Design Thinking ICM517

Dreaming Up My Ideal Food App

Exploring the first three phases of Design Thinking to imagine a better way.

We’ve all had that moment before, when you become so frustrated with an app that you hastily delete it and never look back. Or, you have loved almost everything about an app, except a thing or two you wish you could remove or tweak. You may have even used these experiences to imagine what your ideal app would be. Well, at least that’s what I did! Going through the first three phases of the design thinking process, I drew up ideas for my dream foodie app. 


The Scenario

I love food. Love, love, love food! And luckily, I live in one of the most cosmopolitan food-diverse cities in the world. It’s a challenge deciding whether to cook, eat at a favorite spot, or try a new place. There is so much good food and so little time that every meal feels precious. Although I do like stumbling upon new places, I generally prefer to vet my restaurants first. If I am walking around and see something that sparks my interest, I immediately pull out my phone and look it up on Bon App or Dian Ping.

Me returning to Shanghai and immediately revisiting old favorites and discovering new places.

The Challenge

So, what’s not working? Below are a few of my current pain points:

Western food apps are not comprehensive. 

They lack many restaurants, have few ratings and reviews, with unreliable search and filter methods. 

The exact same restaurant (a very popular one in Shanghai) with reviews from Bon App and Dian Ping. Bon App has 1 review while Dian Ping has over 3,000!
Chinese food apps are only in Mandarin. 

They are much more comprehensive and include every single restaurant in the city. They have a massive, active user base and are a great resource. But, the language barrier is a problem—especially when there is no embedded language translator. I have to screenshot the page, open it in google translate, read it, then go back to Dian Ping and do it all again. 

In order to translate Dian Ping, you have to screenshot and upload to Google Translate. It’s a tedious and annoying process, but the content in Dian Ping is much better.
I manage my restaurant list in a separate app from my food apps. 

I keep track of my restaurants in Notion. I love the spreadsheet I created because it is customized to my preferences, and I can share it with my husband. But that means I am copying and pasting a lot, and that’s annoying.

Love the customization and sharing features of my restaurant file in Notion. What I don’t love is having to copy and paste the information from other apps and resources into the spreadsheet manually.
If I post something on a local food app, I have to copy and paste it to Instagram. 

In China, I use WeChat and BonApp to share food stories and Instagram in the U.S. I wish I didn’t have to repeat my work to share my experience in all places. 

I don’t just love eating food; I love cooking it too! 

Grocery shopping is so fun here, but I don’t know what much of the local produce is or how to use them. I sure would like to, though.


If I had to define my problem, it would be this:

Tracking all the places and meals I want to try or have tried is a challenge for me because I have to use several resources.

Which led me to the following POV statement:

Expat foodies in Shanghai need to discover, save and share great eats easily because there are so many ways to find restaurants that it becomes difficult and time-consuming to sort through.


I conducted a mini Ideation session to imagine everything my dream foodie app could be and do. I decided to focus on visual methods and push my abilities to think visually.

Mind Map

A mind map is a web-like diagram that explores all ideas behind a central question or topic.

How might we improve the process of deciding what and where to eat?
This mind map helped me understand the lay of the land, and gain an overhead view of the apps I use for food-related purposes.

Sketch Storming

Sketch storming is like traditional brainstorming, but with a higher focus on visuals over words. 

How might we help foodies build a library of their foodie resources?
Rapid sketching helped my creative juices flow, with each idea leading to another.

Story Board

A storyboard explores a scenario and visualizes the critical moments within the narrative. 

How might we help foodies throughout the foodie experience?
Storyboarding helped place me in a scenario and ideate ways to easily complete tasks.

Ideation helped me generate a ton of ideas for what my dream app could do. I’d like to introduce you to…

Shanghai Foodie Eats

An all-in-one super app for the finders, lovers, and makers of all things food in Shanghai. Made for locals and foreigners alike.

A list of features in the Shanghai Food Eats app are:

















To learn more about what these features are, and which Ideation method helped me generate the idea, please check out the file below.

I was surprised by how much I learned about a problem, and then how many ideas I was able to generate to help solve that problem in such a short amount of time. This was a very insightful exercise into the first three phases of Design Thinking. The only downside about this experiment is that now I really wish this app existed. 🙂

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