SPACE is LaunchPad Lab’s innovation program that allows us to explore, innovate, create, and solve problems — for fun. SPACE also provides opportunities for our team to live our Constants, such as making time for play, exploring, and seeing the long-tail outcomes from our experiments.
These missions have been crucial to our company’s evolution and have enabled LPLers to become pathfinders for LPL competencies, tools, and processes. There are many ways that SPACE projects or “missions” have influenced our company processes, but one in particular arose from our team’s work on Recipeasy — our blueprint workshop.
Inspired by a homemade recipe book that Paul, LaunchPad Lab’s Director of Product, and his wife received as a wedding gift in early 2016, Recipeasy was born — a collaborative recipe-building experience for food bloggers.
Before jumping into the building process, Paul and Monique, LaunchPad Lab’s Director of Design, took it upon themselves to do some demand testing by creating a brand, Twitter account, and an Etsy shop to evaluate interest in the product. Using their new Twitter account, they were able to engage with foodies and bloggers to drive some additional interest in the product idea.
The initial demand was lower than they had hoped, but the engagement from food bloggers on Twitter helped take the recipe book idea in another direction. One blogger was open to talking about an ebook she had available on her website, giving Paul and Monique the opportunity to dig deeper into why she originally created the ebook, what her process was, and what the pain points were. This hands-on research was only the beginning of how the LPL team would use this approach to talk to more users — for both the evolution of Recipeasy and our future processes.
For the bloggers, the ebooks served as a lead magnet with a variety of outcomes. Some sold them, some gave them away for free, and some of them used it to build their email list. But one thing was consistent – many bloggers said that they have had an ebook on their list of things to do for a while now, but lacked the momentum to make it happen.
Once this problem was recognized, Paul and Monique asked one of their contacts if they’d be open to paying for an eBook to be created on their behalf, which would help the blogger check this task off her long list of things to do. The blogger agreed, and the first iteration of Recipeasy began to develop.
The process of talking with real users and understanding their challenges has become a staple in LaunchPad Lab’s Blueprint Workshops, which utilizes design thinking principles to understand, validate, and test ideas. The purpose of these workshops is to set the stage for the product and answer some critical questions, such as what problem we’re solving, who are we solving this problem for, and what kind of solution are we creating.
Monique began to develop a concept of what the ebook’s recipe cards would look like inside of InDesign. By starting small and being hands-on, this gave Monique and Paul the opportunity to explore the limitations of recipes that they might encounter, such as if a title was longer than one line or had a longer list of ingredients.
The first ebook that was produced was received with positive feedback, giving Monique and Paul the encouragement they needed to evolve their process further. They began approaching bloggers by turning their three most recent recipes into an eBook customized to them, and then asking if they were interested in partnering together on a full-size ebook.
What began as two different InDesign templates evolved into using a Ruby script to parse out data, extract the JSON object and push the data into InDesign, which would then create multiple pages with the right variables. Later on, they were able to create an Active Admin portal that helped them manage the creation of these eBooks.
Paul and Monique didn’t use code until the very end because they focused on iterating in small sprints and hands-on research with the bloggers to learn more about what they need, rather than just jumping into the build.
The experimentation and exploration happening in SPACE projects result in successful outcomes, both for the individuals involved and for LaunchPad Lab. These projects (or as we say, missions) are intrinsic to our culture and have become a manifestation of our Constants.
Recipeasy brought many lasting outcomes that we still use in our product-building process nearly five years later. Paul and Monique’s work on demand-testing and product discovery evolved into what is now LaunchPad Lab’s Blueprint Workshop. In addition to becoming part of our process, it has also taught us a few lessons along the way.
Talking to users helps us better understand what to build.
Just because someone has an idea, doesn’t mean that it should be built. By talking to the actual users, we can validate the problem and ensure we’re solving the right problem, not just what people assume.
Not all product discoveries have to result in something being built to be successful.
If we go through our discovery process and find out that users actually aren’t interested in what our client wants to build, we still consider that a success. We don’t want our clients to spend money building something that won’t solve problems.
The users are typically right.
Similar to our belief of product discoveries being successful regardless of anything being built, we also believe that user research can validate or disprove an idea. For example, if 20+ users are having a similar problem or thought process, it’s pretty hard to argue that their point of view is inaccurate.
As one of our earliest examples of product discovery and user testing, Paul and Monique’s work with Recipeasy became a staple in our discussions with concrete outputs to point to. The learning experiences in our missions is truly what SPACE is all about, and we look forward to future Demo Days to showcase the outputs of our SPACE program!