Restaurant recommendations for travelers with dietary restrictions.


User Researcher
Interaction Designer
Visual Designer


August 2019 -
December 2019


Adobe XD
Adobe Illustrator


Tiffany Chau
TJ Funso
Joshua Galang
Ngoc Tran


Over 32 million people in the United States are allergic to food. While out traveling, people with food allergies dine out frequently. However, being unfamiliar with a new area usually leads to extensive, exhausting and time-consuming research.

Subsequently, people with dietary restrictions are anxious while eating out and remain drawn towards restaurants and dishes that they are already familiar with while on the go.


How might we empower travelers with food allergies to venture outside their comfort zone and streamline the information-gathering process for exploring new dining options?


Would Recommend is a mobile app that integrates different sources of information about dining options for people with dietary restrictions using an online crowdsourcing community with gamification elements. I was the lead designer of this project, working with researchers to distill information, as well as develop the information architecture and develop high fidelity screens with revisions.



Online Survey
Structured Interviews
Contextual Inquiries


Divergent Designs


Low Fidelity
High Fidelity


User Based Testing
Expert Based Testing
Heuristic Evaluation


In order to obtain information about our topic, we collected information using the following research techniques:


A Qualtrics survey was created to identify common food allergies and the frequency of going out to eat.

We learned that food allergies are very common. 9 out of 10 responders said they ate out less than three times per week.


In seven 30 minute interview sessions, we wanted to uncover pain points and points of anxiety in the dining out process.

We learned that people with dietary restrictions juggle a variety of sources to make decisions about where to eat. These sources range from websites to word of mouth.


We observed the end-to-end dining out experience of four users and the tools and strategies used while eating out.

People can narrow cuisines down by key ingredient, most tend to veer towards familiar restaurants. Also, dining with others causes anxiety.


Taking these insights into account, my team created an Affinity Map to group ideas together.


People with food allergies want to try new things.​

They want personal recommendations about where to dine and what to get.​

Parsing through information is time-consuming and tedious.​​​

Food allergies are not the only criteria to consider when deciding on a dining venue.

​Social aspects of dining out cause anxiety, like checking ingredients with waiters.


Motivate users to explore new dining options​.

Connecting users with others with similar allergies.

Communicate allergen information and consolidate information such as navigation, reviews, menus, and photos​.

Allowing users to filter search results by cuisine, price, and distance​.

Quick and discreet information gathering to avoid anxiety


After brainstorming ideas, we shared our some primary findings and received feedback:


A large digital display placed at the entrance to dining venues (such as food courts) where users can indicate their food allergies and cuisine preferences by touching the screen.

The display then presents a list of dining options in the venue.

Smart screens near eateries would provide localized suggestions, but they have limited geographic areas where users would rely on finding them by chance.


A pair of augmented reality smart glasses can look at physical restaurant buildings, where users can drop ‘pins’ that appear on top of venues that are accommodating to their preferences.

Inside the restaurant, users can view photos of menu items and can inspect their food for suspicious ingredients once the dishes arrive at the table.

Wearables are less feasible but more novel and support fewer features.


This mobile application allows users to look up food options and check recommended selections based on food allergies and personal preference on a digital profile.​

Users tend to have phones handy, so a mobile app is easily integrated into user lifestyles.


The most viable solution form factor was in a mobile app. I designed the following features:


This mobile application allows users to look up food options and check recommended selections based on food allergies and personal preference on a digital profile.​

Users can also leave reviews and recommend food options to other users with similar allergies.


In addition to online resources, users wanted personal recommendations from people who understand their food allergy. We decided to establish an online community for users that incorporates gamification.

Users could earn badges and advance levels the more they leave reviews. These reviews can be used as helpful recommendations from others who have similar allergies.


We uncovered another pain point in navigating to the restaurant: usually involving opening a dedicated navigation app to see where a potential dining option is relative to current position.

This iteration consolidated the different systems so that users can more seamlessly obtain information for making a decision.


Having created our basic prototype, we sought to evaluate it with professional users. Reaching out experts of usability and mobile app design at Georgia Tech, we conducted heuristic evaluations sessions.


Determine if the interface works with usability heuristics​ and understand the severity of each heuristic mistake based on the issue.


We showed a paper prototype to experts in usability and mobile apps and instructed them to perform 5 benchmark tasks:

​1. Create a profile - Onboarding process.

2. Search for a list of restaurants and decide one to visit.

3. Navigate to the restaurant.

4. Decide on a dish to order.

5. Leave a review​

Afterwards, experts assign ratings according to Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics and complete a System Usability Scale (SUS) questionnaire.​Our feedback was then added to the final iteration.


After consulting with the team from our heuristic evaluation with experts, we compared the scores from our usability testing and comments. These scores led to the redesign of the final evolution of our project.

Some revisions included an overhauled simplified interface with icons, buttons, and text to clarify tasks, reducing the overwhelming use of red in backgrounds in favor for a cleaner white aesthetic, as well as adding drop shadows and flat shading.


During onboarding, users mentioned that using a dropdown menu would be more efficient to select cuisine preferences rather than manually entering them due to using a dropdown menu beforehand for allergies.

I also reduced the size of text fields to allow for the keyboard and complete button to fit within the screen size.


Our original prototype used solid colors as a placeholder for different types of cuisines on the home profile page. However, during our usability testing with experts, they suggested to see the name of cuisine in text, as users may not be familiar with country flags.

In addition to adding text, we decided that iconic pictures of cuisine would help distinguish different types of food.


Users were confused from the gamification aspects during testing, like badges and level progress. The presence of badges did not communicate what rewards users earned by posting reviews.

This confusion was addressed by adding a dedicated Badges section on the home page with reviews as well as rewards. In addition, listed are what and why badges were earned, reviews, and possible future rewards.


One of the key issues we uncovered through heuristic evaluation was a lack of flexibility.

The original prototype only supported one task flow, something that was overhauled by giving users more control, applying filters for rating, distance, cuisine, and price.

These filters can be toggled and arrange search results based on what they prioritize.


I redesigned the app to present more information than the previous iteration, since our testing showed that users wanted more statistics displayed onscreen to better their knowledge gathering of restaurants, like menus, photos, and reviews.

Rather than attempting to use a singular app for everything, tapping 'Get Directions' now opens a specific navigation app, such as Google Maps, to navigate to the restaurant with an already familiar interface.


User input showed that adding an alternative to written reviews would increase the ease of this task. Users wanted to be able to only give a rating instead of writing their own review.

This was added to the review process, with defined WOULD and WOULD NOT RECOMMEND buttons for quick input.​ In addition, users wanted to see the name of the restaurant they were reviewing while also finding a defined SUBMIT button, as such a button would confirm that their review was recorded.


From Would Recommend, I learned that users enjoy being in control of their experience, and that their imaginations and enthusiasm towards our project fueled our ideas and drove motivations.

Designing for users to empower and inform them is what my goals are as a product designer and it was satisfying to work with them to develop a solution.