UX Research/Design
Fall 2016

A simple way to figure out the atmosphere and crowdedness of cafes nearby. By scrolling down the main page, the user can see a live stream and can hear real-time sounds of the cafe. The user can also find details of cafes nearby so she can better choose which cafe to go to.

Initial Spark

As a college student, I often visit cafes to do work or to socialize. However, there were times when I found myself unable to stay at a cafe because the cafe was too busy, too loud, or just didn't have enough outlets to charge my laptop. Because I frequently run into these issues, I began looking at reviews of nearby cafes before leaving the house – but realized current existing platforms do not give enough insight. One afternoon, I was expressing my "cafe-inconveniences" concerns with my colleagues, JiYoung Ahn and Jeongmin Seo, and found that they had similar experiences with these "cafe-inconveniences". We all understood one another and agreed to tackle this issue together. As a group, we started off by conducting an in-depth study to find out whether other people had these "cafe-inconveniences" as well.


Research #1

We conducted a short survey in order to better understand people's cafe experiences in Korea. Questions in the survey were:

    • What problems have you ran into when you visited cafes?
    • What did you do in that situation?
    • On a scale of 1 to 7(1 being the lowest), how much did it bother you?

      Out of the 43 people surveyed (20 - 30 year olds), 18 out of 43 responded "lack of seating and tables", and 7 out of 43 responded "overly loud music and environment" as their biggest inconveniences.

      On average, those who chose "lack of seating and tables" rated the inconvenience 4.48 out of 7. Their responses to dealing with the problem included:

        • Walk out to look for another cafe nearby
        • Wait in line, hoping that there will be seats by the time they get their drinks.
        “We all are so used to walking around, moving from one cafe to another, but if you think about it, we waste so much time and effort. It's very inconvenient.” – Susie Kim, Seoul, Korea


        Research #2

        Since the initial survey was directed towards a foreign crowd, we interviewed several people from the United States to see if their cafe experiences were similar. We talked to 17 people living within the United States. (5 from New York, 10 from Pittsburgh, 2 from Boston)

        • 12 out of 17

          have had left their cafe because it was too crowded.
        • 12 out of 17

          noted their experience was an inconvenience because they had to wander around, looking for seats. On average, they rated the inconvenience 5.74 out of 7.
        • 12 out of 17

          chose socializing as their major purpose for going to cafes.
        • 9 out of 17

          chose aesthetic appeal as the major factor for choosing which cafe to stay at.
        • 7 out of 17

          have had business or group meetings at a cafe.

        Interview Insights

        The surveys and interviews helped us gather information about people's value and thoughts regarding cafe environments.

        • On average, a customer stays at a cafe for about 40 minutes (disregarding take-out customers)
        • A "too quiet" environment is not great for interviewing and studying
        • Most people look for seats before they order drinks
        • Some people research about cafes and seat availability before they get there
        • People are willing to use mobile and web applications to find details about cafes


        We created personas for people using the data that we collected. We decided to show two contrasting personas since people with different purposes, look for different environments.


        We gained a lot of insight from having conversations with people who enjoy cafes. However, to further understand the responses from our interviews and surveys, we decided to visit cafes ourselves and " deep-hangout" as a group.My teammates and I stayed at twelve different cafes, for at least an hour each. We recorded the day and time we were at each cafe, and noted the things we found intriguing. We also spontaneously interviewed customers and had very interesting responses.Before leaving, we collected name cards from the cafe managers in order to schedule interviews with them.

        “Before I got here, I went to Starbucks across the street to get a table to study for just 30 minutes before my class, but it was too busy... there were some untaken seats but I have a lot of papers so I chose not to be in a crowded environment. That's how I ended up here, in Dunkin' Donuts.” – Lucy Barabas 


        • Customers have different preferences in cafe ambiance and atmosphere
        • Small cafes with small tables attract more take-out customers, and are not a good place to study
        • Customers may be bothered by kitchen noises if a cafe is too small or if the tables are too close to the kitchen
        • Hard chairs make it difficult to sit for a long time
        • People had to look for different seats because they weren't near an electrical outlet
        • People tend to leave once they find out there are no seats available
        • People prefer to sit with their backs facing the wall because they value personal space and privacy.


        One of the interviewees mentioned that she researches cafes before leaving her house, because most of the cafes nearby are usually full. This talk inspired us to search for websites and mobile applications that help customers find places to work. We analyzed the features, strengths, and weaknesses of these applications in order to decide which are helpful or inefficient.

        Throughout this process, we learned that Nowait's office is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where we currently attend school. We had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the CTO.

        Visit to Nowait

        The CTO of Nowait, Dean Thompson, kindly agreed to talk with our team about Nowait's research process and marketing strategy. He also commented on our idea and gave us suggestions on how to introduce Crowdy to cafe owners.

        At the meeting with Dean, we talked about: possible technologies that we could use, how appropriate our business value is, and how cafes would benefit from our service. At the end of our conversation Dean introduced us to Justin Burdett, the lead Product Manager of Nowait. We followed up with Justin and he gave us advice on research methods that we could use.

        Ideation – Functions

        After going through the features of other mobile platforms, we listed the main functions that we would need. We based these functions off the values we determined from our research.

        • Live floor plan that allows the user to find out how occupied the cafe is.
        • A feature that shows how the tables and chairs are arranged
        • A filtering feature
        • List of services within the cafe
        • A map that is shareable with friends
        • A feature showing nearby cafes and how far they are
        • Photos of the cafe
        • List of features people care about when the customers are willing to sit down

        Using the list of functions, I brainstormed ideas by developing simple sketches and wireframes.


        - User can see a list of nearby cafes with one glance.

        - User has to click on each cafe for more information (adds another step to see the atmosphere).

        Clicking on one of the blocks will lead the user to the screens on the right.

        Idea 1

        - User can see the location of the cafe and see how the tables and chairs are being used.

        - Pressure sensor needs to be installed on every chair.
        - Color detection technology may not be concise.
        - User cannot see the atmosphere and noise levels of the cafe.

        Idea 2

        - A top-down view of the cafe allows the user to have a vivid idea of how the cafe looks, and how the seatings are arranged.
        - The information is more accurate because it does not rely on technology.

        - Privacy of the customers is not protected
        - User cannot see the atmosphere and noise levels of the cafe.

        Possible Technologies

        After building wireframes to visualize our thoughts, we researched existing technologies that we could implement. Listed below are a few of the technologies that we explored, that could distinguish whether seatings were occupied or available.

        • Thermal Imaging to figure out how many people are in the room
        • Color Detection Technology (from the top) to determine which tables and chairs are being used
        • Pressure Sensor placed on chairs to provide an accurate number of chairs currently being used
        • Beacon Technology to keep track of when customers arrive or leave the cafe

        When researching available technologies, we omitted those that were very costly and complex in installation.

        Paper Prototyping

        Paper prototypes were used in order to confirm that our software meets the user's expectations and needs. The users were given a scenario and we closely observed how they performed and reacted. Our goal was to have almost no conversation with the user so that if they got stuck, then we would know which parts to improve.


        While observing people use the application, we realized that the floor plan graphic would be too binomial. We wanted the interaction to be more fun and interactive.


        Taking a step back to talk to more peers about their studying habits and daily routines greatly inspired us to dive into other creative methods. Below, you can find the three services that especially intrigued us.

        'Coffee Shop Background Noise for Studying' playlist

        As I was talking to my good friend, Elena Njeim, I found out that she focuses better with background noise. When she is studying in her room and it gets too quiet, she would play a Youtube playlist made up of cafe-background noises. Talking to her helped me discover that some people may also want to know how loud a cafe is.

        Coffitivity Link

        A website specifically designed as a 'coffee shop background noise' database.

        NYC Live Cam Link

        Another one of my friends from New York told me that she often checks the 'Times Square Live Cams' before leaving the house, to see if she's wearing the appropriate clothes for the weather.

        Exploring these different platforms led me to think –

        "Why not add live streams of cafes?"

        This would show: how crowded, how loud, and how the atmosphere is like - within the cafe.


        User Testing

        The average time the user took to complete the task was 156 seconds. The delay was caused by an inefficient side menu bar. Everything else had fluid flow, even without instructions. Several users told us they appreciated the filtering and the live stream features.

        User Flowchart

        How it works

        Home screen

        'Home' shows a feed of 10-second videos of each cafe nearby, which is updated every 15 minutes. Users can bookmark cafes, and share the information with friends.

        The little arrow on the right side drops down and reveals all the information needed for people who go to cafes to study and have meetings.

        Sound On/Off

        From our research, we discovered that users are most interested in knowing whether the cafe is great for socializing, studying, or meetings. We included the real-time sounds of the cafe to better inform users.As the user scrolls down, multiple videos will be playing at once. A video will only play sound when it is tapped, and if tapped again, the sound will stop.


        'Filter' allows the user to filter out cafes that don't meet their needs. After the user saves the filters, the feed will be rearranged.


        The share button allows the user to send the cafe's information and location to her friends in case she wants to invite them to study together.

        Final thoughts

        The future steps could be to branch out to places such as restaurants, bars and gyms: a 20 year old couple and a 40 year old couple would want to go to different types of bars. Crowdy could come in handy in this kind of scenario as well.

        Another big factor would be to take Crowdy international. For example, if a tourist that is traveling to South Korea, he would have absolutely no clue about local cafes. He would then pull out Crowdy to find out what the cafe looks like.

        Currently, we are trying to discuss with the professors and possibly launch this application locally in Pittsburgh first.

        Tina Jiwoo Park
        412. 494. 8244