My Sweet Lil Cakes    |    2016    |    3-WEEK SPRINT

How do we easily scale recipes to generate shopping lists?

Small commercial kitchens, such as food trucks, lose quite a bit of time calculating ingredient amounts and generating shopping lists. Rosie helps chefs organize their recipe ingredients and easily scale yield amounts to put their focus back on doing what they do best—cook amazing food. Rosie is an app that allows users to add and manage their recipe ingredients, scale yields based on the number of people they plan to serve and generate a shopping list to make the ingredient management process easier.
  • Munira Girnary
  • Catherine Harrell
  • Me
  • Project Manager
  • User Research
  • Planning
  • Design
  • Documentation
  • Takeaways from User Research
  • Suggested Features & Design Recommendations
  • Sketches & Wireframes
  • Use Cases & User Stories
  • Documentation
  • Sketch
  • Illustrator
  • Photoshop
  • Invision
  • Google Forms
  • Google Sheets
  • Pen & Paper
  • Post Its
  • Organizational & Domain Research
  • Market Analysis
  • Interviews
  • Contextual Inquiry
  • Affinity Mapping
  • Persona Creation
  • User Flows
  • Design Studio / Charette
  • Sketches
  • Wireframing
  • Low-Resolution Prototypes
  • Usability Tests

Food Truck Proprietor Jesse Marshall (My Sweet Lil Cakes) was developing an app to help food truck owners and small kitchen proprietors like himself by taking the headache out of the recipe management and scale up process. They had been developing the app for a while, and wanted our team to approach, research and sketch the problem with fresh eyes. While there were several features initially discussed, the Rosie MVP was a recipe-to-shopping-list technology.


After meeting with the client to learn about his vision for Rosie, we dove into organizational & domain research. We wanted to know everything we could about the food truck cooking space, how chefs manage their recipes and how recipe yields are scaled and converted into grocery shopping lists. We looked at apps currently on the market that either try to tackle this problem, or share some overlap with what Rosie aims to achieve.

I developed our interview script, while Catherine created our screener and coordinated with potential interview subjects. Munira went on-site to conduct a contextual inquiry to observe a chef prepare food for an upcoming event.

We interviewed nine individuals working in small commercial kitchen spaces. They ranged from food truck operators to owners of local franchises. They also ranged in experience, having been in the food industry for a few years to a few decades.

What We Discovered

  1. Each chef has his/her own way of managing their kitchens and their recipes. They need a way to make the experience their own based on the food they’re making and how they make it.
  2. Most of the chefs are using pencil and paper to manage at least part of the process; and the calculations do take quite a bit of time. There is a clear need for this app.
  3. The most unexpected finding was that simply calculating the math when scaling up a yield did not mean the recipe would produce a consistent result. Each recipe is unique and each chef annotates the recipes accordingly. Cooking is a scientific process that requires experience, finesse and artistry to master. The app needs a way to capture that information.
Persona Development

We used the data from the interviews to create an affinity diagram that would helps us identify the overlapping pain points. Among the many shared frustrations, was the ingredient management process, which included the scaling calculations. Often this was a task that couldn’t be delegated because the chefs did not trust someone else to do it correctly.

Gordon: Proto-Persona
Gordon (age 42) has been in the food industry for 15 years and recently struck out on his own. He started truck three years ago because his passion is being able to bring his food to the people of Seattle. He uses technology to manage his business, for example, Square to process point-of-sale interactions, but he hasn’t yet found a technology that is as helpful in the kitchen as a pencil and paper.

Gordon’s Pain Points
The math—specifically all the time it takes to do the math because it is keeping him out of the kitchen, and the fact that he can’t delegate this task.

Gordon’s Goals
To spend more time in the kitchen and less time crunching numbers
To feel in control of his space


To lay the groundwork for the app design, we created several concept maps, task analysis’s and user flows. One of our biggest challenges, and especially my challenge as Project Manager, was to keep scope creep at bay. From our interviews, there were so many shared pain points that could easily be folded into the basic functionality of this app that it was tempting to add on the “what if’s.“ In the second week, one of my main duties was to keep us focused on the ingredient-management MVP.


To kickoff the app design phase, we conducted a Design Studio. Rapidly sketching ideas, talking through our concepts and iterating helped us to
1. have conversations that lead to stronger ideas and
2. unify around a single concept as as we moved on to more detailed sketches, wireframes and prototypes.

I am a strong advocate for pen/paper sketches, as a way to develop ideas and interactions. As Project Manager, I made sure our discussions took place over a sketchbook or at whiteboard to draw thing out, because it is easier to iterate on something we can all see, rather than something we must imagine.

The sketches became our blueprints as we rapid prototyped the app. Catherine took the home and main recipe screens, Munira worked on the shopping list creation screens and I developed the Add A New Recipe/Add a New Group screens.


Our clients had explained they were not expecting a high-fidelity prototype. What they wanted was for us to tackle the challenge of really digging to the interactions and experience of the app. One of Rosie’s biggest hurdles is getting Gordon to input all of that initial data upfront. The success or failure of this app lies in whether or not Gordon actually takes the time to add each recipe ingredient and all the information that goes with. Our challenge was to figure out how to make that experience easy, instead of overwhelming. How do we make it delightful, not burdensome? How to do we make it adaptable for Gordon’s needs?

We developed several versions of the prototype, each version was tested first internally and then with test subjects from other teams in our class. These initial tests helped us figure out where we’d gotten it right, and where we were still in the weeds.

During our last day before the presentation, Catherine and Munira took Rosie out into the field and conducted user tests with Chefs we had screened, while I pulled together our project documentation and developed our wireframe annotations. The user test results were mixed. The main frustration points users had was over the naming of “recipe groups,“ which they found confusing, and the fact that the prototype was gray and pre-filled with information.

    Follow Up
    next steps
    • The name Rosie came from the client. It is a placeholder name, but our research uncovered there is an existing app called Rosie on the market and it does deal with grocery management. To avoid copyright issues, the name will have to change.
    • One of the biggest challenges we were trying to resolve was the issue around how to annotate recipes for scaling yields. We simply hit the three-week deadline before we found a satisfying solution. This would be the first issue I would tackle in the next sprint.
    • On-Boarding experience seemed to me like the last step in an app’s development. This is certainly true during a short sprint where we as designers were simply trying to wrap our own heads around how to solve the problem, and use fake text as a means to understand how our app is functioning as we develop it. However, having a prototype with pre-filled information proved to be a major roadblock during the user testing phase. Because chefs are so specific and unique in their methodologies, they had a hard time looking past our sample copy to process how the app may or may not be of value to them.

      For an app meant to be functional for a user who is used to customizing methods to best suit themselves, a blank-slate prototype with a well-developed on-boarding experience will be key to getting good data from the user tests.