Patricia Reiners

Patricia Reiners

The future of cooking — why it is beyond the screen

Top 6 UX principles for a successful reinvention of cooking.

When did you cook a meal for yourself? What about a meal for your family or friends?

When did you last try a new recipe? When have you thought, “I should cook more and eat out less?”

When have you wanted to invite friends over for dinner and thought “no its too much work?”

The struggle is real. So, I am sharing my vision about the future of cooking — which; is going to be guided, partly automated and reinventing the cookbook by integrating smart assistants and interfaces beyond the screen. Just when we need them!

Emerging technologies open up new ways to prepare food and prepare our meals. I am talking about a personalized interface or interfaces beyond the screen. We as designers define the way we cook in the future. We ran realise the opportunities now by converting those into human-centered products.

Throughout my Creative Residency at Adobe I focus on taking a peek at the future of cooking and what it could be by thinking beyond the screen.

I have identified 7 key UX learnings that I believe will play a huge role in shaping an inclusive and innovative future of cooking.

Before I am getting into that, I would like to share a little bit about my research process and learnings which got me to the design solutions and learnings in the end.

Research — Find pain points

I started the whole project with research to find the pain points and to find out what people need during the cooking process.

I conducted user research watching 5 people during the entire cooking process. I let them choose a recipe, buy the ingredients and watched them prepare the recipe. By conducting this type of research, I gained valuable insights about the problem people are facing right now. To better track these problems I divided the whole process into 7 steps: Recipe selection, preparation, start cooking, mid cooking, end cooking, eating, cleaning and noted all thoughts, failures, successes, and information that would have been helpful during this case for each user.

Watching them decide for a recipe, prepare and cook, made me realize that almost all users, had more or less the same problems and felt stressed at least once during the process. They all cooked with printed cookbooks which is a standard tool most of the time.

What information or guidance would users need to enjoy the process without feeling stressed?

My goal was to think beyond the screen, to think about a solution which provides the information and guidance a user needs in these different situations.

I am going to share my top learning with you which made me come up with these 7 solutions to rethink the experience of cooking

1. Voice Design

During the cooking process eyes and hands are usually busy preparing the ingredients and cooking the recipe. So, ears are free. Including some auditive guidance makes a lot of sense in this case. There are already some recipe skills online that allows users to cook recipes with auditive input by a voice assistant like Amazon Alexa for example. The problem here is that the user has to ask for general information every time and can’t see them at one place — like time, navigation, how many steps are coming, etc. But more importantly, they don’t get any visual guidance on how to do specific things. Have you ever explained how to cut a mango properly? It is much easier to get some additional visual explanation which shows the user exactly how it’s done.

The combination of visual input and auditory guidance provides the best possible way to support the user.

First, I started thinking about how I could combine the conversations in each individual cooking step with the information that could be shown on the interface.

— — integration of voice assistants doesn’t mean voice only. Voice in combination with an interface is what’s make the most sense in many cases.

2. Automation

We are living in a time of automation which brings us to different ways of seeing the future of cooking. Some might imagine the future of cooking as automated or even one level below — like a companion which prepares one part of the recipe and the user the other part.

But in a smart future, we would automate the boring tasks and focus on the fun part. Cooking can be fun when we remove or automate boring and repetitive tasks. The most important question is: When do people feel pleasure during cooking? Of course, this is different for every person and may vary. MATTHEW B. CRAWFORD shared in this article the beauty and joy that come from working with your hands. Working with your hands is something most people don’t do all day, besides writing on post-it’s maybe.

Working with your hands can get users a real feeling of pleasure.

— — Not automating for automating sake but starting to create some kind of mindfulness around what we do and what we enjoy doing and what not. Because this is different for everybody.

3. Anticipatory Design

Designing experiences that are one step ahead; this is called anticipatory design — creating delightful user experiences by understanding user needs and eliminating needless choices which are helpful when people need information and get them before they even ask for it or know that they need them. Generally, there are 3 psychological reasons behind it:

Less effort

We prefer experiences which reduce effort even by the slightest. So, when users don’t have to type in tiny things like their address, even though it is just a small effort, users just love it .

Feeling to be understood

People want to be understood. The anticipatory design has the power to transcend traditional relations between tools and users. It can create delightful moments like “WOW, you read my mind, I just wanted to ask how to cut the pears”. If it is designed well, these experiences can establish a strong sense of desirability and appreciation for this design or product by the person experiencing it.

Feeling important

Another interesting thing to keep in mind is that people generally feel important when someone anticipates your needs, when someone remembers your name, your preferences, your birthday, your anniversary or even your dairy restriction or preferred foods choices. When you first release an anticipatory design experience, you have a very good shot at surprising people in a good way. If your designs hit the sweet spot, you instantly turn your average user to one that raves about your product.

Try to talk to Tesla owners and they will talk about how different it is compared to the cars they have known, e.g.: As they move closer to their car, a door handle that is flush with the body of the car gently slides out to greet them, when they get into the car they don’t have to turn a key or push a button because it is already “on” or when they get closer to their garage, the car opens up the garage door for them. It is no surprise that Tesla ranks the highest in Consumer Reports list of car brands, with 90% of owners saying they will buy Tesla again.

— — Surprising the user with information and guidance before he even realizes that he needs them is a delightful user experience by understanding user needs and eliminating needless choices.

4. Inclusivity

Although diversity efforts are concerned with representation and who is included, diversity efforts should not be confused with creating an inclusive environment. An inclusive environment does not simply mean that people from various groups are included, it is concerned with what their inclusion in that project or environment means.

Talking about elderly people, disabled people, illiterate, or even visually impaired who are not perfectly included in our approach to cook and prepare meals at the moment. They would need specific guidance through voice assistance and additional information. Inclusive design is a win-win for customers and businesses. It expands your product’s reach, sparks innovation, and helps your company take on a position of social responsibility.

But where do we start?

First, seek out points of exclusion: Understanding how and why people are being excluded. Exclusion occurs across both areas — the ability and context. So, deaf users couldn’t access the audio-heavy experience. People who have problems reading small letters or can’t read at all wouldn’t use a usual cookbook either a cooking app for their smartphone. Identifying the situational challenges, in this case, would reveal that situational and ability-based impairments produced surprisingly overlapping user needs but also overlapping pain points. Imagine a product designed for users who are deaf can also benefit those who are consuming video content in a loud environment, for example in a kitchen where kids are playing around or the tv or music is on.

The step is to test assumptions and biases will users show us what they need, they will help us look beyond our abilities and biases when creating products. Without involving the user, our designs would only reflect our abilities and assumptions about language.

Generally, it is very helpful to provide different ways to participate in an experience. So, users can choose the method that fits best to their unique circumstances. Within the future of cooking experience, we additionally added written text which explains the single steps. So even the user who is deaf or even doesn’t want Alexa to repeat the explanation can read the text on the screen explaining this step.

— — Thinking inclusive is only possible by conduction research over and over again and testing your assumptions and biases to find a solution which can benefit several users which are not included in your target group for this feature in the first place.

5. Beyond the screen means that everything could be a screen

We are thinking beyond the screen which could mean projecting an augmented screen in the real world via AR glasses or even more futuristic: smart contact lenses, projecting the information on different surfaces or even integrating different material in our homes that could be a screen (link to: spiegel screen) They all have their pros and cons, but generally there are different things to keep in mind:

During cooking, people move around in the kitchen: Washing vegetables in the sink, chopping the herbs on the countertop and frying something in the pan on the stovetop. Everywhere the user needs different, but also some general information. So the whole experience and kitchen area should be connected and divided into two specification.

General information: Navigation, time left, settings. This information is just for guidance.

Specific information: Information which is just only relevant that this specific place. For example, information on how to cut the pears at the countertop or even what to add to the fried mushrooms next to the hotplate.

When we are talking about responsive design at the moment, we mean that digital web-based design adapts to different screen formats like web, tablet, and phone.

Using this approach and adapting it to a world beyond the screen, interfaces should adapt automatically to the size they have on specific places. Every kitchen is different.

All AR experiences have, at their core, some notion of planes and anchors. Planes are flat surfaces on which content sits, and anchors are spatial markers relative to which content distance is measured. That we can only ever measure content’s position in space relative to something else (the anchor) is the basis for designing responsive AR experiences. Even with the binocular experience, we get from Magic Leap, or the Hololens, the way content is viewed and interacted which can only benefit from being responsive to its audience.

— — Beyond the screens enables us to rethink our current design patterns and provide the information users need, where they need it.

6. Personalization

Every person has different skills when it comes to cooking or preparing ingredients. And even this changes over time, people get better or get more advanced and need less guidance.

Especially the fact that all is in a constant flow and stately changing makes it hard for the system to predict behaviour.

Personalization could mean different things:

Difference Between Customisation and Personalization

Customization is done by the user and may enable the user to customize or make changes to the experience to meet their specific needs by configuring content, layout or functionality. Customization lets users make their selections about what they want to see, or set preferences for how information is organized or displayed. Within cooking,this would be the general information which is displayed all the time: navigation, time left, current step, meanwhile steps, notes, etc. This kind of personalization not only brings value to customers but also increases loyalty but requires time and effort to implement.

Another point which is important in the cooking use case: customisability of recipe. In general, people like to adjust recipes to their need and preferences, which should be supported by any future cooking design.

Personalization delivers content and functionality that matches specific user needs or interests, with no effort for the users. Such as recommending recipes regarding their dairy restriction or location or automatically ordering food or groceries which is consumed every week.

Showing images differently

Adjusting information or visuals regarding your preferences based on data, like Netflix does for their Artwork. A huge challenge is to understand the impact of changing the artwork or recipe images that we show a user. Does changing those recipe visuals reduce recognisability of the recipe itself and make it difficult to visually locate it again, for example, if the member thought was interested before but had not yet cooked it? Or, does change the image itself lead the member to reconsider it due to an improved selection?

Showing information differently

The recipe should be personalized regarding the users’ skills and goals for this specific recipe. A total beginner should get more guidance and explanation than people who generally know how to cook. The same with different preparation cooking steps: Cooking potato gratin with steak could be cooked in many different difficulties levels, like sous-vide cooking the meat before putting it on the grill and rubbing it in truffle oil to just frying it in the pan. Choosing the perfect level of difficulty should be based on the occasion and on the users’ skill level and food preferences.

— — Personalization means using the data to provide the perfect recipe and procedure with fits to the occasion the skill level and food preferences.



  1. Voice Design

Integration of voice assistants doesn’t mean voice only. Voice in Combination with an Interface is what’s making the most sense in many cases.

2. Automation

Not automating for automating sake but starting to create some kind of mindfulness around what we do and what we enjoy doing and whatnot. Because this is different for everybody.

3. Anticipatory design

Surprising the user with information and guidance before he even realizes that he needs them is a delightful user experience by understanding user needs and eliminating needless choices

4. Inclusivity

Thinking inclusively is only possible by conducting research over and over again and testing your assumptions and biases to find a solution that can benefit several users. These are not necessarily included in your target are not included in your target group for this feature in the first place.

5. Beyond the screen means that everything could be a screen.

Beyond the screens enables us to rethink our current design patterns and provide the information users need where and when they need it.

6. Personalization

Personalization means using the data to provide the perfect recipe and procedure with fits to the occasion the skill level and food preferences.

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