Making MealMind #9: More Planning

For the last several weeks, I’ve put MealMind on the back burner. It’s probably going to remain there for the rest of October, and then it’ll pick back up in November. There are just too many things going on for me to focus on it at the moment.

That said, I’ve been trying to lay out a more specific plan of attack for MealMind when I have the time to get back to it. One of the big issues I’m struggling with is the fact that there are lots of different parts to MealMind, they are all interlinked, and there isn’t a clear place to start. I also haven’t broken it down into bite-sized pieces so I can pick up a small, well-defined task and knock it out.

I think I’m leaning toward working these things next:

  • Define a logical recipe & meal schema
  • Pick some sample recipes & meals and manually map them to the schema
  • Build out the logic code to perform this mapping with a suite a test cases to confirm the mapping is successful
  • Start tasking out the process to take this schema and scale it up/down, build a shopping list of ingredients from it, calculate nutrient information, etc

At the end of this process, I’d like to point the system at a specific recipe url and have it give me a schema back along with the nutrient calculations. If I can get this part out of the way, then I can make progress on several other parts of the system, but having a really quick and reliable way to get recipes into the system seems like a good place to start.

Making MealMind #8: No Progress

I had more going on this week than I planned, so I didn’t get a chance to make any progress. I’m hoping to get things back in gear this coming week. I had a good amount of momentum going when I built the proof of concept app, but I need to rebuild that momentum for this version. At the very least, I’d like to get a marketing page up for MealMind even if I don’t make much progress on building the backend features.

I did start thinking about building the mobile app again though. I think one of the critical features as far as adoption goes is to get recipes into the system quick & easy. With the proof of concept, I have to type in each ingredient, break up the quantity, units, and description and all of that. I’m not even capturing the recipe steps in the proof of concept, so I have to augment it with the Paprika app on my iPhone. It’s funny, there are quite a few apps out there that are good at organizing recipes, showing cooking steps, and building shopping lists, but none of them do meal planning the way I want it done. All of these apps are basically little silos of data so there isn’t a great way to plugin to them so I can add just the meal planning side. To do meal planning, I have to rebuild everything else (recipes, shopping lists, etc) or the meal plans aren’t usable.

On that front, one of my goals for MealMind is to have an API so you can import/export data easily and other apps can build on top of it. If you just want to use it as a recipe database, it should be able to do that. The only catch with other apps using it is that the existing formats aren’t great for what MealMind needs once we get to some features down the line. That’s a ways off though, so I’m sure there will be lots of additional thought going into that over time.

Making MealMind #7: Still Holding

I’ve got several other projects I’m working on at the moment, so I still haven’t made any new progress on MealMind. I’m still toying around with some things like AWS Lambda as well as working on some totally unrelated projects. I think I’ll make some new progress on MealMind next week, but it depends on how the other projects go.

I have been thinking about the UX for MealMind though. I’m not at the point that I’m doing mockups or building out the “real” UI yet, but I’ve been thinking more about how it should work compared to the proof of concept app I have now. I’m considering taking a month or so to try working through some design books to see if I can up my UI/UX skills a bit, but I don’t know if that will be enough to make a difference. I’d love to have a real designer and UX expert to work with on this, but I think that’s a post-launch (and post-profit) thing. I expect I’ll try to find a decent HTML template that already exists and try to adapt it a bit for the initial version. I definitely like Bootstrap + some customized themes on top. It’s not perfect, but at least it helps to get things off the ground quickly.

We’ll see what happens this week, but hopefully, I’ll have something more interesting to share next week.