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What’s for Dinner?

Perpetuating and Allrecipes Solve the Eternal Question with a Fun & Dynamic Mobile App

If you are like millions of home cooks, you already know where to find the answer. Allrecipes.com is the go-to source for amazing content when it comes to finding top-rated recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and more. With in-depth ‘how-to’ videos, peer reviews, automatic shopping lists and the ability to search by ingredient, Allrecipes has become the leading brand home cooks visit across the web and mobile to make their lives easier and their meals more enjoyable. 

With the explosion in mobile usage and home cooks’ growing interest in engaging with favorite recipes in-store and on the go, Allrecipes broke new ground in 2008 when they introduced Allrecipes Dinner Spinner, one of the first recipe apps available in the Apple iTunes store.

Fast forward five years to witness a mobile market that has evolved at a breakneck pace: by December of 2013, more than half of Allrecipes global brand visits are coming from mobile devices. In a relatively short time, the mobile marketplace had undergone significant changes, including new operating systems, devices, platforms, and content types – bringing with it new challenges and opportunities. In the summer of 2013, Allrecipes set out to find a development partner to help create a completely reimagined version of their Allrecipes Dinner Spinner app. Allrecipes was seeking a mobile development partner that shares their passion for innovation, possesses an unbridled commitment to the best possible consumer experience, is highly skilled in the latest platforms and API integration, and that can work at a rapid pace to meet tight deadlines—all while meeting cost objectives.  After receiving a recommendation directly from Apple Inc. and speaking with existing Perpetuating clients, they found that winning partnership with Perpetuating.

“Perpetuating is honored to be named one of Apple’s top app developers, and we had full confidence that we could bring our specialized capabilities—including our technical savvy and mobile strategy expertise—to deliver an outstanding final product for Allrecipes,” said Sanjay Patel, founder and CEO of Perpetuating.

Building for Continual Success: Strategic Goals and Future Vision

Successful mobile design starts with careful analysis of existing consumer behaviors and future business goals to ensure app design aligns with consumer and business needs to deliver the intended results. One of the major goals for Allrecipes was to build Dinner Spinner to allow for future growth through new monetization opportunities. The initial launch included both display banner advertising and pre-roll video advertising, while innovative monetization features could be easily integrated in the future.

“A critical design goal was to provide a fluid, seamless, unified experience across all devices and platforms in a way that felt cohesive to the user,” said Vasantha Kostojohn, Director of Product Management at Allrecipes. Although Allrecipes had previously developed apps for iPhones and iPads, the two apps had been developed separately, with each offering a unique set of UX, design, features and functionality. “Today’s connected consumers use multiple screens throughout their day, and they expect the brand experiences to be consistent and fluid across devices, no matter which one they are using – so if they connect with and engage with content on their PC, for example, that same content has to be available when they access the brand on their mobile device,” she explained.

Allrecipes also wanted the app to drive deeper and more frequent brand engagement with its mobile users. “Among the metrics we use to measure brand health are visit frequency, content creation and saves, social sharing and page views,” said Kostojohn. “We wanted to create something new that would really deliver for our community of home cooks, so we included numerous new features that fully leverage our content investment, such as including videos and seasonal recipes.”

Perpetuating also implemented personal shopping lists and Recipe Boxes to further enhance user engagement. The new app launches directly into an ‘Explore’ mode that features fresh content every day, keeping the app experience fresh and interesting.

Engaging Design: The Importance of a Stunning UX

“Allrecipes UX, Product and Design teams are extremely consumer centric,” explained Kostojohn. “Everything we create is driven by user feedback, resulting in our having a fiercely loyal community, high user engagement and dynamic interaction.” As a pivotal leader on the project, Kostojohn was tasked to bring together the in-house design, development and QA teams at Allrecipes and manage the relationship, project and timelines with Perpetuating’s developer and QA teams. From Perpetuating, Jeremy Provost and Casey McKeag shared the project management and led the development team. “From the start of the project, the Perpetuating team was excited by the possibilities of breaking new ground with Allrecipes and pushing the boundaries of the app’s functionality,” said Provost.

When Allrecipes began the design phase of the project, all members of the team were driven by the core desire to deliver an outstanding, fun and innovative mobile experience for the Allrecipes community. In-house designers crafted a full, flat mock-up of the user interface to creatively utilize content and portray the desired look and feel of the app while aligning with Allrecipes’s brand standards. This served as a great springboard for Perpetuating to begin fleshing out the functional specifications. Translating flat design into an elegant app that accommodates all the desired features, adheres to best practices for usability, accommodates all use cases and works within the constraints of the development environment are a few of the core strengths that Perpetuating brought to the table.

However, Perpetuating is all about pushing the envelope. Some of the desired features, including the ability to “swipe” recipe cards to mimic the physical moving of paper, went outside the capabilities of the iOS7 operating system. “We had to engineer this functionality from scratch,” said Provost. “And we were happy to see that the result was exactly what Allrecipes had imagined.”

Making ‘Dinner Spinner’ Dynamic: Back-end Integration

Having a robust API was pivotal to successful integration for the app. “Allrecipes’ back-end team did a great job in supplying a sophisticated API that was easy to implement,” said Provost. The Allrecipes API team had already completed substantial updates to the existing API, including enhanced security and full access to user profiling and picture data. Given the amount of data available due to Allrecipes’s deep content and extensive user community, the challenge was in ensuring the app could meet performance expectations. “One of the core strengths Perpetuating offers is the ability to understand the client/server environments that process enormous amounts of data – and develop apps that intelligently minimize calls to maximize performance,” said Provost. Because “Dinner Spinner” is so feature rich and interactive, having this big data expertise was invaluable to Allrecipes.

Bulletproofing the App: QA is Essential

Errors kill engagement, and impeccable QA was critical to the success of the project. During the entire development process, the QA teams at both Allrecipes and Perpetuating were actively involved in a dynamic and ongoing collaboration with development. Multiple iOS devices, complex feature sets, and the large data exchange required were just some of the areas that added to a complex QA process. Working against an aggressive timeline, the teams successfully finished the entire project in time for the targeted holiday season launch.

Ready, Set…Launch

In December of 2013, Allrecipes released the completely revised Dinner Spinner app, having successfully integrated the majority of features and functionality originally envisioned. “As a business, Allrecipes is always expanding our user community—that’s what drives our success,” noted Kostojohn. “Community response for the app has been extremely positive thus far, demonstrated by strong growth in return frequency, new registrations, photo sharing, recipe saves, shopping lists adds and reviews—all illustrious of our success in creating a meaningful connection with our users.”

New users love the look and feel, ease of use, and unlimited possibilities to now access the fantastic content on all their devices. Whether planning menus in advance, learning a new cooking skill or consulting the app on-the-fly, the app is a constant companion throughout the cooking process.

“Looking back, a few things stand out that made the partnership with Perpetuating really work,” shared Kostojohn. “Their fluid communication, extremely fast response time and impressive technical ability to bring our entire concept to life were invaluable throughout the entire process.”

True innovators never stop, and both teams are busy working on the next update to include new opportunities and ideas for monetization and to continue to provide added functionality and new content. Dinner Spinner opens the world of interactive cooking with rich content and dynamic decision making at home or on-the-go. Now when asked “What’s For Dinner?” it’s actually fun to find out — thanks to Perpetuating and Allrecipes.

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