Utensils (Personal Project)
Winter 2016

Recreating the dining experience

Utensils is a holistic dining experience app. Designed using the iterative design process, it strives to be the go-to app for diners, allowing them to easily discover, book, order, and pay at restaurants. The below is a case study showcasing the methodologies and processes used to design the app as well as the final proposed solution.

Role
Sole Designer
Type of work
UI/UX

Initial Problem

The current restaurant experience from discovery to payment is broken and disconnected. There are so many separate services all trying to fix one component of the greater chain. Some components, such as the process of placing an order, hasn’t even been addressed. Having so many distinctive services is making it hard for users to enjoy the restaurant experience as they have to go through so many different apps and websites that do not communicate with each other to enjoy the benefits each service provides.

Initial Goal

Create a service that streamlines, innovates, and holistically redesigns the restaurant experience from fast-food chains to Michelin star restaurants in order to provide the customers with the best possible experience and allow the restaurants to be successful.

Market & Competitor Research

Competitors:

  • OpenTable
  • Reserve
  • Resy
  • Cover

Summary of Research:

  • Apps have really nailed the restaurant booking experience (mainly OpenTable) by providing a lot of partner restaurants and a simple always available system
  • Apps have started to tackle the dining payment experience by allowing diners to pay with an app by simply saying, “I’ll be paying with X,” to the waiters.
    • Only splits bills evenly
    • All diners must have the app
    • Limited partner restaurants
  • Some apps such as Resy have decided to focus on making the restaurant booking experience better by allowing the users to choose tables and other options.
  • Fast-food chains almost all don’t address the dining in experience with their apps. The apps are mostly targeting to-go or delivery customers.
  • Long lines to order at some fast-food chains can be a challenging issue because of the limiting nature of cashers taking orders only one at a time.

Initial User Interview

Top Restaurant Booking Methods:

  • OpenTable
  • Calling

Experiences with Booking:

  • Most interviewees find OpenTable to be pretty easy to use and helpful
  • One interviewee complained about not having the request she submitted when booking with OpenTable acknowledged by the restaurant and was completely ignored
  • Some interviewees find calling to make a reservation to be a hassle while others only make reservations by calling.
  • Some interviewees don’t really make reservations at all when dining out.
  • OpenTable users like the ability to make reservations and cancel them anytime without having to deal with people. They also like the ability to pick times that work for them.

Top Restaurant Discovering Methods:

  • Friends
  • Instagram
  • Yelp
  • Google
  • Sometimes: Magazines and newspapers

Experience with restaurant discovering:

  • Users like pictures
  • Most finds the rating services such as Yelp and Google to be not exactly accurate
  • Some finds the rating services to give same locations different ratings
  • All interviewees check ratings of restaurants before going
  • Some don’t go to restaurants with ratings below a certain point (such as 4 stars or 3 stars)

Problems Understanding Menus:

  • All interviewees had experience confusion and problems understanding menus at certain restaurants
  • Most look the dish up on Google or Yelp
  • One stated that she asks waiters/waitresses only if desperate and unable to find anything online. Doesn’t like asking because she feels dumb when doing so.

Payment method for meals:

  • Most pay with debit/credit

Bill Splitting:

  • Everyone does it (80% - 90% of the time they dine out)
  • Everyone hates it
  • Venmo is the main method of splitting meal IF a diner agrees to front everyone else (this person always looses money)
  • Else, the bill has the split which is a big headache
  • Shared dishes are hard to split

Ideal Dining Experience:

  • Good food, service, and atmosphere
  • Nice music
  • Good company
  • No waits

Updated Goal

After conducting multiple user interviews to research and gain background understanding of people's dining habits and expectations, I was able to confirm the initial problem as existing and then updated the initial goal to better reflect users' demands. The new goal is stated below.

Create a service that streamlines, innovates, and holistically redesigns the restaurant experience for fast-food chains to Michelin star restaurants in order to provide the customers with the best possible experience and allow the restaurants to be successful. The app should allow users to discover restaurants, book reservations, check-in, order, interact with servers, and pay at restaurants.

Proposed Solution

An app that allow users to discover restaurants, book reservations, check-in, order, interact with servers, and pay at restaurants.

Focus

  • Discovering
  • Booking
  • Checking-in
  • Ordering
  • Messaging
  • Paying

User Flow

Prototyping

At this stage, I started designing prototypes and testing them on users to understand how to improve the general design and experience of the app. I started with low fidelity designs to be more agile and flexible in my ability to change the designs. I then slowly, after each iteration, increased the fidelity until I had a final design with multiple user testings.

First Iteration - Wireframe

Take Away from User Interview

  • Fix ordering icon so users know what it represents
  • Maybe start off first time users with a tour that notes the concept and options behind the hamburger menu
  • Learn more about the hospitality in dining experiences to know how this app can fit in perfectly in the restaurant experience without taking away the human touch of waiters and waitresses

Second Iteration - Low Fidelity

Take Away from User Interview

  • Improve on the fidelity so that users are more comfortable with the app

Third Iteration - Medium Fidelity

Take Away from User Interview

  • An initial tour for first time users will hopefully help users understand the icons that show up at the top corners of the app
  • The increase in fidelity lead the user to trust the app more and like it better
  • Users are expecting buttons such as the reservation times to change color, animate, etc. when selected

Fourth Iteration - High Fidelity

Take Away from User Interview

  • The changing of the top right place order icon to the word "order" instead of a shopping cart confused the user to think it’s the button to order a dish from the menu
  • User suggested to change the word order to review order

Fifth Iteration - Final Prototype

Take Away from User Interview

  • The new order icon makes sense
  • The filter icon and the menu icon might confuse users. An initial guide might be able to solve this problem.
  • This app serves a lot of functions and has a slightly steeper learning curve as a lot of features were needed to be packed into one app to address the problem and achieve the goal.

Final Solution

My final design and solution was a high fidelity app that allows the user to discover restaurants through curated lists or automated personalized suggests, reserve tables, order, and pay with multiple splitting methods. The app also allowed users to chat with restaurant experts to suggest restaurants or help with getting reservations with more popular locations. The ability for diners to message their waiter or waitress is also a feature built in that would allow for a more expedited and direct service. Overall, I believe the app tackles the initial problem pretty well and allows users to access key tools to allow a modern, up-to-date and reinvented dining experience.

Final Thoughts

This project really allowed me to go through the entire iterative user-centered design process in full. I started off by doing market and competitors research to better understand the landscape I will be designing in and know the current available solutions out there and their pros and cons. After that, I conducted user interviews to understand the habits and expectation of my ideal users. I also created a user persona to have a target user to refer to when designing. I then started the designing, prototyping, and iteration phase. I started with low fidelity prototypes to allow me to have more agile and be able to change things easily. After each design I would test it on a different user, make some changes, and increase the fidelity. After doing 5 different iterations, designs, and interviews, I was able to better understand my users, my goals, and my design. I became more confident in my design knowing it was actually tested on users and adopted from suggestions and insights from interviews. I also chose to prototype each iteration using a different tool starting off with paper, then the Pop app, InVision, Marvel, and finally Flinto. By doing so, I was able to expose myself to more prototyping tools, learn to use new ones, such as Flinto, and understand the pros and cons of each tool. I really enjoyed working on this project and hope you enjoyed reading this case study as well.