked follow up questions to see if Reciplore would improve confidence while ordering out, make the process easier and more comfortable. For the areas where it was less effective in addressing the pain points, I reiterated the features and interactions to better solve the problem. Here is the prototype on Marvel for you to interact with.


  • I learned recently that a great product designer sits at the intersection of business, engineering, and design needs. As this is just a passion project, I feel an urgency to learn how I be a product designer that answers the questions, "how do we make money" and "how do we actually get this built." For example, I know that this project would be extremely difficult to build for engineers, so how can I be more mindful for thems while designing projects and features when I am in a company? I am curious as to how current full-time designers have tackled this early on in their careers as a product designer.
  • It seems like fostering a community is a task easier said than done. I used Hooke's model to more so understand how to attract users to Reciplore, but I didn't dive in to it wholeheartedly and believe that I could have answered this question more in depth.
  • Progress indicators and milestones should be explored a little more to gamify the experience and provide incentive to the experience that Reciplore provides.
  • Throughout the presentation, I mention different features that I have not implemented yet so I hope to add those in a later iteration of Reciplore!