Michael Ruhlman, author of two of my favorite books about food, The Making of a Chef and The Soul of a Chef, has announced that he'll be releasing an iPhone app based on his latest cookbook Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. This is such a great use of the mobile platform, for three important reasons:
- Mobile Apps Should Be Mobile The worst use of a mobile platform is for apps that are better off in the browser or the desktop. The Google Earth app comes to mind. Why do I need that on my phone? On the flip-side, an app that's going to help me in the kitchen is exactly the kind of thing I want on my phone. Especially one like this, which is more like a recipe calculator than simply a recipe database.
- Mobile Apps Should Extend Existing Products Because of the low prices the market has set for mobile apps, the smartest apps (in terms of return on investment) are not money-makers themselves, but are extensions of already-existing products. A good example of this, aside from this Ratio app, is the Remember the Milk app. The app itself is free, but you need to be a paid user of the site in order to use it. In addition to being a useful tool, the app is a way to entice people to use the paid web service. In the same way, the Ratio app will drive people to buy the book, and vice versa.
- Mobile Apps Should Have a Compact Interface The best mobile apps have straightforward and succinct user interfaces. In the best case, users are using only a couple of fingers to navigate the app, so it's critical for the interaction paradigm to be spartan. On the other hand, if the app is too simple in functionality it'll be useless. So ultimately even with a pared down interface, the app needs to unlock huge amounts of functionality for the user. The Ratio app delivers here as well; the app gives you access to "32 critical ratios that form the backbone of the culinary arts" and ultimately enables you to create thousands of different recipes. That's a ton of power in a very compact package.
Ultimately we'll see whether the app actually delivers on these once its released, but I think it has tremendous potential. Kudos to Ruhlman for working on a project like this. Ratio App | Ruhlman.com.