Blog Search
Press Shift + F on your keyboard to open the blog search on any blog page.

Creative Problem Solving with MURAL at Yummly - Interview with Ethan Smith

Written by 
Jim Kalbach
June 14, 2016

With online services, customers are just one click away from the competition. Keeping them happy and engaged is business critical.

Ethan Smith knows. He's the Chief Growth Officer at Yummly, a leading platform for finding and sharing for recipes, food recommendations and cooking guides.


Ethan heads up growth and marketing at Yummly, all of which requires a lot of creativity. That's where MURAL comes in.

MURAL helps him and his team design and solve problems visually even when they aren’t in the same place.

In this interview, Ethan talks about the importance of design at Yummly and gives his advice for working digitally. Follow Ethan on Twitter.

JIM: Tell us a little bit about Yummly? What are you all about, and what’s your secret sauce (pun intended)?

ETHAN: Yummly is a food discovery platform built on big data for food. Netflix and Pandora understand your preferences well. Why can't we do the same for food? After all, we eat 3x a day.

Yummly is a Silicon Valley based startup that is building the smart, personal and seamless platform for taste to answer the age old question "What's for dinner?"

We understand, analyze, mine and connect food data to deliver smart, personal & useful products that delight our users. We are able to do this through sophisticated, patent-pending technology, a hand-curated knowledge graph for food, and great user experience.

Yummly is a leading platform for discovering recipes and food recommendationsᐧ

JIM: Sounds delicious! What's your role there? What do you spend most of your time doing? And who do you collaborate with?

ETHAN: I'm the Chief Growth Officer, and oversee all growth and marketing.

The majority of my time is spent working with other members of the growth team, measuring our growth funnels, and coming up with new ideas to test to optimize our MAU's.

We collaborate with all the teams, and try to have growth included in most all projects. Specifically, we collaborate with the product and engineering teams to execute on growth initiatives, and the revenue team to optimize revenue funnels like ads and conversions.

mural 3
Mapping user flows across touchpoints in MURAL (click to enlarge)

JIM: What role does design and/or creativity play in your business?

ETHAN: Design plays a huge role in every part of our business. We take a design thinking approach to not only our product, but also marketing, revenue, and every part of our company.

For example, when we think about how to re-engage our users via email and push notifications, we take a user centered design approach to all aspects. Rather than simply focusing on numbers, we thought about things like how all of our communications can flow together, and how we can frame email and push as an ongoing conversation with each user.

mural 1
A mural for different product experiences at Yummly (click to enlarge)

JIM: What problem does MURAL address for you and your team?

ETHAN: We try to be as visual as possible when collaborating with each other. We do a lot of white board sessions where we sketch out ideas and brainstorm. This can be challenging when doing on a white board because we can't collaborate with remote team members, and it's hard to save the work for future reference.

MURAL makes this really easy. We also spend a lot of time analyzing other products, and we typically will gather a bunch of screenshots from others, put them in a mural, and compare and contrast.

mural 2
Comparing apps with side-by-side screenshots in MURAL (click to enlarge)

JIM: Many people tell us they like to work with physical whiteboards and printouts and such. Did you have any challenges getting your team to work digitally with MURAL?

ETHAN: We didn't have much challenge. We are all used to working with whiteboards and sticky notes, and the transition to MURAL was pretty seamless and intuitive.

JIM: What advice would you give other organizations looking to work digitally in general and get started with MURAL in particular?

ETHAN: The best advice would be to dive in head first, do a brainstorm session digitally with no paper, and see what happens. I think a lot of people will be pleasantly surprised at how well MURAL performs for things like sketching and brainstorming.

JIM: Thanks, Ethan! We're excited to see what you do with MURAL in the future. Let's keep in touch!


Also, join our weekly webinars for a demo of MURAL to get started quickly.

About the author

About the authors

Jim Kalbach

Chief Evangelist
Jim Kalbach is a noted author, speaker, and instructor in customer experience, experience design, digital transformation, and strategy.