Type: Personal Project
Tools used: Sketch, Flinto, Adobe illustrator
Duration: 2 weeks
Connecting students to cafe workspaces
As a student I often ran into the problem of trying to find a place to do my work. With the limited spaces here and all the features I need to work remotely, it was often the case where I’d enter a Starbucks nearby or go to another place to study and it’s just very uncomfortable. Thus, I challenged myself to see if I could design an application that would help myself and people that I have interviewed find boutique cafes where people can sit down, enjoy a nice cup of coffee and be productive for a couple of hours.
This is what I have come up with at the end of the two week process.
Chunking the information
When the user opens the application, they have the option to make an account now, continue with Facebook, or skip the creation process until later. The account creation process includes questions about their basic information, which post-secondary institution they attend, and finally a selection of filters.
Frictions: Having to create an account first can be very off-putting. A long process that is required to help match the user cafes that match their needs.
Positive Touchpoint: I split up the onboarding process into individual screens so that it becomes easier to complete. In the filters portion, I decided to use sliders to select how much the user is willing to spend. Sliders are also used to filter the hours of operation of cafes. This is done to match the user's schedule with cafes that will actually be open.
Discovering the workspaces
I went with a card based interface in order to chunk categories and present basic information that is relevant to it. Users can get an look through multiple cards quickly and identify without having to tap into each and every one.
Friction: Utilizing cards is sometimes a double edged sword. On one hand it separates spaces in a way where users can quickly shuffle through them. However, when you introduce multiple categories, the information can diluted and the user could end up unsure of if the space is really right for them.
Positive touchpoint: To help reinforce user confidence in choosing a space, I introduced "Result Filters" which acts as a quick tab for users to view and change up their filter settings. The more upfront visual hierarchy of this feature reinforces the idea that each space is filtered to what the users have chosen, thus boosting their confidence.
Google places integration
Google places gives an estimate of how busy certain places are on an hourly, daily, and weekly basis. I am using google places in my application to help the user find out when are good times to go, as well as the current status of the cafe they are looking at.
Frictions: It can be hard to tell how busy a cafe is going to be without physically being at the location. Finding a feasible way to represent how busy a certain places is was one of my biggest concerns.
Positive Touchpoint: Google places does a really good job at using location services to identify how busy places can be. I decided to leverage this service and implement it into my design.
Where are the power outlets?
One of the major points in working remotely is that the user has everything that they need. This called for an amenities section within the cafe page itself. I wanted to take amenities further however and try to show more content that is relevant to what my interviewed users were thinking about.
Frictions: Users were delighted to know that a particular cafe had the amenities they were looking for. But some amenities required the user to physically be at the location first. An example of this is the placement of power outlets around the cafe. You can tell the user that (Cafe A) has 4 outlets, but the information is not really relevant unless they specifically know where to sit in order to access them.
Positive Touchpoint: I wanted to take the amenities feature further to deliver information thats more relevant to them. Going back to the example of the power outlets, I provided a basic floor plan of the space which highlights which seats would be accessible to power outlets. This liberates the user from having to spend time to look around for them upon arrival.
Minimum viable product
After condensing my research into one document, I was able to list out what my design needed to address first. This included what the peak hours of the cafe were, if there was any car or bike parking nearby, and if there were enough power outlets to go around. I also conducted a precedent study of some similar applications which helped me fill the gaps in my project. Some of which included: Moovit, Airbnb, Yelp, Breather, Pinterest, and Gasbuddy. The precedent study not only helped me with content planning, but also influenced the visual design of my final prototype.
Exploring other ideas
After laying out the minimum viable product, I had also kept a list of ideas close to me that I had come up with. Some of these I call "The shower thoughts", where I would write down ideas that jump into my mind at any given moment. Some of these ideas are unfeasible, but it feels good to know that I'm learning of these now better than later.
Problems with the project
I have taken this app to be reviewed by my peers and they ask me why students? and why specifically cafes?
"There is that universal truth that says that we are the worst possible clients for ourselves."
I have heard of the above quotation many times from my peers and instructors. I was afraid of the process to be honest. Even after asking a couple of peers what they thought of the idea and if they had suggestions or tips on how I could approach this personal problem.
Some of the critique that I received included:
1) What makes this different from yelp?
2) Different types of students (faculties, seniority) have different needs when it comes to workspaces. How can your design be more inclusive?
3) What about other workspaces that are not cafes? (Libraries, Offices, Home)
All of these which are very valid points.
I initially felt a little down after my peers shot down my idea. However, I realized that if even then I still did not go with the idea, my troubles and questions would never be answered. In the end, I picked up the gauntlet and decided to do it myself, designed not only for my needs, but for a group of people that shared my views as well.
After all, the things that we do can’t be measured. At least not immediately. At the end of the two weeks, I had come up with a prototype that I had addressed the needs of what my peers and I were looking for in terms of a cafe workspace.
It was an interesting experience. My peers and I liked the brand, the experience, and the visuals. After all, I thought a little about why it felt so rewarding and nice. I had finally designed something by myself and I have learned a lot from it.