Not everyone loves to cook. And in the age of COVID-19, many of us are probably spending more time in our kitchens than we’re used to.

In the hopes of making cooking feel more enjoyable and less like a chore, I wanted to develop an app that connects users with professional chefs from the convenience of their home. Cheffer allows home cooks of all skill levels – from novice to experienced – to connect with chefs via video chat or text message for a fee, or they can ask more general cooking questions for free in a public forum.
UX/UI Designer
Self-directed project
Competitive Analysis
As of late 2020, there were very few apps that offered the opportunity to get cooking help from a professional chef. The apps that did exist – such as Chefter and Oui Chef! – offered limited interaction options, poor UI, and in general didn’t seem to have much luck getting off the ground. A comprehensive SWOT analysis revealed an opportunity to create a chef-focused app that appeals to a wide range of people and provides different connection methods to account for varying needs and levels of comfort.
User Surveys & Interviews
In order to better understand the target audience my app would serve, I conducted an online survey with 20 total participants and interviewed four demographically diverse users. These research methods aimed to identify general attitudes towards and comfort levels with cooking, common pain points in the cooking process, and the kinds of things people might like to ask a professional chef.
I used affinity mapping to organize the feedback from my user interviews into categories, which helped to show core user concerns and important app features.
Key Insights
Most people (70% of survey participants) turn to the internet when they’re struggling in the kitchen
The majority of people (75% of survey participants) would prefer to connect with a professional chef over video versus text
Almost all (95% of survey participants) participants wouldn’t care if the chef they connect with is well-known; non-famous chefs were considered less intimidating
Reviews are essential for helping users determine which chef they want to connect with
More experienced cooks would like help mastering techniques and skills while more novice cooks (or those who don’t like cooking as much) would like help creating easy recipes
Costs should vary depending on the level of the chef’s experience
Personas & Journey Maps
After completing the user research phase, I synthesized my insights into three primary personas, each representing a different user with unique goals, frustrations, and motivations, as well as varying levels of enthusiasm, ability, and available time when it comes to cooking.

With my personas in place, I then created user journey maps based on a specific goal that each persona might have while using Cheffer. I mapped out their tasks, thoughts, emotions, and opportunities for each phase of the journey in order to better understand my users’ overall experience of the app.
User Flows
Lastly, I developed user flows based on three primary tasks that all users would at some point complete while engaging with my app: setting up their account, booking a session, and conducting a video or text session. Breaking down these simple tasks into their individual screens revealed the various paths users might take to complete a given task – like going straight to “Book Now” versus selecting a chef on the “Chefs” page to book a session.

Below is the user flow for booking a session on the app.
Design & Test
Site Map
After constructing my own site map, I conducted an open card sort with five participants to check the validity of my map. While the results confirmed that most of my original placements made sense, I made a few changes including moving “Settings” under the “Profile” page and changing the language of “Book a Session” to “Book Now” for simplicity.
I started with drawing low-fidelity wireframes for a few of the main app features, followed by mid- and then high-fidelity wireframes using Sketch. Through the wireframing process I designed a pared-down booking experience, filter process, and other multiscreen functions to ensure the app is accessible for users of all ages and to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed.
Usability Testing
With an initial app prototype in place, I conducted usability tests with six participants to evaluate Cheffer’s learnability, value, and level of interest for new users. Each participant was asked to complete four task scenarios while their gestures were recorded and thoughts were articulated out loud. Comments were recorded using affinity mapping and then organized using the Rainbow Spreadsheet to easily see what feedback was most common.

I also conducted an online preference test to determine the imagery for the app’s onboarding screens, ultimately deciding to use a photograph over an illustration as a large majority felt that this option was more professional and relatable.
Testing Update 1

On both the Chef profile pages and the filter pop-up screen, participants didn’t see the buttons at the bottom right away.

Suggested Change

Lock Book a Chef button on chef profile page and Apply button at bottom of filter pop-up so that users can access at all times.
Testing Update 2

Many users didn’t know the filter icon denoted the filter process on the Chefs page (three out of six participants had trouble locating the filter icon when asked to filter chefs by specialty).

Suggested Change

Add the word “All filters” next to the filter icon to clarify the meaning of the icon.
Testing Update 3

Many participants expressed an aversion to writing reviews. They also noted that a reminder regarding how reviews help chefs out would incentivize them more to write one.

Suggested Change

Change wording of “Additional feedback” to “ Tell us your thoughts” or “Leave a review,” and break up the review into private feedback and public review. Could also add a sentence about how reviews help out chefs.
Style Guide
A design language system that includes both visual and linguistic guidance ensures that developers and designers can maintain Cheffer’s original voice as the app inevitably evolves.
Takeaways & Next Steps
In the beginning I knew I wanted the app to pair users with professional chefs, without adding any further complicated functionality (like the ability to search recipes). After user testing and studying competitor apps, however, I realized that I didn’t have a way for new users to engage with the app without paying for a session. My solution has been to add a public forum, which allows users to ask more general questions to chefs for free or search for similar questions. This feature has been added to the app but still needs to be fleshed out.

Additionally, many users expressed interest in some sort of subscription-based payment model as an alternative to a pay-per-use situation. How this would work and what exactly this would include still needs to be determined.

Next steps involve testing a more sophisticated and realistic version of the app prototype as I continue to refine it. This means creating additional screens that emulate what a user might actually select while navigating through the app and animations that more closely reflect how buttons work and screens transition. Once the app has launched, I will conduct further testing to ensure the app is working as expected.