The Tasty App
From a social-only video powerhouse to a native app with a million users in less than 4 months.
What is Tasty?
Tasty is the largest food brand on social, with millions of followers on Facebook. You might recognize videos like this Churro Ice Cream Bowl.
While teams at BuzzFeed made some attempts at representing Tasty’s huge popularity on BuzzFeed.com with lightweight branding of feed pages and articles, it wasn’t until my cross-functional squad was launched that BuzzFeed could double down on creating a uniquely useful, monetizable product that didn’t shoehorn Tasty content into the feed + listicle format.
How might we make home cooking fun and accessible?
1 product manager, 1 frontend engineer, 3 iOS engineers, 2 backend engineers, 1 data scientist, and me (lead product designer!)
Design and launch an iPhone app (+ backend tooling and sibling website w/shareable canonical URLs) in ~4 months to prove out whether Tasty has a future as a standalone O&O brand.
Hit (redacted) MAU
Sync public launch with anniversary celebration
Become a desirable partner for monetization/facilitate deal-making
Make structured data/SEO a priority to better leverage our content
Avoid workflow changes for content creators
Differentiation from social platforms
Along with the team’s product manager, I dove into Tasty headfirst by understanding what we could do uniquely for our audience. First, I dug into market research that BuzzFeed’s team had collected. To augment this and get a better understanding of what a standalone digital product outside of Facebook or Instagram, we did dozens of phone interviews with Tasty followers across the United States to understand how Tasty fit into their cooking life.
We also got a better understanding of how Tasty fit in amongst other cooking resources by doing collaborative competitive audits.
What Tasty does for its fans (or, Jobs to be done)
Batch cook and save for later
Feel confident that “I can do this”
Connect with significant other by cooking together
Pure aesthetic pleasure
Relax by doing something creative away from screens
Accomplish something creative
Make something specifically for my picky taste
Save money instead of going out to eat
Cook healthy food for myself
Try something new/get out of a rut
Provide a basic idea that I can tweak
Bond with Mom
Differentiators for a Tasty standalone product
Not just a feed of videos. provide value Facebook can't by focusing on content density, searchable recipes, and easy-to-follow UI
At-a-glance step by step - improve beyond the current experience of rewatching/scrubbing videos over and over in the kitchen to follow along
Vegetarian mode for our vocal veg audience
Search based on use cases and events, not just dietary restrictions
Keep content fresh and resurface evergreen content – with no manual curation
Provide metric values for non US users
Early on, I began blocking out the core IA of the app on the whiteboard to get consensus from the team. This helped guide the direction of API while the frontend design was still very much in flux.
The biggest area of investigation was the home screen of the app – what we came to call the discover feed. We had a huge back catalog of content that wasn’t being used to its fullest extent. Typically, Tasty’s traffic was driven largely by new videos or republished content based on a social media strategy optimized for Facebook. Our standalone app, though, could recommend timely and relevant content to satisfy what users might really looking for at any given time – like easy chicken dinners on a Wednesday, or cocktails around happy hour on Friday.
Through recurring usability tests with users and internal stakeholders, we began settling on a basic structure: a featured item with a high confidence it’s something a user wants to make, carousels resurfacing timely evergreen content, followed by an infinite reverse chronological feed.
There was no existing visual language at that time so as I fleshed out the basic bones of the app, I was in parallel developing a style guide and testing it against our core use cases of search and discover.
Refine through prototyping
Throughout the process to get to v1 launch, I built dozens of clickthroughs and higher fidelity prototypes, testing and refining each key feature and screen. Providing a comprehensive but intuitive search and filter experience was an integral feature at launch.
More than just discovery, our mission was to really help people to take Tasty’s “food porn” and get into the kitchen – so using a recipe needed to be legible both up-close, and from arms reach in the kitchen. Even before these prototypes, I did a lot of exploration of visual detail – how to structure the ingredient list so it’s easily scannable, and how to make our step by step mode easily accessible from a fixed CTA as well as deep link into a single step.
How did we do?
Hit aggressive deadline with worldwide app store launch in about 5 months, had over a million active users in 1 week, and consistently maintained 4.9 star app store rating since launch
Added connected device support in the fall
Proved enough stickiness and opportunity for partnerships/monetization to pursue an Android app, iPad, and a standalone website
All in all, it was a success bolstered by the continued work we put in to flesh out our offerings as we learned more about our users’ behavior. Before my departure, I also designed and shipped features including: natively rendered articles, alternate log-in methods (phone), a Walmart partnership, connected cooktop, iPad support, improved saved recipe organization and recipe ratings and reviews.