For my graduate-level web usability course, I completed a solo project that explored a design problem and its possible solutions. I hypothesized that a key problem with recipe search experiences is the discoverability and ease of using filters so users could easily sift through recipes irrelevant to them based on ingredients, diet, style, or other factors. I focused on Yummly.com, a recipe search tool that already offers many of these filters, but could use improvements in some aspects of the user experience.
Without a budget or resources for in-depth user research, I reached out to my personal network via Instagram to solicit feedback on recipe search experiences, including what they use to find recipes and their frustrations with recipe search. After identifying key user concerns, I performed competitive analysis of top recipe sites and identified their strengths and weaknesses. Based on this background research, I devised a list of potential user interface changes, taking heavy inspiration from Jenifer Tidwell’s Designing Interfaces patterns. These included a clear entry point the filter wizard to make this feature more prominent; adding modules for features results and suggested filters within the search results to enhance discovery and help users struggling with too many results; and using modal panels (popover windows) for filters, results, and source pages to address the problem with jumping users out of the search results without any way back. I also designed a “favorite site” feature that, in conjunction with an existing “saved recipes” function, could help personalize results for logged-in users.
I faced significant challenges while working on this project, not least because it happened during Spring 2020 and COVID-19 restrictions severely limited my ability to perform prototype testing. Although the assignment only called for paper prototypes, at the time, I found it easier to use PowerPoint to develop a high-fidelity clickable prototype using screenshots, shapes/text, and embedded links to other slides to simulate clicking and scrolling. I had not yet become acquainted with professional wireframing tools and my instructor did not encourage remote user testing, so I could only test the experience with my partner.
Even this limited testing suggested a number of changes for a second iteration of the prototype and was an informative experience. Overall, as a first attempt at a solo user research and testing initiative, I learned quite a bit about how much I have to learn from other people–even people who are relatively “similar” to me–and that even relatively small-looking design iterations require thorough consideration. I also really enjoyed the process. Details of my process, findings, testing, and learning reflection can all be found in the linked report.