Prevalent Scenarios in Dining

This first post of the multi-part “Designing the Dining Experience” seeks to summarize the research conducted to discover some of the more common scenarios which users experience when they are trying to decide on a place to dine at.

Our key focus-area is geared towards one very specific goal — designing an application to aid in the process of bringing users to restaurants, and bringing the restaurants to users. With this specific goal in mind, various interesting scenarios come into play. These scenarios were discovered through user studies and interviews carried out on people of various age groups and occupations. Exact details of these user studies can be found in the section on the right.

The Simplest Scenario : Where should I go for lunch?
This scenario is simple, but by no means should it be ignored or pushed aside. Many users would like to be introduced to new restaurants and dining venues which are in line with their tastes and preferences. Although existing solutions do exist in the market to aim to fulfil this very purpose, many users feel that these solutions could be improved on, made more user-friendly, and have extended feature sets.

The very fundamental problem of how to best present restaurants which are consistent to the tastes and preferences of the user is definitely an area which could be done better, and the series of posts on the “Designing the Dining Experience” website will seek to provide a guide to how to best design solutions to solve this key problem.

The Next Steps : Planning and Scheduling a Meetup at a Dining Venue
This issue emerged as a very critical issue to most respondents, as the majority of the respondents surveyed indicate that they face similar problems at least on a weekly basis. They indicate that existing solutions involve the need to hop between multiple different web services or apps, between venue finding services (eg: Google Maps, TripAdvisor, FourSquare, HungryGoWhere) and event scheduling services (eg: Doodle.com, Google Calendar), or simply manually scheduling them by typing in a group chat, and waiting for the other respondents to reject a particular timing if they can’t make it. Nearly all respondents felt that there was no application or service that was developed solely to help them solve this problem in an efficient and intuitive way.

The subsequent research will therefore be focused on solving the problems arising from these two main scenarios, expanding on the possible ways in which users can find themselves in either scenario, and showcasing the findings that were made in the field of User-Experience Design and Human-Computer Interaction, specifically in solving dining-related problems arising from these scenarios.

User Study Results

Demography of the participants of this user study

Participants were asked to state what sort of problems they believe are the most likely problems which can arise from dining. Here is a summary of the open-ended responses provided by the 50 respondents.

Note about results: Some participants gave open-ended answers corresponding to more than one option. Numbers shown indicate the number of participants whose responses corresponded with the particular category of problems.

After providing their open-ended responses, they were informed of the following two scenarios, and a proposed solution for each problem. They were then asked to provide feedback on it.

Introducing the potential problem to participants
In a society with many dining venues, such as restaurants, cafes, fast-food outlets, and hawker stalls, it is difficult to find the ones which you really like, the ones which are worth your time and effort to explore and patronize. There are just too many choices and selections of dining venues in the vicinity, and seeking out and discovering the dining venues which suit your tastes, preferences and priorities can be a great challenge.

There could be a significant value-add to one’s enjoyment, as well as to the businesses operating these restaurants, if there is a way to match the right customers to the right dining venues, according to their priorities, their interests, and their dining preferences. Potential customers should be able to discover these dining venues in an easy way, and in a way which makes contextual sense to them. For example, if a user travels past a particular region consistently, suitable restaurants in the region could be recommended to the user.

Introducing the proposed solution : Restaurant Recommender Feature
One proposed solution to this problem is to have a dining app, which runs on smart phones, automatically recommend new dining venues to the user. We shall assume that this list of recommended restaurants is smart, contextually relevant, consistent with the user’s tastes and preferences, and is accurately able to predict the type of restaurants which the user will most likely want to visit.

In your opinion, do you think the proposed solution to this problem can significantly value-add to your life and your enjoyment?

This question is regarding the immediate scenario : A scenario where you’ll want to discover new dining venues which are consistent with your tastes and preferences, and are contextually relevant. Also, you are not able to achieve the goals of this scenario easily with existing solutions.

On average, how often have you been in a similar scenario, per week?

Note about results: Participants could only select one option. The number shown indicates the percentage of participants who chose that particular option.

Introducing an extension of the above scenario to participants
As an extension to the scenario above, if you’re planning to visit new dining venues with friends, it is likely that you’ll end up having to find a mutually free timeslot between you and your friend(s). Often, this could be an issue that will require the manual checking of your calendar schedules to find a date and timeslot which is mutually free among the both of you. Sometimes, you may even need to resort to external scheduling services, such as http://doodle.com, in order to confirm a free timeslot.

Introducing the proposed solution : Plan Scheduler Feature
In order to allow users to arrange for a meetup with their friend(s) in an easy and hassle-free manner, the mobile app can intelligently help users decide on “when” and “where” to have this gathering, by integrating a smart automated mutual-timeslot scheduler, which syncs to the users’ online calendar to seek out free timeslots, as well as to recommend restaurants and dining venues which are consistent to the users’ tastes and preferences (similar to previous section). Users are still given the autonomy to confirm which timeslots you are really free and available, and to decide on which restaurants to go to, from a list of recommended dining venues.

This question is regarding the planned scenario : A scenario where you’ll want to plan for an event with friend(s) over a meal, for a timeslot somewhere in the near future, at a venue which is consistent with everyone’s tastes and preferences, and at a timeslot when everyone is free. Also, you are not able to achieve the goals of this scenario easily with existing solutions.

On average, how often have you been in a similar scenario, per week?

How likely do you see yourself in the scenario whereby you’ll want to arrange for a meetup with your friend(s) in an easy and hassle-free manner, as described in the proposed solution?

Note about results: Participants could only select one option. The number shown indicates the percentage of participants who chose that particular option.

Previous Post : An Introduction to “Designing the Dining Experience”

Next Post: An Introduction to Information Abstraction in Dining Apps

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