While at Sun Basket, I touched on everything visual in the Company, including Packaging, Print, Marketing, Recipe Books and the web application, but the Mobile applications were my primary responsibility. I managed the all product design, and front-end engineering. I worked directly with a business owner on the marketing side, as well as a product manager to ensure that changes were in lock-step with Marketing, and web application releases.
You’re a woman somewhere between 28 and 50, and somewhere along the way, you've realized that you can no longer eat like a college kid, and neither can your husband (you may have one or two kids as well by the way). You both have started listening to your bodies, and this has led you to a personalized diet somewhere between paleo and keto. You feel great, and you’ve lost some weight. Heck, your kids are even eating healthier too. But you keep falling into a rut, and cooking the same thing, and it’s almost impossible to organize your week so that you have good, healthy dinners on the table every day.
If you don’t already know, a ‘meal kit’ is a box of ingredients with a recipe that is shipped to your door. No food waste, and high quality cuisine make it worth it for those who can afford it. Sun Basket stands out with a focus on healthy eating, and high quality organic ingredients.
Under the hood, the meal kit business is incredibly complex. For me, coming from pure software, having to support an actual perishable object that needs to be packed and shipped each week. And users are particularly passionate when it comes to food. The logistics of packing roughly 80,000 customized boxes per week from multiple distribution centers is simply dizzying, but Sun Basket just crushes it with a very small, focused team.
From a 3 Recipe Subscription to a Full Marketplace
There have been many, many feature changes and projects that have evolved the Sun Basket app, too many to detail here. But I will focus on recipe selection, which has undergone multiple changes during my time at Sun Basket.
2016: 3 Recipe Subscription
When I arrived in 2016, Sun Basket was a simple meal kit whereby the user signs up for a subscription whereby they select 2-4 recipes per week from a list of 12. They could skip individual weeks. The goal was to keep users from ‘churning’ (leaving), and to try to get them to skip weeks as seldomly as possible.
I was hired by Sun Basket July of 2016 to produce a Sun Basket Mobile app. Mobile apps are ideal for products that require constant engagement. Sun Basket depends on people coming back every week and engaging, and hopefully skipping as few weeks as possible. Having Sun Basket on the user’s home screen was an obvious solution to keeping customers and reducing skip (assumptions that were born out by subsequent data).
It was unclear at that time just how crucial the app would be. At that time, we thought it was possible that the app could make up as much as 80% of all use, and so we had to develop a design that would allow users to be completely comfortable
At that time, most users were using the desktop app, and some (I seem to recall about 15%) we’re using mobile web. Some user research revealed more detail on how users were selecting:
The photos were very important to scanning, selecting, and the general engagement. Users would react with their stomachs. The typical eye movement is to be bouncing back and forth between title and image.
Users fell into three distinct types: planners, tweakers, and set it and forget its. Planners liked to arrange multiple weeks in advance. Tweakers reacted week by week, and would often tweak a week multiple times, and ‘set it and forget’ users like to just let the boxes arrive based on their meal plan without much customization.
Sun Basket Desktop before the Mobile App
At that time, users would put in a number beside each recipe to select it. This seemed clunky and a bit confusing, as the vast majority of selections were 1. To remove a selection they had to click into the number field. A common behavior was to remove items before adding others. If the user dips below the 2 minimum recipes they would be in an error state until they added enough recipes. Thus, the user is being led into an error state by the UI, which doesn’t make for a good experience.
The First Iteration Sun Basket Mobile Recipe Selection
The challenge was to combine the comparative with the immersive to allow the user to have the organizational experience of easily being able to see all the recipes they’ve selected, while not losing that vicarious experience of the larger recipe tiles. We decided to evolve the web experience with some solutions that would allow us to build a mobile app with patters similar enough to make for a consistent experience when users switch between platforms.
Use checks instead of numbers across mobile and desktop.
Use an ‘edit mode’. The user can choose to scroll a series of larger recipe tiles before entering into edit mode. Once in edit mode, they can see more recipes on the screen at once, and even dip down below the minimum before hitting ‘save’.
For ‘organizers’ have a ‘schedule’ tab with a vertical list of upcoming weeks so that the user can easily compare weeks, and manage skipping. Keeping skipping off of the main menu screen.
We needed the user to be able to handle everything other than skipping on the Menu screen however, and so it was very important to allow them to easily move from week to week. And so across the top, the primary navigation is to tap or horizontally swipe from week to week.
The first Sun Basket Mobile App Design with edit mode.
Ultimately, this ability to swipe sideways to access different weeks seemed very natural, and was very popular with our users. We later found that users who customized more tended to skip less, and that the more we successfully pulled users into a week to engage, the less likely they would be to skip a week. And so we tested a flow whereby when the user saves a week, then the app automatically takes them to the next week. Surprisingly, users didn't find this annoying, and it resulted in a small, but significant reduction in skips.
2019: Sun Basket Marketplace, and a shift in UX
A lot of changes happened to Sun Basket in the subsequent two years, the most significant of which was to add Marketplace, set of 150 additional products that the user could add on to their order. And so we began testing into changing the subscription model altogether, allowing a minimum box value instead of a minimum number of recipes, and even testing allowing users to order a box a la carte, without a subscription. The most significant change to the UX becomes a change to the primary left/right swipe navigation from weeks to different aisles of our virtual supermarket.
There are many changes to this design. The addition of all those new products necessitated a cart (the button in the top right corner). The cart then fulfills the need to offer the user an easy way to get a higher comparative view of everything ordered, retaining the immersive large image view of the recipes that encourages ordering. We still kept the schedule page, because we determined that adding the ability to skip from the menu page would increase skip too much. (You may notice that Colors and typefaces have also evolved at this point, a part of a larger branding revision that we undertook during this time).
Marketplace proves to be a success
In the end, the addition of Market items, in the context of the changes to this UI added $2.50 in average order value each week ($1.90 from 3rd Party Items, and $0.60 from Sun Basket Kitchen eg Salads/Dips/Sauces). Our weekly orders would fluctuate, but based on a mean of 50,000 orders per week, this is a $6.5M annual run rate,or $125K/Week in additional Gross Revenue.
On average, 10% of orders each week contained at least one 3rd party Marketplace item, while 4-5% contain a Sun Basket kitchen add on.
43% of active users have ordered an add-on, 27% have ordered 2 or more times.
Of those who have trialed an add-on, 55% repurchased (ordered again).