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Ingredient Hunt

A Food Ingredients Scanner App for International Newcomers

  • Individual project
  • | 09/2016– 12/2016 (3 months)

Ingredient Hunt, a mobile app that enable newcomers to find, identify and explore food ingredients and local groceries. In this individual project, I started from conducting user interviews and research to interaction design, visual design. I also did user tesings to evaluate my design.

Descriptive Value Web
Competitive Analysis
Low/Digital prototyping
User Testing


Grocery shopping is challenging for international newcomers. For example, although the International Center assist international students getting settled, they only provide a simple groceries list with short description. Unfortunately, international newcomers encounter a more complex situation:

Have limited cooking experience.
Have limited cooking experience.
Are not familiar with new environment.
Are not familiar with new environment.
Need some food substitutes.
Need some food substitutes.
Don’t know the name of ingredient in English.
Don’t know the name of ingredient in English.
Like to try new ingredients.
Curious about new ingredients.


How I solved this problem

Ingredient Hunt

Food Ingredients Scanner

Ingredient Hunt is a mobile app that enable international newcomers who have moved to new environment for less than 5 years, to find, identify and explore food ingredients and local groceries.

Design Highlights

High Level Overview of Design Structure
High Level Overview of Design Structure
  • Hottest recipes, recipes by topics and new recipes.
  • Add ingredients into “Grocery List”
  • Find ingredients.
  • Add ingredients into a grocery list.
  • Share places, price and substitutes.
Grocery List
Grocery List
  • Simple list of grocery items.
  • Recommend selling places based on ingredients.
  • Review comments from community members.
  • Share featured products and unrecommended products.


How I got the insights

Define Problems

I talked to at least 10 users and got useful feedbacks so as to kept verifying my solution, identify problems earlier and make adjustments.

  • Problem 1: Unfamilar with new enviroment.

    Newcomers asked locations of international groceries, transportation approaches on Facebook group. In additions, I noticed that even senior students will share rare ingredients they found on Facebook.

    Questions on Facebook
    Left-bottom: Longan; Middle: ask about Japanese Markets; Right-top: Shop that sell Luffa
  • Problem 2: Limited cooking experience.

    They can’t recognize ingredients by appearance. Besides, they may not know how to prepare alien ingreidents in the new enviroment.

    I want to try some ingredients that Jamie Oliver used, but I don’t know what it is, where to get it and how to cook.

    — interviewee

  • Problem 3: Language barriers.

    They often don’t know the name of ingredients. Moreover,so they tend to use their native language to post questions on the forum because students from the same hometown can provide them better suggestions.

    While reading recipes or shopping in markets, I will use mobile to lookup the name.

    — interviewee

  • Problem 4: Alien ingredients are not available.

    It is difficult to gain all international food ingreident in foreign countries, so international newcomers need food substitutes to prepare the food they love from their hometown.

    My friends told me that if I don’t have Mirin, I can use sugar and wine for substitutes.

    — interviewee

  • Problem 5: Become much busier.

    During the busy season, they care about convinience and effectiveness.


I chose the following criteras to make sure the diversity of the user group:

  • Quality vs. Price
  • Openness vs. Homesickness
  • Self-drive vs. Public Transportation
  • Convenience vs. Health
  • Cooking skills
  • Busy levels
  • Familiarity: language and local areas, shopping frequency and market owner.

There are totally 5 perosnas: 4 personas are target audiences (including market owners) and one of them is anti-user.


Competitive Analysis

Key Takeaways
  • Most websites don't list the ingredients sold.
  • The content is inconsistent.
  • There is language assistance for non-native speakers.


How I translated insights into solutions

Design Goal

Make food ingredients shopping easier

Iteration 1: Sketches & Storyboard

Sketch 1-4
Sketch 4-8
Storboard 1-4
Storboard 4-8
User Feedback ﹥ 3 Design Decisions
  • Decision 1: Remove gamification design “Wish & Hunt” and add online shopping as an alternative for physical shops.
    “Wish & Hunt” is a matching game that is one of interesting design from my initial ideas. For example, user A make a wish list of ingredients and then user B can find ingredients for user A in order to get rewards. However, when users become busier, they only want the most efficient and easy approaches.
  • Decision 2: Add more search methods.
    Users provided me two ideas: browse by categories and drawing. I adopted the first one, because it reminded me a similar useful feature that my friends and I often use in Kroger (supermarket)’s self-checkout system. As for the second idea, after testing on my mobile phone, I found that it extremely hard to draw a clear and accurate food ingredient in a small screen. The situation became worst when I walked through the market.
  • Decision 3: Add recipes and a browser plugin.
    People refer recipes to decide what ingredients to buy.

Iteration 2: Low-Fidelity Paper Prototype & QOC

QOC: Questions, Options, and Criteria
User Feedback ﹥ 2 Design Decisions
  • Decision 1: Optimize the search flow.
    I designed at least 5 versions of wireframes and used QOC (Question, Option and Criteria) to figure out which design is easier to understand and efficient as well.
  • Decision 2: Modify the design of “Favorite List”.
    Users were not able to find their collected list. Therefore, I made one of the bottom tab as “Favorite List” because grocery lists are used frequently.

Iteration 3: High-Fidelity Digital Prototype

User Feedback ﹥ 2 Design Decisions
  • Decision 1: Change “Favorite List” to “Grocery List”.
    When I did more user testing, I realized that it was unnecessary to design all kinds of favorited list. Users just added ingredients into grocery list for future shopping, so they don’t need an additional feature to collect their favorite ingredients. Thus, I decided to keep the core functions of “Grocery List” and remove redundant favorite features.
  • Decision 2: Visual Style.
    Considering that one of goals is to identify ingredients, I used real ingredients’ pictures over a hand-drawing style.

Social Impact

  • Help international newcomers to deal with depression and homesickness by having food they love from home.
  • Ease the uncertainty, stay healthy and save money by improving the deficient information of grocery shopping.
  • Reducing the trivial pressure of transition enable them to enjoy their life and spend energy on more valuable things.

What to Do Next


Establish a partnership with local communities to promote this app, provide a better connection between people and create a financial opportunity that supports long-term operation.

Stakeholder Descriptive Value Web
Stakeholder Descriptive Value Web
  • International Center of U-M: create an onboarding tutorial for an orientation.
  • Student associations: enhance the interaction within a small community through forums and Q&A. So that we can encourage information exchange between people who have similar background.
  • Local selling places: (1) advertise their shop or products on this app and provide discounts or coupons to attract customers. (2) Collaboration with local markets and other services providers can enrich our information databases, such as price, stock status and recipes, to provide more information and improve accuracy.
Web Browser Plugin

When users browse recipe websites, a web browser plugin allows users to look up ingredients and collect them into a grocery list.


What did I learn

Things Learned

  • Design for busy users.
  • Giving Concrete feedbacks to junior designers.
  • User feedback changes as time passed.

What would I have done differently

  • Talk to market owners.
  • Do further evaluation by testing in markets.