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.
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.
We conducted a short survey in order to better understand people's cafe experiences in Korea. Questions in the survey were:
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:
“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
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)
The surveys and interviews helped us gather information about people's value and thoughts regarding cafe environments.
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
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
When researching available technologies, we omitted those that were very costly and complex in installation.
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.
A website specifically designed as a 'coffee shop background noise' database.
NYC Live Cam
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.
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.
How it works
'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.
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.
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.