For the Love of Food: Ask Irene -2.0

It is not a mistake. The newest version of Ask Irene is -2.0

A lot has happened since December 2017, when the original Ask Irene was born. In case you are new here, Ask Irene is a tool to find the perfect spot in Barcelona to dine, wine, and everything in between. It started out as a web app built in only 2 weeks and now is… similar but different.

In the past three years, a lot of people have been kind enough to share their feedback about this product. They have demanded new filters. They have requested a search bar. They have shared alternative ways to browse the spot list. And I have listened — i.e. I have taken notes. Lots of notes. With these and all the insights gathered from analytics, I ended up with yet another Trello board full of ideas, concepts, features and a roadmap that would need a team of a UI designer and at least two web developers working full time for the foreseeable future. As you might know, Ask Irene is a side project that is not monetized (a subject for another post) so that is not an option. It doesn’t even have to be.

After digesting all the feedback collected, some things are undeniable:
1. Virtually no one is using the profile and wish list features

2. Most users are only applying 1 or 2 filters at the same time (e.g. “Gràcia” + “Sushi” instead of “Gràcia” + “Sushi” + “First Date” + “Insta-worthy”)

3. What users are coming back to the platform for is reliable content so having old spots updated and new spots constantly added is key

4. Some users like to browse through the restaurants instead of using the filters (who would have thought?)

5. Users overwhelmingly agree that a search feature would be useful when searching for something specific

6. The product is pretty much only used on mobile (no surprises here)

So why reinvent the wheel? There is a perfect tool to include all these changes. It is called a spreadsheet. Sure, it might not sound sexy but this is how Ask Irene started and what it essentially is — a fancy spreadsheet full of carefully created content.

With that realization, it was time to go back to the roots, leave the old web app behind and switch to the most user-friendly database creator there is: Notion. There I created a simplified and streamlined flow for users to do what they came here to do: find a good spot that matches their needs. With this simple goal in mind Ask Irene -2.0 was born.

Now users are able to:
1. See the full list of spots to freely browse them

2. Check the spots’ pages to find useful information

3. Use the search feature to look for specific characteristics (Natural wines? The best ramen? A Barcelona classic?)

4. Get inspiration from quick filter bundles

5. Avoid having to manually apply any filters

That’s it! Thanks to these changes, Ask Irene is now cheaper and easier to maintain both from technical and content perspectives. Need to change a filter name? No problem. Want to add a new spot? It is done in 2 minutes.

I get it. Having a design spreadsheet might not be as cool as having my own app but what these changes essentially mean is more frequent updates, more places to choose from and easier ways to find a spot. In other words, helping more people discover their new favorite places. If Ask Irene can fulfill that need, its mission is definitely accomplished.

Product Owner👩🏼‍🔬 Freelance Writer 👩🏼‍💻 Food Nerd 👩🏼‍🍳

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