Food is an important part of all Singaporeans' lives, and especially for those overseas who do not have easy access to local foods. We heard from our friends residing overseas, of the troubles they had to overcome just to get a taste of home. The pricing of Singaporean cuisine in the few overseas restaurants that offer them can be expensive, and attempting to prepare such cuisine by themselves was difficult due to the accessibility of various ingredients that they took for granted back home in Singapore.
What it does
IngredientGoWhere serves as a unique recipe portal that aggregates various recommended recipes for popular local foods. Where it sets itself apart from other sources of recipes, is that it allows users to indicate which ingredients they are missing, and then suggests possible substitutes for these missing ingredients. Searching for belacan to cook a bowl of laksa can be quite impractical when there's only the one Asian market in your area: what about alternatives that can bring some similar flavours, like fish paste, or dried shrimp or anchovies! These substitutes come in two different tiers: close substitutes, which are ingredients that are similar, and alternatives, which are ingredients that are less similar but belong to the same category (for instance, leafy greens or seasonings).
Users can rate the substitutes that they previously used based on the metrics of closeness of taste and accessibility, and an average rating is shown to other users looking to follow the recipe, who may be considering the same substitutes.
Users can also save recipes that they wish to refer to again, or upload their own recipes should they wish to prepare a dish not available in our database, whilst still requiring suggestions for ingredient substitutes and alternatives.
How we built it
We first designed simple wireframes using pen and paper as well as dozens of annotations over Zoom. Once our team agreed on the basic design decisions we decided to move on to building a high fidelity mock up using Figma, a popular prototyping tool. We chose Figma as it is a tool our team is familiar with, and would allow us to build a prototype easily and iterate quickly. Then, with our mock up set up on Figma, we started working on building the rough outline of our app using React Native. However, given the limited amount of time, we were not able to finish building the complete app.
Challenges we ran into
Ideation: This was by far the part where we struggled the most. The challenge statements were not what we were expecting as they seemed rather niche with the target audience being overseas Singaporeans. It was undoubtedly difficult for us to relate to the issues and pain points felt by these and this meant we had to work extra hard to conduct our research to find out and better understand their needs.
Prototyping: As there are no other similar apps on the market which are able to ingredient substitutions well, we had to come up with the user flow from scratch and try to address all possible issues which users might face in using this app for the first time. Furthermore, it was also difficult to get timely feedback from potential users on their thoughts on the different versions we designed.
Prioritising: Time management was another key challenge for us. Having only finalised our idea 12 hours before the deadline after a long period of brainstorming and discussions, we had to quickly plan out the tasks we wanted to complete and delegate them. While keeping in mind the submission requirements and judging criteria, we had to make some difficult decisions such as how many features we should try implementing or whether we wanted to focus on implementing technical details which would cost us more time.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're happy to have been able to come up with a decent working prototype in essentially a matter of hours. Although we had different schedules and varying amounts of free time to work on this hackathon, we managed to help each other out where we could and still managed to have quite a bit of fun along the way.
What we learned
We learned (surprisingly) a lot from this short sprint. Here are some pointers to summarise our takeaways:
- Understanding the users and target audience is vital in designing a useful and effective solution. That means understanding the underlying problems well and the needs of the users.
- It might take a very long time to define the problem well and come up with feasible yet innovative solutions, but the investment of time in thinking about the possibilities is worth it. Rather than jumping straight into the first solution we thought of, we found it better to keep probing for a little longer to arrive at a solution we genuinely think will be impactful and useful to users.
- Communication. Be it between team members, judges, or potential users, it is vital to be able to present our ideas clearly and effectively. Even if our idea is excellent, if the delivery of the message and ideas are not well understood by the audience, then the idea loses its credibility.
What's next for IngredientGoWhere
One possible extension would be the inclusion of recommendations for where to procure certain ingredients and their substitutes. By collecting feedback from other users who live in the same area, the app can recommend the best nearby locations to get these ingredients, saving users precious time while they scour unfamiliar storefronts for familiar tastes.
Another extension we have considered is making the app even more social in nature, so that overseas Singaporeans will feel even more in touch with not just local food but local people as well. For instance, users would be able to post their very own recipes on their profiles and share interesting and novel ingredient substitutions which others may not have thought of. IngredientGoWhere is fundamentally a community-based app, and we hope to take advantage of this the best we can.