Designing Nearspace

Medium for finding nearby workspaces

When I want to find a place to get work done, I want to know the “best” location, so I can maximize my use of time on work rather than searching for a fitting work environment.

Introduction: 
The following publication contains the progress I made on a small project over 3 months for a 1-credit course offered at Cornell University called Introduction to Digital Product Design.

It is important to note that this is my first time exploring UX Design and would love any critiques so that I can continue learning and polishing my skills. Thank you!

Suggested Format:
I am showing early/mid work around designing an app for quickly finding a workspace to complete projects or any last minute tasks, because it can often be a struggle to find ideal work environments efficiently. I am looking for feedback regarding my early designs and overall design process. There were no constraints to this project.”


Problem:
Too often do I find myself in the situation where I waste time traveling from place to place for an ideal work environment. Some factors (which I will term ‘fit factors’) that play into an unfitting work environment include limited seating, poor wifi, lack of outlets, distracting environments, poor lighting, uncomfortable heating/lack thereof, etc.

Goal: 
Design a yelp-like app that suggests workspace for users through the use of search filters, reviews, etc.

Target Audience:
Anyone commonly found doing work in cafes, libraries, etc.


User Interview — Key Insights:

College Student:
- More likely to use when in unfamiliar towns/cities
- More reliable if there are reviews [requires large user base]
- Implementation of pictures are important to user
- Desires only “important” information [emphasis on simplicity]
- User wants to be able to know to how navigate the app within first or second use. [small learning curve]

Key Insights/Thoughts Post-interview:
Likely User Base:
* People in new/unfamiliar locations.

How to effectively grow a user base? 
* Do research on this.

How to maintain a user base? 
* If the app is used more by users who are in unfamiliar locations, how do I keep said users from ditching the app once they’ve become familiar with their new location or after they have created their own routine and are no longer in need for a search tool?

Simplicity vs Details: 
*I need to distinguish between important/critical information that the majority of people would want to see, versus information that only a select set of people would.


Market Research

Work Hard Anywhere (app)
http://workhardanywhere.com/

Yelp-style app that gives you reviews on cafes and other working locations near you. Has a very clunky and unintuitive interface — concept is there, but a lot can be improved upon in regards to user experience.

Croissant (app)
https://www.getcroissant.com/

App that allows you to reserve seating at cafes and charges you for the amount of time of your stay. This addresses the issue of walking into a café and finding no seating available. It also addresses the market/business model issue caused by “laptop hobos”, people who stay in cafés for long periods of time to use its wifi while making minimal purchases (if any). Hence, both the customer and business benefit from this service.


Explorations

What is the scope of this project? [Low-Fidelity Exercises]

Brainstorming

Exploration of filter ideas

Key Insights:
All filters seem like viable options, however:

  1. The ones that seemed least important were lighting and temperature
  2. Some filters, such as aesthetics, bring issues of subjectivity
    - A unique implementation could be the use of 1-word reaction/emoji buttons (like those of Facebook) to convey subjective info. concisely.

Sketching Prototypes

Prototype sketch of user finding a suitable cafe via filters.

Key Insights:
There are many ways to do one thing and each method should be explored. Some examples include:

  1. Should the homepage be a map-view or a yelp-like list view?
  2. Is a map view even necessary? Do users ever use it?
  3. What is the best way to organize/list the information when the user clicks on the desired location?

Personas

James is a college freshman unfamiliar with his school’s campus. He is looking for places to study outside of his dorm. He is very sociable and loves meeting new people which explains his love for cafes. However, as a hardworking student, he also wants to be able to get down to business and study for hours on end with no interruptions.

Ruth is a driven businesswoman in her late 20s living in New York City. She is very focused on producing her best work and furthering her career. She often does most of her work in the office, but at times is in need of quick 1–2 hour work sessions to complete finishing touches on her reports and projects before presentation. She prioritizes convenience and efficiency in order to get the most amount of work done in the shortest amount of time.

George is a 60 year old retired man living in the suburbs of San Francisco. He loves partaking in relaxing activities such as taking long walks and spending afternoon’s reading books. He is also a very caring grandfather who loves taking care of his grandchildren. What he is looking for is a place where he can read his books while being able to bring his grandchildren with him and have them occupied.

Key Insights:

  1. This exercise seems to again confirm that this app would be best suited to an audience who is new or unfamiliar with an area (James), with the new addition of someone who is looking for a quick spot to work at with little investment (Ruth).
  2. College students seem to desire a combination of workability and sociability in their desired working locations. Hence, information regarding the setting’s noise levels, seating, and food (for social gatherings) may be of higher priority.
  3. Busy business people are always in search of speed and efficiency. They are likely to prioritize seating availability and the distance of a particular work location. Food, ambience, and other factors may be off less importance.
  4. The app may not attract much of the older population. Not only are a less of them tech-savy, but older people are known to be “stuck in their old ways”. This may cause them to find a work location they like and settle for it — this removes the function of the app which is to find new working locations that fits the user’s needs.

Medium Fidelity Models

Interaction 1: Using filters to find a location of good fit.

Critique Feedback Takeaways

  1. Too many unnecessary buttons. No need for “More” or “Map” if these implementations hold unknown or little value.
  2. Buttons seem a bit large.
  3. Simply yes/no answers for certain filters may be inappropriate and can lack specificity.

High Fidelity Models

Updates

  1. Removed “More” and “Map” buttons. May re-add when more functionality is determined.
  2. Cleaned the bottom bar design and added icons to make functionality more intuitive.
  3. Moved “Filter” button from the bottom bar to the right side of the header to conserve space. The placement and fact that it is the only button in that corner adds to the perception of importance as it is a primary function to be used frequently by users.
  4. Replaced binary yes/no filter options with a rating system to increase specificity to better meet user’s needs and desires.
  5. Extended the information boxes to the edges of the screen to remove eye strain caused by the higher levels of white space in previous iteration. This change also allows slightly more information to be fit in the boxes.

Future Iteration Thoughts

  1. Figure out how to address ambiguity about noise levels, comfort, and other future filters. Is a 5/5 noise level indicating the location is very loud or very quite?
  2. Are there any other filters or interactions to be put in the empty space between distance the filters?
  3. Implement a “Clear Filters” button to save user time in readjusting filters.

Iteration 2

Updates

  1. Added images to home screen for high fidelity. Also added “Map” feature on the top right — again, it might be unnecessary, but user testing will determine that.
  2. Updated filter screen to make it more intuitive by providing limited user input, but covers enough information to satisfy an user (quantity vs yes/no where appropriate).
  3. Filter screen also feels cleaner now with the use of buttons.
  4. Filter screen also has a “reset” button on the top right corner now. May consider renaming it to “clear”.
  5. Designed Profile page where users can view other people’s favorite locations and recent posts (reviews, pictures, etc).

Future Iteration Thoughts

  1. Work on color choices. Home screen currently looks a bit convoluted / “dirty”.
  2. Continue iterating on the profile feature. Since the main focus of the app is finding a place to work easily and quickly, we should consider whether a profile function is necessary (or what features within profiles can be scrapped).

Future Implementations

  1. Finish designing the complete interaction of a user going from the home page to the filter, back to the filtered home page, selecting a location, reading descriptions of the location, clicking a directions button to pull up Google Maps to guide them.
  2. Continue mapping out the “add” or “recommend” button. Or even consider scrapping that and only allowing the company to recommend places (though that opens up many more issues such as smaller places being neglected which is not what I had originally intended).
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