Helping travelers with food allergies make quick and informed dining restrictions on the go.


User Research

Interaction Design

Visual Design


User Testing


August 2019 -

December 2019


Adobe XD

Adobe Illustrator



Tiffany Chao

Titilayo (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.


Problem Statement

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?


Designing a Mobile Solution

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.


Research + Design Methods


Online Survey

Semi-Structured Interviews

Contextual Inquiries


Divergent Designs



Low Fidelity

High Fidelity


Expert-based Testing

User-based Testing



Online Survey


Identify the most common food allergies

Compare and contrast eating out habits with users.


Developed a Qualtrics survey to obtain large amount of data for few questions.

Gathered 28 responses within a week.


Food allergies exist beyond the 9 most common food allergies.

9 out of 10 respondents with food allergies dine out less than three times a week - less frequently than other dietary restrictions.

Semi-Structured Interviews


Find pain points and needs

Identify prominent moments of anxiety or joy from recent dining experiences


30 minute one-on-one interviews, conducted both in person or over the phone.

7 participants were contacted and asked questions.


People with food allergies shuffle between many different apps and websites to make decisions.

They also rely on word of mouth.

Chain restaurants are more trusted since ingredients are consistent everywhere.

Contextual Inquiries


Understand user end-to-end experience in dining out

Discover tasks, strategies, and tools that are involved in gathering information where to eat and what to order


Shadowed 4 participants with food allergies as they eat out at a restaurant and make decisions from the moment they choose a restaurant to leaving the restaurant


People with food allergies avoid cuisines because they know staple ingredients

They also default to familiar restaurants when they don't want to gather information.

Menus and orders don't specify which items contain allergens.

Dining with other people causes anxiety since they need to consider preferences in addition to food allergies. With this in mind we went to affinity mapping.

Synthesis of Data

Affinity Map

Would Recommend Affinity Map


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



Storyboards + Mockups


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.


A pair of AR 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 receive AR views of menu items and can inspect their food for suspicious ingredients once it arrives at the table.


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.


After sharing these ideas with users and colleagues, we discovered some primary findings.

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

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

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



Would Recommend App


Taking into account the feedback we obtained, we combined the strengths from each concept and channeled our research into three key features for a dedicated mobile app.


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 a system of 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.



Heuristic Evaluation


Determine if the interface works with usability heuristics

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

  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 corroborated the scores from our usability testing and comments. Our researchers then distilled the data into insights that led to my 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 the onboarding process, 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, and were questioning the meanings and functions that badges and level progress meant, and the presence of badges did not communicate what rewards users earned by posting reviews.


This confusion was addressed and the design was revised by adding a dedicated Badges section on the home page with badges and reviews as well as rewards. Dedicated sections show information on what badges were earned and why, various reviews that were left on the profile, and possible future rewards that could be earned, all in their own convenient section of the profile home page.


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. The diaplay also shows a preview 


In addition, the map icon in the previous iteration of search results was replaced with text for obtaining directions, for clarity. 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.



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.

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