Kai - food tracking app

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Designing a food tracking app that improves the recruitment and data collection experience for nutrition researchers

Kiwis are becoming more aware of how food choices impact their health. Studies show that people keeping a food diary dramatically increases the success rate of meeting their health goals. Our client, a medical PhD student, tasked our team with designing Kai, an easy-to-use food tracking app with a New Zealand food database.


The usual UX process starts from discovering and defining the problem, but since this project was grounded on the client's research insights, it was critical to check whether his research and insight was solid to proceed with our project further.

Project Scope

It’s two and a half months project, we planned to create a food tracking conceptual app with the following core functionality. • AI meal Scanning (with camera) • Barcode scanning • Manual input ability • Ability to view a log dashboard (e.g. See macro ratios)


This project was three-person group work. We all worked closely, supporting one another, so we were more flexible in our role in achieving this project to be successful.
My focus area was User interviews to understand their needs and mobile UI design to meet the standard spec for the mobile environment and aesthetic MVP level prototype design.


Desk generative research

To understand food tracking app trends, we researched food tracking apps that had a similar concept to what we would build. We downloaded competitor apps and tried them out, including reading user reviews of them on the App Store to help interpret their advantages and pain points.
We also explored what food tracking apps were available that used an AI meal scanning feature, as this was a key feature of the KAI app, meaning these apps would be our most similar competitors. Our client considered a 'Passio' AI technology; we investigated how accurately AI cameras worked too.

Analysis of client’s research

Client’s research examines how users can use a photo food diary to track their food intake more accurately and efficiently.
His quantitative and qualitative research determined whether text prompts improved under reporting by reminding participants to track their food intake using a photo diary app.
Based on participant feedback, the ideal product should: • Take minimal time and effort to log an entry • Be able to log food retrospectively (to account for forgetfulness and flexibility) • Needs a large and accurate database of foods and serving amounts

User Flow

We mapped out potential wireframes, and user flows based on the result of the 5-hour workshop with the client. We considered all possible situations where users may take different routes to complete tasks. We outlined what we expected to see for each step using user flow, putting an anchor to the AI camera.

Usability Testing #1

We conducted usability testing to learn their reaction to our prototype app and get to know improvement points. We asked before and after food app-related questions to better understand users' behaviour. It was an excellent opportunity to gain their insights and perspectives from user testing that our client didn't cover.

Insights & Pivot

The desk research and user interviews revealed that the market was already saturated with food tracking apps, and users didn't trust AI camera scanning. To make our concept more impactful, we explored how our app could meet the needs of a specific audience.
After discussing with the client, we decided to pivot to a significant pain point nutrition researchers in New Zealand face: Finding participants for their research studies.
How might we help people track their food easily?
How might we help researchers recruit participants for their studies?

User Interviews

We interviewed researchers about their recruitment experiences and listened to people who tracked their food before. We created user flows based on these insights, hypothesiㄴing how users might move through our app to achieve tasks.
Users like having freedom and control over how they log their food entries
Research study information needs to be straightforward to read
App tasks (e.g. logging food or signing up for a research study) needs to be low effort for users
Users need to know what happens to their data and give consent on how it will be used

Branding strategy

To establish the visual identity of the app, we ran a brand strategy workshop with our client to explore what colours, voice and tone we wanted users to experience.


Brand Identity and slogan

Design system

Our solution

Our final product caters for two distinct user needs. Kiwis who want a simple, easy-to-use app that helps them track their food accurately whilst having the option of sharing their diet data with researchers. Researchers who want to promote their research studies through the app recruit participants.


We have only scratched the surface in the design of the Kai app. Our recommendation to the client is:
Explore further use cases and flows
Explore other functionality the app may offer
Further development of the research-side functionality
“As a health-conscious Kiwi, I want to be able to log what I eat and see how I am tracking.”
Users have the flexibility to log foods via the method they prefer (barcode scanning, meal scanning or searching through a database).
“As a nutrition researcher, I want to be able to easily recruit participants for my study.”
Users can view and register their interest in research studies by completing a simple in-app screening questionnaire.