Urbanspoon, which was focused mostly on restaurant reviews, was looking to make a shift in focus to the dining experience itself and individual dishes rather than entire cuisines. There was also movement towards investing more in mobile. A focus was placed on figuring out what people might need at various points in the process of eating out – from choosing a restaurant, deciding on what to order, to leaving a review after the meal.

To brainstorm all the possibilities, we plotted a timeline of eating out and came up with a list of the decisions and actions that needed to be taken at each point. From there, we would decide what would be feasible to build and useful to integrate into the existing Urbanpsoon mobile experience.

One of these was to come up with a solution to the problem encountered upon seeing an unfamiliar menu item or ingredient in a restaurant. What can be done to make understanding the menu easier rather than having to look it up in a web browser or inconvenience your server? We decided to build a culinary dictionary – something to help define those lesser known food words found on a menu.

The challenge with the culinary dictionary was the short time frame provided to create it – about 1-2 weeks to get from conception to completed code. It also needed to integrate into the existing Urbanspoon framework and be something that would be quick to use in a restaurant setting.


While the content team came up with the dictionary and which information about ingredients would be most important, I tried to solidify the structure of the design as best as possible without necessarily knowing the final details or decisions.

I decided the most efficient way to integrate the terms was to words on the existing menus that had Urbanspoon definitions. A short quick glance definition would be shown on tap with an option to view more about the ingredient. More information included things like what food category it is, how to pronounce, and what it tastes like.


An icon set for the ingredient categories was also created.


The Culinary Dictionary was one of my favorite projects for several reasons. The brainstorming aspect was a lot of fun – we explored many dining-related needs that had potential to translate into some pretty interesting and useful mobile features. It was refreshing to exercise our creativity and to build something as a result of it.

It was also exciting to hustle on a tight deadline and still be able to communicate well with the team and get everything satisfactory and in place. The dictionary itself also turned out to be a solid feature, well integrated into the existing mobile structure and seamlessly part of the menu experience.

Finally, I found this feature to be extremely practical and something that I myself would definitely use in a restaurant. Although simple, the structure also left much potential for future possibilities of growth. Some ideas we discussed were being able to search dishes by the ingredients they contained, being able to find out what ingredients paired well with others, or being able to search for restaurants by ingredients their dishes contain.

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