Beyond the Kitchen Table The Process Book

Team Crane

Members: Kausalya Ganesh, Lindley Dahners, Naishi Jain

Duration of the Project: 10 weeks

The Challenge

Create Fun Moments for Families in the Kitchen

Our challenge was to develop a convivial kitchen product or spatial solution that enables people of diverse generations and needs to prepare and eat food, entertain, engage in hobbies or work, and enjoy being together. We chose to focus our solution on the relationship shared between parents and kids in the kitchen & dining spaces. Some of the fondest childhood memories of our team are the ones shared with family while dining together or helping parents in the kitchen. So we chose to explore how this relationship could be enhanced further for the younger generation using existing technology.

Background research on this topic informed us that recent research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics indicates, “children engaged in tactile experiences, such as handling foods, have less food neophobia (food fear) and greater acceptance of eating a variety of foods”. We also found a study by the University of Alberta highlighting the fact that kids who cook are hungrier for healthy food choices. We decided to focus on creating a solution for families with children in the age group of 7-12 years.

The Approach

Effective User-Centered Design

Today’s youngest app users, the freshly minted Generation Alpha (born post-2010) have unprecedented exposure to digital technology. Recent studies have found that in the U.S., 75 percent of children younger than eight have access to a smartphone or tablet. Keeping our target audience in mind, we started the process of designing a study plan and recruiting participants for research. Three methodologies were used to gather data about our audience.

  1. Design Probes
  2. Semi-Structured Interviews
  3. Co-Design Workshop

Design Probes

To gain a true understanding of our audience’s culture, behavior and preferences, we collected in-situ data from families using design probes. Three kinds of design probes were given to seven families: a photo diary, a family time questionnaire, and an activity sheet to take note of all the tasks done in the kitchen and dining area. Families had one week to think & respond to all the probes.

Their responses to questions and photos of their children doing activities in the kitchen were collected a week later. We were able to glean insights into their environments and identify potential opportunities for which solutions could be designed based on their data.

Questionnaire Response Sample
Photo Diary Sample - Board Games in the Dining Area
Photo Diary Sample - Cooking Together

Semi-Structured Interviews

We conducted in-depth interviews with three mothers to gain insights into the food habits, special occasions, and kitchen routines of their families. An interview guide containing an overview of our research and potential questions to guide our conversation with the parents was created. Some of those questions are as follows—

  1. What are the different ways in which you spend time in the kitchen and dining area?
  2. Describe a recent experience (snack time, dinner, etc) of spending time with the family in the kitchen.
  3. What is your idea of “fun family time” at home?
  4. When was the last time the families came together for a holiday? Was any food involved? Who cooked what?
  5. What technologies (TV, smart devices, phone) do you use in the kitchen?
  6. What apps/channels specifically help you in the kitchen?
  7. Do you share recipes with friends & family? How?Do the kids contribute/help in the kitchen? In what ways? How would you imagine they do that?

Co-Design Workshop

The best way to engage children in conversation is through imagination and fun activities. We conducted a co-design workshop with the youngest squad of designers in the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland. The goal of this workshop was to learn about their preferences, interests, and ideas about dinner routines, daily habits, and other kitchen-based practices.

Using a technique called "Big Paper", we discussed the idea of spending time with family in the kitchen with the Kids Team. This resulted in elaborate sketches of kitchen devices and spatial solutions that they would find useful in their futuristic homes. Themes of social sharing, virtual assistants, and inclusivity dominated the conversation.

Big Idea Generated from the Workshop

Data Gathered

We conducted line-by-line open coding to generate categories from our data. By analyzing and sorting through all the codes, we were able to detect overarching themes from our three research methods. When visible patterns started emerging, data triangulation became apparent to us. We collated all the themes in a tabular format to start focusing on potential design ideas. During the next brainstorming session, these themes helped summarize our insights and the exemplifying quotes helped create primary and secondary user personas.

Categories Generated Using Open-Coding

Key Insights

  1. We started off with the assumption that everyone tends to be excited about new technology to assist with housework. Learning that people are apprehensive about devices that are “hackable” was new to us.
  2. We also found that children are remarkably pro-tech and wish for devices that bring them closer to others in the form of social sharing, haptic feedback, and other customizable services.
  3. Secondary research informed us of the benefits of involving children in the kitchen to reduce neophobia (food fear).
  4. The design probes indicated that families spend a lot of time together in the kitchen & dining spaces, for reasons outside of cooking and eating. This is valuable for us as we start thinking about the various kinds of solutions that could aid in productive family time and increased acceptance of good food habits among children.
  5. Our parent participant pool had working and stay-at-home caregivers. Despite that difference, carving time out of their day to stay connected with their child through food and/or other activities in the dining area (art projects, board games) was important to them.

User Persona: Primary & Secondary

We created a primary persona based on the parents that we interviewed. The secondary persona is based on the children in our target audience. A child’s role in the kitchen & dining areas is co-dependent on their parents’ role so creating a secondary persona that brought out their characteristics was crucial to our design requirements.

Primary Persona of a Parent
Secondary Persona of a Child

The Design Concept

Low-Fidelity Sketches & Usability Testing

The co-design workshop conducted with the Kids Team at UMD resulted in elaborate sketches that helped our team ideate on the concept of team activities for families. The themes of conviviality in the kitchen included cooking together, using smart devices and sharing chores among family members.

Sketches by UMD Kids Team

Based on the insights and user personas, brainstorming sessions helped us work through the next phase of our solution—Concept Generation. We started this process by generating 20-25 concept sketches per team member to delve deep into the idea of gamification in the kitchen.

Team Sketches to Focus on Functionality

The final concept was a combination of some of our best ideas and it involved teaming up a parent & child to cook together. We conducted a white-boarding session to generate the final task flow of the low-fidelity prototype.

Low-Fi Task Flow

Low-Fidelity Prototyping

The low-fidelity prototype was designed to help our users navigate through the concept being designed. We used real information and functionalities on all screens to get feedback on the nuances of the application. Since our audience had two kinds of participants, children & parents, we had to consider making the language of the application educational & fun.

Some of the key features of the low-fidelity sketches were:

  1. Customizable profiles (avatars, preferences, etc)
  2. Multiplayer challenges (involving recipes, task allocation in relation to others)
  3. Tasks with everyday kitchen appliances
  4. Step-by-step player instructions
  5. Rewarding the overall mission

We created the look & feel of a mobile application on 8.5” x 5.5” card stock papers. Large buttons and instructions were drawn instead of 1:1 designs because we required feedback from our participants to improve the following functions.

  • Language of instructions on all pages
  • User flow of the profile creation process
  • The fluidity of team play in that setup
Flip Page- Style Low-Fidelity Prototype

Usability Testing

The objective of the think-aloud usability tests of this low-fidelity prototype was to answer the following questions,

  1. Can parents use this app to have fun making a dish with their children?
  2. Do children enjoy contributing to the process of cooking?
  3. Does sharing responsibilities in the kitchen & dining space instill a sense of togetherness among family members?

Usability tests were conducted with four participants. P1 (child) & P2 (parent) tested the prototype individually. P3 & P4 worked as a team of parent and child respectively to complete the given tasks. Team activities was conducted to test the ease of using a single device between two participants. The tests were completed in a duration of 25-30 minutes.

Usability Test Participants

The process of setting up for the test with sticky notes for user inputs (name, email address, avatars) ensured that all three tests ran smoothly and within the estimated time-frame. Using a hand-drawn keyboard to “tap” and “sliding” through avatars were moments of delight for our participants.

Delightful Elements of Low-Fi

What We Learned

During usability testing, we were given several suggestions and many things were made apparent that we had not previously considered. The observations made during usability tests were captured in the form of user quotes. Changes to be implemented in the final design were generated on the basis of exemplifying quotes from our participants.

COPPA applies to the online collection of personal information from children under 13. The email address and photographs of children will not be collected by this application. We will only require the parent to sign up using their email address in order to add profiles to their account (the Netflix model).

Based on the above insights, we conducted a team walk-through session and added pink sticky notes to the existing low-fidelity prototypes and highlighted all the changes that would be implemented in the final design.

Pink Notes to Signify Changes

Introducing Foodfam

A Fam-to-Table Experience

FoodFam is a mobile application that allows users to find a recipe on the internet and cook a meal together with their "fam". With personalized profiles and intuitive task division, FoodFam makes cooking together easy-peasy-cheesy!

Cooking Together with FoodFam

Personalized Profiles

Users can add an avatar, choose a nickname and complete their profile with food preferences to start seeing a curated recipe feed on their home page.

FoodFam - Profile Creation

Stress-Free Team Cooking

Choosing “Let’s Cook” allows users to select the profiles that will be collaborating. All kitchen tasks are divided among the profiles based on the age specified during profile creation. Parents never have to worry about how to keep their child engaged (and safe!) in the kitchen again.

Teaming Up With Family

Memories for Every Moment

FoodFam tasks involve taking photos and videos of your team partner during the food mission. When the tasks are complete, users can watch a montage of all the exciting things they did together on the mission and share those memories with the world!

Making Memories to Cherish

How We Got There

Design Decisions

Testing the design at an early stage was extremely helpful for the team. The low-fidelity prototype was designed to test the concept & task flow we had imagined for a mobile application that is intended for team play. Therefore, the usability tests revealed to us what users were skeptical about and what excited them about the concept.

The key insights from the discovery stage played an important role in finalizing how this concept would be brought to life. The apprehension about hackable devices (such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc.) led us to believe that designing an app for the mobile phone would be the least intrusive way to introduce conviviality in the kitchen & dining spaces for families.

By combining the affinity of children to adapt to new technology and the importance of involving them in the kitchen to reduce neophobia, FoodFam gives precedence to treating parents and children as equals in the game. When children are instructed to obey adults, it takes the fun out of an activity. FoodFam tasks are divided such that people of all age groups have a task to complete in every step of the recipe. Since the app assigns age-appropriate tasks to each profile, parents can focus on having fun with the children instead of worrying about how to keep them engaged and excited in the kitchen.

Visual Design

The choice of typography, colors, and logo design were inspired by brands that cater to children and adults. For example, Lego, HopScotch, and Toca Boca.

FoodFam Mood Board

According to Debra Gelman, author of Designing for Kids: Digital Products for Playing and Learning, when you are designing for adults—even when designing games for adults—the goal is to help them cross the finish line. When you are designing for children, the finish line is just a small part of the story. Our visual design choices focus heavily on making the app experience fun and interactive for both user groups.

Colors: Bright, colorful and cheerful hues of orange and teal.

Gestures: Children mostly use simple intuitive gestures such as tap and scroll. So we designed a mobile app with minimal complex actions.

Interactions: Children need an instant reaction and in a game form, so loading screen, profile creation phase, and the final montage screens have bouncing food items or characters to keep the users motivated.

Navigation: To cater to both type of users, all navigation elements are large and clearly articulated. We also ensured that each step in “Let’s Cook” has simple instructions and an easy opportunity to go back.

FoodFam Branding

The name of the app, FoodFam is a combination of two words, “food” and “fam”. Fam is an informal term for family and slang used as a form of address, especially a close friend. FoodFam intends to bring people closer through food-based activities. Our use case is specific to parents and children, but in the future scope of this application, FoodFam can also be a great way to involve family and friends in the kitchen during special occasions.

The logo we designed embodies the fun element of the game while symbolizing the details of FoodFam within the design. By stacking alphabets on top of each other like building blocks, the design communicates the playfulness of the app itself. The font used is Raleway Heavy.

FoodFam Logo

Usability tests were conducted by simulating a scenario in which the participants would use FoodFam in their lives. We were able to validate some of our assumptions and make necessary changes to the app to cater to the different things we learned from those tests. An example of how a low-fidelity screen evolved over time into the final screen is below.

FoodFam: The Prototype

Based on the insights gained from testing our low fidelity prototype, FoodFam was designed using Sketch and animated on Principle. All the decision decisions were borne out of the things we learned from the usability tests. Elements such as avatars, icons and buttons were designed keeping user experience goals of fun, rewarding and pleasure in mind. The high-fidelity prototype focuses on usability goals such as learnability, effectiveness and safety (for example, children are only tasked to use appliances approved by their parent).

We created a video of the high-fidelity prototype to provide a walkthrough of the app.

An interactive prototype designed on InVision can accessed through the button below.

FoodFam Use Case: Potluck at School

Imagine that you are a parent who just learned about an upcoming potluck at your child’s elementary school. You instantly know that you want to make mac & cheese because it is your child's favorite dish. More importantly, you want to involve your child in the cooking process but don’t know how! The child would rather play on the iPad than wait around in the kitchen.

So you download FoodFam, create an account and make profiles for you and your child. On the home screen, your child immediately recognizes a photo of mac & cheese and clicks on it. You both go through the ingredients and recipe to get started.

FoodFam divides all the tasks between you and your child. At every step, both of you have something useful and exciting to accomplish. While you focus on having fun with your child, FoodFam ensures the safety of the child by only allowing the use of those appliances that were selected and approved for their profile.

We created a video prototype to narrate this scenario.

Created By
Kausalya Ganesh


Created with images by suju - "fruits orange grapefruit" • suju - "fruit lemon grapefruit"

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