Home > User Experience > Case study: Food substitution recipe app | by Mansi Shah | May, 2021

Case study: Food substitution recipe app | by Mansi Shah | May, 2021

Case study: Food substitution recipe app | by Mansi Shah | May, 2021


During the pandemic, it was next to impossible to dine outside. My friends and I felt this cabin fever because all of a sudden the social and human connections were taken out of our lives. To fill this gap, my friends and I decided to organize a potluck once a month (with all the safety precautions in place). Having a large friend circle made it hard to please everyone, especially when friends have different food requirements like vegan/ meat-eaters, for example. To decide on a menu, we would have extensive discussions but would ultimately give up.


Finding a way to make easy meals that can adapt to either meat eaters or vegetarians by substituting the meat with a vegetarian-friendly option for those friends/family members who do not eat meat.

  1. Define if the users need an app, website, or a blog
  2. Bring ideas on how to satisfy these needs.
  3. Build a prototype to test my ideas.
  4. Implement my ideas in a final project.
Design Thinking Process created in Miro

When Melissa and I shared our problems we realized there might be several people going through similar situations. Upon some informal research, we found parents who are working full time or who are doing business have very little time for cooking.

  • Faster decision making
  • It saves time and energy

Domain Research (Primary Research)

At the very beginning of the problem, I did desk research to figure out if users actually need an app for food substitution recipes.

Competitor Analysis (Secondary Research)

In order to discover what others have done and to see what was missing from existing apps, I also conducted a competitive analysis of the marketplace which included different recipe books, blogs, websites, and app experiences of my brand’s competition. From this, I was able to identify the areas in which my brand excels and also opportunities for improving the brand’s experience.

Target Audience

To elicit specific kinds of information from the users, I developed a screener survey. I targeted the main person who cooks in the family/group and the challenges they face while preparing meals. A few examples of questions are as follows:

  • How much time do you take when deciding what to cook for dinner?
  • Does your partner and/family have different food choices as compared to yours? (vegetarian/gluten-free/vegan/meat/food allergies/food sensitivity)
  • How much time do you spend cooking dinner each day?

In-Depth Interview

After the screener survey, I shortlisted those users who usually prepared two in order to discover what type of methods they use to reduce their cooking time. I conducted several user interviews and entered all the responses onto Post-it notes.

Research responses on post-it notes created in Miro

Quote from the users

“It is relatively easy to make things veggie or gluten-free but variety of dishes gets difficult. Would be nice to have more ideas up the sleeve for those occasions”

Problem Statement

A cook needs a way to make cooking decisions when they have loved ones who have different food preferences, to reduce cooking time, and to prepare one meal instead of two.


On the basis of target audience and interviews, I focused on two types of users — working mothers with kids and a friends/roomates/couples with different eating habits. Creating personas helped me visualize their struggles and pain points and look into user needs so I could design features accordingly.

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