Q&A with Ethan Smith, Head of Product
Company name: Yummly
Background: Yummly was launched in 2010 by foodies on a mission to invent the ultimate kitchen tool. Whether it’s finding a recipe or going to the store, Yummly wants to make it easier for foodies to do what they love – cook, eat, and share! Yummly’s mission is to be the world’s largest, most powerful, and most helpful food site in the world.
Today, with 10 million monthly unique visitors, Yummly is succeeding in its mission and has become the fastest growing food site in the world.
A peek inside the company and its creative workflow
1- How did Yummly get started? What was the core idea behind the project?
Yummly was started by a technologists and food lovers. Dave Feller, CEO and founder, got the idea for Yummly when he realized, “I couldn’t find a way to search for recipes and exclude anything with mustard.” Some of the most successful Web companies have applied technology and data in other domains like movies, music, and shopping. We decided to use the same approach with food and build a digital kitchen platform.
2- One of the most salient advantages over Instagram is that users are able to make queries that elicit relevant responses. Was this an objective from the beginning?
That was the core objective since the beginning. People should be able to easily find recipes they will love. People shouldn’t have to constantly add all their dietary restrictions and allergies, or specify all the ingredients they don’t like. They shouldn’t have to search through dozens of recipes that don’t match their preferences.
Taste is both personal and complex. Yummly quickly learns over time what your taste preferences are, and helps you discover the most relevant tastiest recipes with little effort.
3- Some weeks ago you release the Yummly Recipe API to the public. What is the initial feedback? Which is the next milestone after this?
The feedback was overwhelming positive. We’ve gathered hundreds of thousands of recipes and spent years creating algorithms to understand and structure those recipes. This is a huge amount of work, and our api now let’s other companies build on top of this. We’re working both with large established companies as well as many smaller developers, and already have over 1,000 api users.
4- How many people are involved in creative processes at Yummly?
Our company has 32 people, and I can honestly say that everyone at Yummly is part of the creative process.
5- Where do you get inspiration from? How do you sort out this input?
We get inspiration from as many places as possible. We spend a lot of time talking to users through interviews, user tests, ethnographic research, surveys, and behavioral metrics. We are also passionate lovers of food. All of these become our sources of inspiration.
How Yummly uses MURAL
1- Please tell us about your brainstorming sessions and the tools and rules behind them.
Many of us have design backgrounds and experience conducting brainstorming sessions, and our approach varies. Typically, I will work with 1 or 2 other teammates on a particular feature. We discuss the topic first. We then separately explore the topic and develop ideas independently.
I usually take a bunch of screenshots of other products, find bits of evidence from user research and our metrics, and generate ideas based on these sources of inspiration. I will add all these to a MURAL board as a mashup, and share that with my teammates. They will do the same.
MURAL lets you share in a natural and visual way.
We then have a collaborative working session where we discuss our ideas, and build our ideas together using the initial murals. I prefer this approach to traditional brainstorming methods because I find it is a more efficient use of time, and produces deeper, more creative ideas.
2- MURAL is at the center of your product development workflow, how do you use our tool?
I use MURAL to share my inspirations and ideas with my teammates like I described above.
Often times, I find great ideas in other products for things that I’m not currently working on, but I want to save them for later use. For example, Google recently redesigned many of their products like Google+, Hangouts, and Maps. They added some nice callouts in their UI to get users to adopt new features. I took screenshots of all of these examples, added them to a MURAL board, and shared with my teammates. Next time we focus on UI callouts of new features on Yummly, we will already have a repository of great examples and inspiration assorted in one place.
I also use MURAL to share my designs and soliciting feedback. As the murals are open and visual, teammates can easily comment on my designs. This is much easier and more precise than providing feedback via email.
3- Why would you recommend other product developers or creative teams to use MURAL?
MURAL is the #1 tool I recommend to other product developers and creative people. Email, IM, Google Docs, Microsoft Office, and other forms of communication are good for many uses, but they all constrain you from communicating in a visual way. MURAL lets you share ideas in a natural and visual way.