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Review my Webapp: How to make ______? (food) (recipepuppy.com)
102 points by kbrower on Aug 26, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments

Great idea. I like it a lot. I would suggest the following though. Most people are more concerned with what they can make with what they have.

Therefore, eliminate the need to pick a dish. Allow your user to select an ingredient, then narrow the list of options for further selections to only those ingredients that are common to dishes containing the selected ingredient.

For example, if you pick tomatoes, then parmesan, you can probably eliminate pickles from the list. Once they've selected the ingredients, then show them the list of dishes.

It'd be a nice touch to include if you have a limited quantity of something. Like... I have flour, salt, sugar, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, but I only have two eggs; what could I make?

Boiled eggs, fried eggs, poached eggs, or scrambled eggs.

Or pizza. You can either put egg on your pizza, or just leave them.

Awesome stuff. I think the asking for ingredients is precisely what makes it so awesome. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of recipe sites. Yours is the only one I know of that lets you search like that. It gives you a way to tweak your search to fit either what you have or what you like in a way that you really can't with other sites. Kudos on doing something new.


1. The URL/name is of questionable quality.

2. The pop-up box (which I got on a search results page, presumably because I have cookies disabled) is obnoxious. Get rid of it. No one likes pop-ups. Ever. Regardless why they're there.

3. The search box on the main page is a disappointment compared to the one you linked here. The combination of searching for a generic item (I used tacos) and then narrowing by ingredients is what you have that's brilliant. Play on that.

this is probably a dumb noob question and maybe not the right place to ask, but how did you get new lines in your post? all of mine were removed and as a result my response is not very readable

Leave a blank line to create a paragraph. I don't think you can have a standard line break, unless you post it as code (two spaces at the beginning of each line):


It is rather hidden but here are the formatting options: http://news.ycombinator.com/formatdoc

Thanks for your feedback

I have removed the pop up box, and I think I will come up with a better domain name for this type of search.

Might I suggest http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/3967/logonewcopy.png

In all seriousness, I think a nice open, fresh design would really help you. Something to really invigorate my appetite. I told you this the last time you posted, but I'll say it again, you might want to make your logo a bit more relevant. Maybe just a puppy's face with a chef's hat or something. The dog by itself isn't really working for me.

OMG the meatballs look like poop.

That logo is great :) Can I use it?

I eventually will give in to the design/domain name complaints.

Yeah go ahead. Just clean it up a bit, it's a bit pixelated because I had to scale things down.

I like it. One suggestion:

It would be more useful to exclude ingredients, rather than choosing which ones to include. Ideally I'd like to immediately see the results with a list of ingredients in a sidebar. I'd then eliminate ingredients I don't have or can't eat (e.g. gluten flour, chocolate, milk), which would filter the recipe list.

You can, but it obviously is not clear. If you hover over any ingredient on the results page a tool tip will allow you to "exclude ingredient"

Thanks for clearing that up. FWIW, its a lot clearer on the root page. I hadn't realized your link was actually to a subpage until I saw another comment here on HN.

I would still like to see a more intuitive filtering interface, but I like the way it works from the home page a lot better.


Thank you for making a website that I never knew I desperately needed.

As for suggestions, I'd suggest pushing your content closer together. Right now your left side is crammed up against your left margin with a gigantic bit of whitespace in the middle before you get to the pictures. Pushing these together would help content flow.

Awesome app, but what is up with the million Google ads everywhere. I even saw ads above the fold in the main content area ABOVE my recipes. If the point of the site is recipes, I wouldn't dilute it so much with ads. At this stage, you're probably not making a ton of money with the ads anyway - I think it just cheapens the user experience.

Get rid of the ads, and I think you have a really compelling site.

I know I shouldn't be making enchiladas... but do you really need to show me 4 Google ads for "Belly Fat Diet Recipe"? Fine! i'll make a salad.

with cheese

I'm actually somewhat disturbed by how popular that ad is. It's all I ever see while surfing, some days.

If the Web doesn't attract better quality advertising than those lame-ass belly fat diet ads, then Web advertising in general isn't going to be sustainable.

I don't think it's fair to just say "get rid of the ads". You should always be able to monetize your site somehow...

That said, they are a bit invasive... That might be solved with a redesign you've said you'll probably give in to :)

seriously, the first thing such a site need is a ton of users. and you'll get them faster by removing the obstrusive ads. then it should be rather easy to monetize the site -- doesn't even have to be google adwords...

The ads are very intrusive indeed. While glancing at your site, my senses heightened because my "be careful or you will click on a tricky advertisement!" sense was increased to CODE RED. The alternating ad-content-ad scheme is very much NOT friendly.

I got a little confused at the start. Eventually I figured out that recipepuppy.com/how is giving me something different from recipepuppy.com.

If I were you I'd get rid of recipepuppy.com/how and go straight to recipepuppy.com. It'd be worth having a few more "example" searches to give an idea what it can do -- it took me a while to figure out how to search for recipes _without_ a given ingredient.

The google ads are a bit too prominent -- they really get in the way. On my screen the results page comes up as mostly ads -- I only see one actual search result until I scroll down. I suggest being a little more restrained with the ads.

i really like the idea. i saw another site that lets you make something by specifying the ingredients, but didn't think it was all that great. i love this one! it's very usable. my one big complaint is that on the second screen (e.g. http://www.recipepuppy.com/how/?tomake=green+curry) the "Find Recipe!!" button is below the fold. this was actually a big issue for me because i kept checking things and then hitting "Make It!!" and i'm all like "wtf?? this doesn't work at all. it's just clearing out the checkboxes. where are the results?" because I didn't even see the other button and realize i was supposed to be hitting it. even after i figured it out, i kept forgetting and doing the wrong thing still. pretty cool once i got that glitch figured out. you are officially bookmarked my good sir

If you have a misspelling like http://www.recipepuppy.com/how/?tomake=eggg

You get an Error:

  404 File Not Found
You should try to add something like

  Did you mean: egg

The ads are too invasive

The results presentation is confusing in that if I specify 5 ingredients, I should be able to get the recipe with all 5 at the top of the list. In fact I get one that uses 4/5 at the top and the one that uses 5/5 lower.

You have a parsing problem (unavoidable) in that recipes that call for "lemon, juiced" do not turn up as hits on "lemon juice".

To reproduce the above, search for hummous, then tick the following: chickpeas, tahini, cummin, lemon juice, olive oil.

On the plus side: good job - I often do ingredient-based searches (eg on bigoven.com) and this is better that what I have seen elsewhere. Now you need an iPhone app so I can do this easily in the grocery store :-)


Doubleplus grest because it fully works without the need for Javascript and even Cookies, thanks.

I searched for a Pizza Salami, selected about 10 of the top ingredients and got about 6000 results. I then added some of the suggested ingredients and got more results (until I added an obscure one). Shouldn't more ingredients means a smaller set of recipes? Maybe you are using less strict rules (OR instead of AND) for later result pages, otherwise I cannot imagine why this happened. Well, minor observation really. ;-)

This app is amazingly helpful. And as someone living on my own for the first time (and thus grocery shopping completely independently) I have definitely bookmarked it.

I just did a Google search of a few elements I have in my kitchen and was really surprised to find your website as the top result. Keep up the good work!

I gotta admit, this is pretty awesome. I wasn't sure about how well it would work but I was pleasantly surprised.

Great work! I'll be using this for sure!

I love the idea! Love it love it love it!

But please make the "Find it!" button appear at the top as well, so I don't have to scroll forever.

I will definitely find a way to make this process better.

Awesome app. I think the domain name is a hit/miss. According to me it's easy to remember.

I would replace "Select the ingriedients you want to use:" with something like "What ingredients do you have in the fridge to make <pasta>?"

Another thing to think about is the color combination. I am no where near an expert, but it could be improved.

here are some nice suggestions of color combinations: http://kuler.adobe.com/#themes/rating?time=30

Excellent idea.

My main gripe is that when you get to the ingredients level I would remove the % part as it's a bit hard to read the page as is and have them grouped as "all recipes use:" "most recipes use:" "some use:" "a few use:" and have all and most auto selected and then some and a few are default not selected

I must say, I'm really impressed. My first search, a curveball, was "gong bao ji ding". Found, and a good recipe, too! A follow-up search for "kung pao chicken" gave a longer list, but all on topic. A search for "chocolate tart" yielded three good candidates among a number of irrelevant (little/no chocolate; not actually a tart) recipes. Notably, all three came from Epicurious. Neither "trotters" nor "pig's feet" are recognized as ingredients. So, a good start: I will actually use this tool, since it is definitely better than googling.

From a cook's perspective, it would be nice to have a way to search and refine by cuisine (Chinese, Italian, etc.) and by dish (appetizer, dessert).

The "Welcome" pop-up appeared after I had already done a search and chosen ingredients. Then it would not disappear after I clicked "close" or "back to this recipe search". I am using Chrome on Windows 7.

Sorry, this has been fixed(removed completely).

I got 125% of an ingredient by misspelling parmesan


You have combined 2 passions of my life: technology and food (I will be going to chef school part-time). Just when you thought there was no way you could create another recipe site, you create one that I actually find usable. Kudos.

Did you use a simple parser to parse ingredients or did you have a corpus of ingredients to parse against (or both)?

Forget the text field. I tried putting in a specific dish first before reading the instructions, and was puzzled when it asked me what ingredients I wanted to use. I figured "what the hell, I just asked it how to make this dish, I don't know what ingredients are in it". I say replace the text field with a concise list of dishes.

Having a list of popular dishes is a good idea. I think the real problem how clear the app is in describing itself. I will work to fix this.

Ingenious idea, excellent execution.

Small suggestion: on the results page, I mistook the "Search by Ingredients" field for the "How to make ___" field. It would make more sense to have the "How to make ___" field up there, and the "Search by Ingredients" field somewhere lower down, perhaps under the results summary bar.

I think it is a very nice idea. Although looking at the percentages %%%%% immediately after the search makes it look a little bit more confusing. One suggestion could be to use different colors to express the same idea. I think you already thought about this. Great job!

i really like it i've loaded this twice though and you changed the search from what i can tell. the first time it was pick a dish, now its pick ingredients

I know there were some comments about picking ingredients instead of dishes, but the search for picking a dish then selecting which ingredients you wanted was really good.

People will often know they want to eat a prairie oysters (for example - not that there's anything wrong with that) and not know what to put into the mix. With a list of ingredient (that make up prairie oysters) where people can check off what they like from recipes and get a custom recipe, thats amazing. don't get rid of that.

I dont know which is better, ingredient search or recipe search, but dont ditch the recipe one. for the love of god

Nitpick: "i.e." should be "e.g.".

Lose the double exclamation marks in your buttons.

It's rather weird having ingredient names rewritten (e.g., I did a search with "creme fraiche" in it and it came back claiming I'd asked for "sour cream") but maybe that's unavoidable.

Another nitpick:

I searched for burritos - naturally - and it grouped "tortillas," "flour tortillas," and "wheat tortillas" in separate categories, with "flour tortillas" having a larger percentage than just "tortillas." There are probably a few thousand cases where something like this would happen, but you will eventually want to edit it so that you have a more logical ingredient structure and better semantics ("Tortillas:", with subheadings of wheat, flour, etc., for example.) Getting your search results right is going to be a great deal of drudge work, but it will make the app better when you get to that level of refinement.

Idea looks good and useful. Give some quick links in the first page. Is it possible to suggest ingredients based on the already selected? Give mouse over titles to the images that are being displayed on the right.

One very minor suggestion: When you search for a dish that doesn't exist you should lead the user to a page that says so. I put in tepanyaki and while the url changed, it appeared that nothing had happened.

I'm sorry but it has to be asked; why "recipe puppy"? It's completely nonsensical. It eats anything you give it? It sniffs out things? I just can't see much of a connection..

It would be even cooler if it allowed to search for a place where I can get the ingredients I lack. Plus it might even be a source of income...

how about adding a list of popular searches, categories of food with rating on each individual recipe? I can't seem to think of anything on the spot.

Load it down with ads _after_ it becomes popular.

Very confusing. What niche are you trying to fill here?

I'm working on something similar but in a different direction, we should talk. I think we would compliment each other very nicely. my email is stevenpwalsh at gmail dot com

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