Why I Built Basil

April 11th, 2012

I announced Basil three weeks ago, and the response has been terrific. People seem to “get it”—a no-nonsense application that makes cooking easier. It’s incredibly gratifying to hear from customers that it’s the recipe app they’ve been looking for and they love cooking with it.

I want to talk a little about why I chose to make Basil.

Why a Cooking App

Simple: I love to cook, but couldn’t find the app I wanted, so I built it. That’s not the only reason, though—that bit of frustration was the catalyst, but there’s more to it. Making a cooking app doesn’t seem very exciting; it’s not pushing the boundaries of what the iPad is capable of, it’s not one of those apps that’s going to blow the minds of geeks (like me), and it doesn’t promise to radically change how we work or communicate with people or anything like that. It’s a cooking app.

In his review of Basil, though, Federico Viticci concisely explained what excited me about it and these sorts of apps. He wrote:

Basil is one of those apps that bring a solid, concrete meaning to Post-PC.

The iPad is a device that can make tasks that haven’t changed much in a while—like cooking recipes—better and more enjoyable in a way the PC never could. There are a number of recipe applications for the Mac, and of course there have been recipes online for a very long time, but the problem was that using a PC while cooking isn’t very nice. You have to find room for it on a crowded tabletop, and you have to use a trackpad while chopping, mixing, cooking on the stove and in the kitchen, often with hands covered in food. Using a trackpad or keyboard while in the kitchen just isn’t fun, and it’s not something many people want to do, so even for people who saved recipes from the web on their computer, many just printed them out on paper before cooking.

Effectively, while the PC and Internet gave us incredible power we never had before, it didn’t apply to the kitchen.

The iPad completely changes that. With its small footprint, it’s pretty easy to find a place on the table, and with its large screen, it’s perfect for viewing recipes. And, of course, touch is a much better interface when you’re focused on something else. What this means is that we can bring computing into the kitchen, and we can use it to make cooking a little easier and more enjoyable. People can store all of their recipes and the recipes they find in one place, the recipes are always organized, and they can see the recipe in big, readable text so it’s easy to reference when you have five different things going on at once.

In other words, I see an opportunity to use the iPad to make something a lot of people do better and more enjoyable for them. It’s not going to change the world, but we can make it better for a lot of people. That’s awesome.

What’s unique about the iPad, too, is that it doesn’t feel like a computer, cold and abstract. When done right, applications begin to feel very physical to users, visceral and human. They can mold themselves to how people think, so they don’t have to think. They can just do. I wanted to create an app that starts to feel like that.

That’s what excites me about the iPad: we can build applications which make things regular people do all of the time better, easier and more satisfying for them. We can make people’s lives a little better. That’s why I built Basil. That’s why I love this platform.