Enhancing Dining Experiences: a UX Case Study

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SERVED is a concept for an iOS app designed to improve people’s overall dining experience at restaurants. This project is focused on a new standard, which is to enhance dining experiences from your phone. SERVED provides users with a convenient, easy, and reliable way to order food at restaurants from their phones — allowing them to easily order food from a digital menu, check order status while you wait, conveniently split bills, and quickly pay the bill whenever they’re ready.

The unprecedented time we are living in, I realized that restaurant ordering experience can be enhanced without jeopardizing people’s dining experience. Smartphone applications are used by individuals daily, therefore introducing a product where you can easily do everything in one place could amplify reach, inspire customers, cut costs and save time.

Dining experiences are important and can be drastically affected by a series of factors such as:

  • Having enough well-trained staff
  • Order’s mix-ups
  • Customers feeling overwhelmed by too many questions
  • Complicated menus
  • Unnecessary waiting

How might we help people enhance dining experiences at restaurants by innovating traditional menus?

The challenge was to prove the assumptions and hypotheses made at the beginning of the brainstorming. After several interviews, the prototype showed success in terms of feasibility.

  • Introducing a new digital menu app that would enhance the user’s experience at restaurants.
  • How restaurants are going to provide dine-in service after COVID 19. Whether the app would comply with the new dining measures of social distancing without jeopardizing the user’s experience.
  • I believe that innovating traditional menus would greatly enhance an individual’s ordering experience at restaurants, this would result in an increase of turnover and customer satisfaction.
  • The value offered from the product to customers and restaurants.

The Goal

To improve customer experiences when ordering at restaurants by making it easy and convenient. There should be less friction and more flexibility when people are enjoying their time at a dining experience with friends or family. Part of the objectives were to:

  • Innovate traditional menus to order food at restaurants (no more print menus)
  • Improve how customers are being served, letting them choose when is the right time for them.
  • Let customers choose to pay pay or split the bill in the best way for them and their party better without the wait or the pressure to do so.

Research

What makes a great dining experience? This was the first question I was trying to answer, because it can be a subjective concept based on people’s perspective. Secondary research was important to have a good understanding of a few markers that standout restaurant experiences share. Some markerts mentioned were efficient customer service, seating, ordering, paying, splitting the bill, the restaurant ambiance, and something unique.

Interviews

Next, I interviewed people for qualitative data. My criteria were for people who like to go to restaurants regularly with a busy schedule and appreciate a good dining experience. I wanted to know the different experiences each had yet similar motivations, pain points, and behaviours when enjoying a good dining experience.

Based on their experiences the interviewees agreed that there is an existing gap in communication between the waiter and customers. Findings showed that having a good dining experience consists on a convenient and easy way to get around the menu and payment and that a bad service can define someone’s experience.

“If you have a waiter that makes you wait too much time to order food or to get your bill that would add up to a bad experience”.

Persona + Experience Map

My user personas were created to reflect frustrations, pain points motivations, and goals from my interview findings. These thoughts and ideas helped me determine the overall design of the app. I also created an experience map to understand the user’s perspective.

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Primary Persona
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Secondary Persona
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Experience Map

Key Research Insights

Studying my user persona helped me translate user insights into a product that would aim to improve the user’s dining experience.

  • Facilitate communication between the customer and the staff.
  • Reduce order mix-ups
  • Give the customer freedom about their dining time.
  • Keep the user informed about the order status of their food.
  • Allow socialization through the app, dine with your friends, and automatically split the bill by seat, evenly, or if you are feeling generous, pay the bill in its entirety.

Task Flow

The main purpose of SERVED is a platform where you can find your favourite restaurants based on your location and also allows you to order from a digital menu once you are seated. The user would be able to make modifications to the order, follow preparation time, manage the bill, and self-pay.

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Ideation

My first approach to start ideating was pen and paper. The main task of ordering food was easy and straight forward. These initial sketches were based on user research.

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Paper Sketches

After sketching my wireframes, I used Sketch to get a digitalized prototype version. Here the challenge was how to make the flow as simple as I could without neglecting important information for the user.

Prototyping and Usability Testing

I developed an interactive prototype in order to understand if users would like or dislike certain aspects of the design. Each user was asked to:

  • Select a restaurant (Green Cafe)
  • Scan designated table
  • Order mini burgers and prawn sushi roll form the menu
  • Place order and check order status
  • Split the bill and complete the payment.

I did two rounds of testing one for each iteration. All of the interviewees completed successfully the tasks both rounds. Many stated that the app’s concept was nice and something they would consider using. They also stated that the layout looked good and were easy to understand.

The good

  • Useful and easy to use
  • Tasks were easy and straightforward
  • UI and hierarchy was clear and simple

The Bad

  • Confusion with some of the UX writing on some of the CTA buttons
  • How to get to the bill was a little confusing
  • Clear and concise language needed

The Need-to-Consider

  • Considering information the user values the most
  • Rethink the design to help the users get to the bill easier
  • Add a CTA button to call the waiter throughout the entire task
  • Additional categorization in the bill/checkout screen.
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Final Lo-Fi Wireframes

Visual Design

In an attempt to continue with the idea of a clear and convenient product, I took my time to understand what a strong visual design is, making sure that the concept gets represented by the design in the best way possible.

The concept of served is to connect people to their favourite restaurants through their phones. Aiming to minimize the wait, order mix-ups, and the operational friction with a solution that lets you enjoy a hassle-free dining experience.

The look and feel of the app are very important. I want the product to appeal to a wide range of people of different ages. Additionally, I wanted it to feel clean, minimal, innovative, dynamic, and convenient.

The process of branding was continuous, the name and the logo had several iterations. The best naming options were menuless, noon, tablebud, sirved until I stuck with SERVED. For the app icon, I looked into some inspiration on dribbble and started sketching different ways to represent the wordmark until it stuck.

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Octopus Illustration Reference: https://dribbble.com/shots/4603330-Octopus-Character

Solution

After a lot of research, testing, constant and careful considerations the final version is here. This high-fidelity prototype of the app was made using Sketch and InVision. This prototype envisions how viable the product is and how people would use it on a regular basis.

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Hi-Fi Prototype

The marketing website helped me promote the product, putting the whole process together. The design of this element was inspired by the app itself. This marketing site prototype was made with Sketch and InVision, showing just one page that contains Served’s value proposition, key features and how to use to help users understand the product.

Outcome and Next Steps

Working on this project has been a great experience and I have learned about the user-centred design process in detail. Understanding the process and looking to a problem space from a UX perspective has given me the information needed to design apps with a user-centred mind.

The main challenge with this project was interviewing individuals online and obtaining their insights as well as reviewing their body language given the present situation and social distancing. But the most exciting and rewarding part was to understand visual design and UI further in order to create an app prototype that would help people in the future.

To take SERVED’s concept to the next level, some interesting ideas would be:

  • Developing the ‘friends feature’ to make it more sociable and engage with more users.
  • The opportunity to translate the design into alternate platform such as a tablet version to improve interaction with the restaurant staff.
  • Apply usability to all the navigation bar icons so the user can create a profile.
  • Adding an onboarding and improving the signup/login
  • The opportunity to make the app more accesible by including Voice Interaction (ASR) so more people can relate to the product.

Thank you for reading!

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