Mouth-watering UX: 5 Keys to achieving design deliciousness
Manasvi Dharaskar /
It’s a lovely Sunday morning, with the sun shining bright and the start of the summer vacation. I am 10 years old and have woken up late at 9 am. The first thing I do is run to the kitchen and ask my mom what’s for breakfast. I have been a foodie all my life. Both my parents have spoiled me and kept the bar for good food really high. I was always amazed by the most delicious & beautiful looking dishes that they cooked, which is why instead of trying to search for yummy food, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
My earliest memories of cooking was playing with dough while my mom made rotis. I used to make irregular ghost like shapes, which my mom would then roast for me. We both were so proud!
The kitchen was also the place where I learned and examined various textures and colours. I believe my visual design skills and eye for aesthetics have improved through my cooking explorations. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a delectable dish presented in the most stunning manner possible? Additionally, it instilled in me a strong desire to ensure that every experience should be the best it can be. Scientifically, it has been proved that cooking helps improve concentration, coordination & confidence; it’s also very therapeutic. As time went on, my interaction with cooking improved, and I came to realize that it is not just a necessary life skill, but a pleasurable one.
People have different kinds of creative outlets. For some it’s writing, for some music or painting – mine is cooking. Cooking is an art, a science, and a survival tool all at once. When I am cooking I am in a state of flow, completely present in the moment.
I experience something similar when I am designing. There are many more similarities between cooking and UX that go beyond the borrowed verbiage of hamburger menu, breadcrumbs and snack bars. After all UX design is also an art, science and a survival tool (at least for the survival of your product).
5 Principles to create delectable UX Design
1. Don’t crowd the pan
I have a fondness for a perfectly balanced biryani, complete with its hot and spicy curry. However, if you fail to cook the vegetables and the curry separately, and instead add them all together to the flavourful rice, you’ll likely end up with a biryani that resembles khichadi. Each component of the dish requires its own space during cooking to achieve the desired taste. We have a tendency to cook everything simultaneously in order to achieve uniform flavours and taste. However, this approach can result in unevenly cooked ingredients or the moisture from one ingredient reducing the oil temperature, leading to a less-than-optimal culinary experience. To ensure the right flavours are brought forth during cooking, it is advisable to avoid overcrowding the pan. If space is limited, it is recommended to cook in batches or utilize multiple pans.
Similarly, in the design world a cluttered interface with too much information, cramped elements, unclear primary call to action and lack of breathing space can overwhelm users and hinder their ability to comprehend and interact with the interface effectively. In contrast, a clean and organized design allows users to focus on the essential elements and tasks without distractions.
Just as a visually pleasing and well-presented dish can make a meal more enticing, a clean and uncluttered interface can make the user experience more appealing and understandable. By incorporating these design principles, UX designers can create interfaces that are intuitive, visually pleasing, and reduce cognitive load for users, resulting in an improved overall user experience.
2. Using the right tool
There are a lot of tools and appliances that you use while cooking. These have changed with time. It is recommended that you know the right tool for the right job in order to get the work done with the least effort. The evolved tools have their benefits. For example, someone making a chutney back in the day would have brought out the mortar and pestle and spent an hour. But today the same task can be accomplished in minutes by using a high powered electric grinder.
Similarly, for designers it is recommended that they use the most time-efficient tools. We know how AI is taking the world by storm. As UX designers it only makes sense to learn how to collaborate with these tools and evolve with it rather than fearing it. AI can be used for churning out several starting points for research, copy, layouts, screens and so much more in a shorter time than you possibly could. In the present day, designing or deliberating from scratch is like trying to light your stove using a flintstone.
3. Learn a few easy sauces and tweak them
In the culinary world, there are a few basic preparations of the sauces. You will always find the these sauces in the Indian restaurant kitchens like the red sauce (tomato based gravy), white sauce (milk/butter based gravy), yellow gravy (spice-heavy gravy) etc. These sauces can be tailored to complement hundreds of dishes; that’s how restaurants are able to deliver a variety in limited time. Whenever you taste something exceptional, it’s often the result of a perfect blend of a classic sauce and the chef’s mix and match of ingredients.
When designers embark on the process of conceptualizing home page layouts, we often start by experimenting with a set of the fundamental layouts used across most platforms. These layout styles serve as a foundation that can be customized to reflect the brand’s unique identity and language. Some of these layout styles are cards (like on Instagram or LinkedIn), trays (Most OT T platforms), Grids (GooglePay or PhonePe) and lists (WhatsApp) . While these layout styles serve as a base, the creativity of the designer and the unique attributes of the brand and its offerings play a vital role in creating a differentiated layout and optimizes the user experience.
4. Dried herbs go first; fresh herbs go last
A dish is incomplete without seasonings or herbs. These are what add and enhance the flavours, but mind it! the timing of when you add these makes all the difference. Dried herbs often have a more concentrated flavour profile compared to their fresh counterparts, hence it takes time for dried herbs to release their flavours. So it is ideal that they are added in the beginning to infuse their flavours as you cook. Whereas fresh herbs are delicate and can lose their vibrant flavours or turn bitter when exposed to prolonged heat. Therefore, they are added after the cooking process is complete. This ensures that their bright flavours and fragrances are preserved, adding a burst of freshness to the finished dish.
Just like how knowing the sequence of steps in a recipe is important for creating a perfect dish, as UX designers, we also follow a specific pattern to deliver the best user experience. This systematic approach ensures a solid foundation and yields optimal outcomes for our designs. The process involves task analysis, creating information architecture, followed by wireframes and lastly the visual design. This process allows us to address user needs, streamline interactions, and create a seamless and engaging experience for the end-users. Just like a recipe, where each step contributes to the final culinary masterpiece, the UX design process empowers designers to create and aligned with the goals of the project.
5. Presentation is key
A beautiful looking dish makes you smile and you look forward to tasting it. As they say, ‘you eat with your eyes first’; food is something that works close to emotions. Therefore, while serving any dish it is important to ensure that the dish is plated well. Something that differentiates a restaurant and street style food is the way it is plated and served. Thoughtful plating and presentation elevates the dining experience by creating a visual appeal that complements the flavours and textures of the dish.
Similarly for a great user experience we have the aesthetic usability effect which states that users perceive aesthetically pleasing design as design that’s more usable. It suggests that aesthetic designs fosters a positive attitude.
Both in the realm of food and UX, the intention is to evoke emotions within you. When food is served, its purpose is to bring a smile, evoking feelings of joy and satisfaction. Similarly, UX design aims to generate a sense of fulfilment by helping you achieve your objectives seamlessly. In both cases, chefs and designers have the ability to influence the emotions their audience experiences, whether through the pleasure derived from a well-prepared meal or the sense of accomplishment gained from a successful UX interaction.
Just as cooking is my passion and I found its parallels to my profession, each of us can discover our own connections. Have you thought about what parallels you can draw in your own journey? In your next project, whether it be designing or cooking, explore these principles and who knows, perhaps one day we can share a meal together, with you showcasing your experience.
So, what’s on the menu, chef?