A high-fidelity mockup showing a screen from the Wild Bloom app.

Cookshop Understanding the needs of male-identifying home cooks and designing a recipes app to meet them. Exploring gender in UI.

Project overview

The objective was to design a recipes app for men who cook at home. I conducted primary and secondary research to assess the unique needs of male home cooks, if any, and the extent to which these needs are met or unmet by existing products.

Two interesting questions arose during the design process. The first relates to my own assumptions about recipe content online: is it written for women, is this an obstacle for male cooks, and how? The second question felt simple but wasn't: what exactly is "masculine" UI?

The outcome of the design process was a recipes app for desktop and mobile that helps an underserved group of home cooks express themselves reliably in the kitchen, inspired by a product that feels bold, exciting, and elegant.


  1. 1. Design a recipes app to answer the unique needs of men who cook at home.

  2. 2. Develop a responsive interface for the recipes app that will appeal to the target audience.

My role

UX and UI designer


15 weeks



UX process

Understanding the context

I began by conducting secondary research into home cooking trends and outcomes, paying particular attention to any differences by gender, in order to understand the unique context of home cooks who identify as male. I collected four important takeaways:

  1. 1. Cooking at home is good for you. It leads to improved diet and health, greater happiness, and a longer life. Women and married men have so far benefited the most.
  2. 2. Men love to cook. Studies have shown that 82% of men enjoy home cooking, compared to just 75% of women.
  3. 3. In spite of this, women cook much more than men in all countries. In 2020, only 1/3 of the meals cooked at home were prepared by men.
  4. 4. Men are cooking more often. Still, young men continue to experience lower skills and confidence in cooking than young women at the stage of living on their own for the first time.

My hypothesis was that access to male-targeted recipe material can help. Male home cooks require material that is interesting, relevant, and reliable.

Understanding the landscape

I conducted market research to find out what solutions exist, and how they address the needs of male home cooks. I found that while a variety of recipe apps appear to be neutrally-targeted, their branding and tone may be biased towards a feminine assumption. Explicitly male-oriented material was overwhelmingly focused on fitness and health objectives. There was little to no recipe material addressing an audience of men who cook for pleasure.

Bubble representation of competitors Summary of competitive analysis

Understanding the user

Primary research in the form of 5 in-person qualitative interviews and 1 quantitative survey of 75 tech-savvy male home cooks, helped me gain insight into my target users. The testing objective was to understand their cooking habits, motivations, pain points, and positive feelings about cooking. I found that

Users like
  • feeling inspired
  • building their skills
  • cooking for others
Users dislike
  • irrelevant content
  • unreliable recipes
  • grocery shopping


  1. 1. Subjects were a lot more motivated by creativity and cooking for others than anything else (health, independence, or the achievement of mastering a life skill).
  2. 2. None of the subjects said: “I don't like recipe blogs, because they sound like they are written for girls and women,” nor “the visuals on recipe sites are too feminine”.


I found no evidence to directly support my assumption that recipe content is overtly and overly focused on a female audience, nor that this alienates men from using recipes and cooking at home.

Certain frustrations shared by users, such as “too much fluff,” “missing steps,” and “everything takes longer than the estimate,” could be interpreted as the result of feminizing bias in recipe writing, but this is irrelevant to my design process. What matters is that these are needs and desires unmet by existing recipe products.

My design process would focus on addressing those, rather than the simplistic assumptions I started out with.



A comparative analysis of user and competitor research revealed an underserved niche. To fill it I would:

  • Support users who cook for pleasure and self-expression via intuitive recipe discovery and supported experimentation.
  • Support users who require clarity and information by providing reliable data.
  • Support users who cook for others by integrating easy measures adjustment, social features, and shopping list.

Paper prototype

Low fidelity wireframes
Early wireframes

I prototyped the core experiences of search, shop, cook, and share, and performed a round of usability testing with the objective of assessing the navigation and structure. Participants performed six tasks in a controlled environment:

Testing scenarios
Usability testing scenarios

I was able to streamline several flows, simplify the navigation bar, and create a clearer rating screen.

Before and after screen
Combining Search and Browse
Before and after screen
Improving the Rate prompt

Designing UI "for men"

The second interesting question in this design process was: what will make this product look and feel like a masculine recipes app? I started out with two potential directions.

"The Gatsby"

Tap to view Gatsby moodboard

The first direction is inspired by Jay Gatsby, titular character of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel: a self-made gentleman, admired as a brilliant host. It's a pared-down Art Deco style with a touch of French countryside to bring the feeling of effortless elegance and coolness to the kitchen. It expresses two core Cookshop values: independence, and the chance to shine effortlessly as a host.

"The Bond"

Tap to view Bond moodboard

This direction combines the calm and classic masculine style of a vintage cigar lounge with the sleek, ultramodern surfaces of the Aston Martin. It defines an elegant space that could house the recipe content with warmth and authority, resulting in a smooth and pleasant experience.

So, what is masculine UI? (re)Defining the rules

Cookshop's visual identity should be resonant and well-grounded in the real world. I dove into visual research of male-oriented brands to identify themes and zero in on the precise conditions that cause an interface to feel masculine. I discovered two:

  1. 1. Bold typography
  2. 2. Dark background.

Because Cookshop is a recipes app, two more conditions must be met:

  1. 3. It must look like a recipe app.
  2. 4. Text must be legible from a distance.

The answer

The question of creating a "masculine recipes UI" became irrelevant. The visual identity should not rely on stereotypical representations of masculinity. It should resonate with the target audience, support and inspire them to cook, host, and "show off their skills." After preference testing and additional peer feedback, I added three more conditions to my list. The visual identity must be:

  1. 5. Attractive
  2. 6. Appetizing
  3. 7. Exciting
Early iterations of the brand

Style guide

The style guide for Cookshop is the result of a deliberate effort to craft an identity that is grounded in research, so it can move beyond rigid stereotypes. Rather than flatly "masculine" it is warm, elegant, bold, exciting, and offers a visually engaging and inclusive experience.

Mockup showing a chef taking a mobile device out of their pocket.
Color palette
Color palette
Logo and reduction
Selected components
Custom icon set
Custom icons

The outcome: research and design in action

High fidelity screens High fidelity responsive screens

Key learnings

  1. 1. Challenging assumptions through research.

    In this project, I had to question my preconceived notions about gender bias in recipe content. Through thorough primary and secondary research, I gathered empirical data that enabled me to make design decisions grounded in real insights rather than assumptions.

  2. 2. Designing for inclusivity.

    The challenge of designing a "masculine recipe brand" meant creating a visual identity that speaks to my target audience without relying on gender stereotypes. I met this challenge by grounding decisions in research, exploring a wide range of masculine identities, and digging deeper to get the core principles that cause a design to feel "masculine."

  3. 3. Embracing an iterative approach.

    Throughout this project, I resisted the urge to "perfect" my own wireframes without testing them. I relied on testing and feedback to make incremental improvements. I learned the value of this approach.

Next Steps

  1. 1. Prototype interactions and test.

    A high-fidelity prototype and second round of usability testing will help validate the improvements made after round one, and to address new issues arising from the application of the brand.

  2. 2. Conduct an Accessibility Audit.

    Following usability testing, a thorough accessibility audit will ensure the app complies with accessibility standards and address any issues discovered.

  3. 3. Consider monetization strategies.

    A subscription model can offer premium features such as exclusive recipes or personalized meal planning. Strategic e-commerce integration for ingredient purchases can provide affiliate commissions. This would contribute to revenue generation as well as enhance the user experience: a dislike for shopping was prevalent among users.