Zesty empowers companies to eat well, work happy and be awesome. Since launching in 2013 and raising over $20M in funding from top Silicon Valley investors they've been able to serve healthy, delicious food experiences from the best local restaurants to some of the most innovative companies in the world.
During my time worked closely with the two founders early on with their mission of creating an application that would make it easy to order healthy food in cities across the world. As the first employee and the only designer at the rapidly growing startup, there was always a lot of work to be done.
I was fortunate enough to have had complete ownership over the design direction for the company's presence both on and offline, even after change in company direction, which has since contributed to the success of the five-star in-office catering experience Zesty provides.
Our challenge was to connect a large and growing demographic to high quality, reliable healthy food options through a mobile application.
Understanding the palate of our demographic
After partnering up with a number of top restaurants within San Francisco, we needed to define our offering. We knew from previous conducted research that there was a large growing market for healthy food options. We just needed to ensure we were providing an adequate service.
Leveraging our networks of friends within the city (which were mostly tech workers), we quickly found that there were a lot of different things people looked for when it came to "healthy food". We discovered that the term "healthy" means different things to different people.
To some, things like salads and organically sourced ingredients were deemed healthy foods, others looked towards calories and nutritional information, and on the other end of the spectrum we had people with severe food allergies that categorized healthy foods, as foods they could and couldn't eat.
The spectrum of information was very broad but it gave us a clear idea for our boundaries. Creating constraints was an important step in our process as it helped us to hone in and focus on our offering. Since our initial market would be people within the tech community we knew that the potential technical barriers were not an issue almost everyone fell into the category of being a hungry power user.
We also discovered that the majority of our users used iOS devices. This made our initial platform choice very easy.
Aligning our expectations
Before jumping into the deep-end I wanted to ensure that what I was working and the decisions made had a purpose. The design principles that I implements were;
Honest — Dealing with potential information data that could cause potential harm if incorrect it was imperative that the user experience should not mislead and the user interface should always be clear and intuitive.
Educate — Since the term health has so many different conceptions we must provide education to help support our views.
Value —As we were a small startup we wanted users to feel valued, the product should reflect this at all times. Users should feel as if their word is accounted for and heard.
Relevance — Every element, feature and interaction should provide relevance to the user and should aid in their ability to complete a task.
Premium experience —The application should invoke a premium dining experience, and give the impression that we care about what they're ordering.
All design decisions were aligned with these principles in order to create a seamless and valuable experience for our users. We wanted the product to feel a cut above traditional food delivery applications.
Designing with data; outlining the most important features
We started to form a clear idea for how we could penetrate the market, providing a solution that would act as a blanket over the term health, enabling us to take the upper hand in educating people on what the term healthy should be referred to.
Our restaurant and dish database were starting to build up and we were ready to start putting pen to paper. As we were a small team of 5, we had very little issue executing on our ideas.
Working with the CTO, I began outlining the key features in detail and how they would tap into the large amount of data we were capturing on each dish we wanted to serve.
When dealing with data that could effect peoples health (such as food allergies) it was very important that we found clear pathways to access and display this information. Over looking this could have caused serious harm to an innocent user.
With our product scope defined it was time to start working on how this information will be displayed, things had to be intuitive and accessible.
An interesting challenge arose when trying to pack all of this valuable dish information into small digestible components. I needed to think of ways to present information clearly whilst not distracting from the potential food photography of the dish.
After all our main underlying aim with this product is to satisfy hungry people.
Designing a system for consistency across varying screen sizes
As we were only going to be launching on iOS to begin with, there wasn't too much pressure with having to worry about cross platform consistency.
With that being said I still set out on my usual path to create a simple and effective design system that allowed all elements to be proportioned in harmonious fashion.
Catering for a two sided market place
As we began to grow our restaurant database we realized that it would be a great opportunity to give more limelight to the restaurants we partnered with.
Each restaurant had a devoted profile with their most popular dishes listed in order to gain more exposure. This created a great new way for smaller restaurants to be seen beyond our application.
Launching our product, being featured in the AppStore and being accepted into Y-Combinator
It was finally time to launch our product to the market, in the weeks prior we had offered users the chance to beta test the application in order for us to get some quality user feedback before releasing it on the AppStore.
Press releases were written surrounding our launch on TechCrunch, Womens Health and The San Francisco Business Journal which sparked some great interest from people all over the city. As we were still only in San Francisco this enabled us to refine our product further without the overhead of having to deal with multiple markets, but what we had found was that our recent nationwide popularity sparked interest from short-term visitors of San Francisco.
A few weeks later our app was featured nationwide under "The Best Food and Drink" apps and managed to hang in there for 3 consecutive months. During this time we were gaining a lot of traction and in doing so were accepted into the Y-Combinator program where we had a change of direction with our product... The rest, as they say, was history.