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Abstract Appetite

Reimagining the food tracking experience.



How might we simplify the existing food logging process to encourage healthier habits and increase long-term retention?


Abstract Appetite - a wearable app designed for the Apple Watch which implements the use of visual estimation to make food tracking quick and painless. 

My Contributions

I led the design and analysis of a survey, conducted observations and semi-structured interviews, created storyboards to illustrate our initial concepts, and used affinity mapping to analyze our initial findings. I also created the usability testing protocol and conducted 4 usability testing sessions with the initial prototype. Additionally, I helped create the personas and develop the design implications.

The Team

Jay Modh

Priyanka Mohindra​

Varun Nambiar

Talia Ayala-Feliciangeli

My Role

UX Research Lead​


August 2019 - November 2019



Nutrition tracking, which includes both counting calories as well as mindful eating, has seen a dramatic increase in the past few years. While apps like MyFitnessPal and Lose It! are rising in popularity, various pain points observed within them lead to low long-term retention. With this project, we aim to redesign the nutrition tracking experience - pinpointing the parts of the experience currently discouraging users from returning, and creating a solution that encourages healthier habits and regular tracking.

Phase 1: Generative Research

We began by doing a competitive analysis of the most popular food tracking applications to familiarize ourselves with them before beginning our primary research. We created a survey to help us collect quantitative data and to identify common themes and pain points among users. We then conducted semi structured interviews to delve deeper into the issues uncovered by the survey. Lastly, we synthesized our findings through an affinity mapping session.  



  • Why are our users motivated to track their nutrition?

  • What does the current tracking experience look like for users?

  • What are our user’s pain points?

Competitive Analysis


We wanted to explore the key features present in commonly used food tracking apps, in addition to learning about the user journey through each one and the potential pain points. 


Method Details

We did this by analyzing the top 3 food tracking apps in the App Store:

  • MyFitnessPal

  • LoseIt!

  • LifeSum



  • Current interface is unintuitive and difficult to navigate

  • Logging is time-consuming and involves cumbersome steps

  • High amount of clicks needed to log each food item

  • Overwhelming amount of items displayed in food library, may lead to uncertainty about which to pick and inconsistent results.    




We want to know what the common pain points are and what features are important to those who currently track (or have tracked), in addition to understanding why some people choose not to track at all. 


Method Details

  • 14 questions

  • 81 responses

  • Distributed via social media

Sample Questions

  • How long have you been logging your meals?

  • How consistently have you been logging your meals?

  • How would you describe your experience with the tracking process?


  • 11% of users log through a wearable device

  • 60% of users report being inconsistent at logging

  • 75% of those who log their meals use MyFitnessPal

  • Common issues reported include the process being time consuming, hard to remember, and food-related anxiety inducing.

  • Users do not trust calorie count accuracy





Using a survey will allow us to quickly collect large amounts of data. Conducting a competitive analysis gave us an idea of what some common pain points may be, which helped shape the questions we asked our users.




To understand the pain points uncovered by our initial research so we could narrow down our scope and problem statement.


Method Details

  • 9 participants 

  • 3 in-person interviews, 6 phone interviews

  • 1 moderator per interview

  • Analyzed data using affinity diagramming detailed below

Semi-Structured Interviews




Conducting semi-structured interviews provides us with the ability to openly prod users about their experience with food tracking applications, resulting in the rich information necessary to guide our design.


Sample Questions

  • Why did you choose to track your meals?

  • Could you tell me about your experience using a food tracking app?

  • What made you continue (or stop) tracking?

Analysis & Synthesis

Before ideating product design ideas, my team used affinity mapping to understand the common pain points experienced by different types of users and to discover the features users want to see in a nutrition tracking app. We set out to synthesize the large amounts of qualitative data we gathered from the interviews, while also finding recurring themes within the user experience.

A few hours and a couple hundred post-it notes later, we further defined our target audience as being health-conscious but not health obsessed. 


  • Users are overwhelmed with information! There's too much of it, and they do not know how to navigate through it

  • Users are wary of the possibility of tracking habits becoming obsessive 

  • Users do not track right after they eat, which results in an incomplete and inaccurate recall of food items consumed

  • Needing to track each ingredient is tedious and annoying

  • Estimating portion sizes results in inaccurate calorie counts

  • Item-by-item breakdown is distressing for users to see - they would rather have a general idea of what they’re consuming​

Affinity Diagramming

We <3 affinity diagraming.

Phase 2: Design

Iteration 1 ​

After conducting our first affinity diagramming session and with our findings fresh in our heads, our team “walked the wall” to generate as many divergent design ideas as possible. At the end of this session, we chose the three strongest design ideas and fleshed them out into unique concepts addressing our problem statement on three different platforms.

Concepts (discussed below): 

  • Portion Plating

  • Abstract Appetite

  • Chat Cookery

Concept 1: Portion Plating

A phone app that utilizes the concept of portion sizing to help users eat the recommended portions of food personalized to their needs. The app helps educate the user on portions, gives food recommendations based on their goals, and allows them to log their meals easily. This design idea utilizes the concept of portion sizing as it correlates with our hands and implements it through a phone application. The app would give users recommendations based on this research and break down what a “perfect plate” would look for them to align with their personalized goals.

Portion Plating
Portion Plating
Concept 2: Abstract Appetite

While only 11% our of users reported tracking their meals through a wearable, we theorized that this is due to the companion app for wearables not being as comprehensive as the mobile app, leading smartwatch users to gravitate towards their phones despite having the ability to log meals directly on their watch. We wanted to address this issue and created an Apple watch app designed to make food logging a quick and painless process by introducing a novel way to log meals through visual estimation. 

Abstract Appetite
Concept 3: Chat Cookery

An Amazon Alexa skill that lets users log individual ingredients as they add them while cooking a home cooked meal. After logging all ingredients, the user is given an overview of the total calories and nutritional breakdown of the meal. It encourages the user to input the ingredients in the moment, making the process of logging meals easier, more time-efficient, and without having to depend on recall.

Chat Cookery
Chat Cookery
Design Selection

After presenting our designs to users, our team conducted an internal pros and cons analysis session. Basing our decision on accessibility, novelty, and learnability, we decided to pursue Abstract Appetite - the wearable nutrition tracking concept.

Iteration 2

After​ deciding to pursue the wearable app concept, we had to flesh out the design to address the users' wants and needs discovered during our initial research. 

Design Features:

  • Allows multiple modes of input (via search bar, voice input, or "frequent foods" section)

  • Number of steps needed to log meals have been minimized

  • Allows the user to visually compare and input the amount of food they are eating

  • Allows users to quickly log multiple meals

  • Minimizes information shown to user, displaying only what's crucial

  • Leverages smartwatch platform by using advanced haptics features

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To assess whether users can complete a series of benchmark tasks using the mid-fidelity prototype.


Method Details

  • 4 tasks (3 on Abstract Appetite, 1 on MyFitnessPal)

  • 5 participants

  • 1 moderator and 1 notetaker

  • SUS questionnaire used to complement qualitative data

  • Medium-fidelity wireframes created on Sketch 

  • Tested interactive prototype by creating a simple rig to be worn around the wrist

  • Findings were crucial in developing the design implications for the final iteration

Benchmark Tasks

  • Search for chicken pot pie via the voice search feature

  • Use the “Frequent Food” feature to track an item of their choice

  • Track 3 slices of pepperoni pizza (using method of their choice)

  • Track 3 slices of pepperoni pizza (on MyFitnessPal app)

P.S.  - wanna play around with our prototype? Try logging three slices of pizza here!

Think Aloud Usability Testing





This method allowed us to evaluate users' approach to completing specific tasks while being able to ask clarifying questions while they were navigating through the interface.

Phase 3: Evaluative Research

Iteration 3

Through our usability testing sessions, we learned a lot of things about the tracking experience we did not initially consider. We organized all of our findings, created implications, and prioritized the feedback to integrate into higher fidelity mockups.

Finding: Using the Apple watch crown to modify serving size is not intuitive for participants

Implication: Design should include buttons labeled with a + and - sign to modify amount to avoid solely relying on usage of the crown

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Finding: It is difficult to return to the home screen after having finished tracking a meal

Implication: Design should include more obvious way to return to the home screen

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Finding: Participants were confused about what each progress ring means

Implication: Design should make meaning of progress rings more explicit

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Finding: Some participants want to see more comprehensive nutritional breakdown

Implication: Design could include opt-in option for more information, or "info bubble" could be clickable for user to get more info on recently tracked meal (detailed breakdown)

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Finding: It was unclear what P/F/C meant

Implication: Design should make meaning of P/F/C more explicit (could spell out Protein/Fat/Carbs vs. relying on recognition of initials)