I designed an app to help me decide where to eat. The app was featured in Product Hunt.
Living in NYC, I always ask myself “where to eat”? The problem is not that I can’t find a place, it is that there are way too many choices. I decided to create an app with a friend to get myself out of the limbo.
How might we quickly help people find a suitable restaurant nearby?
I designed everything
Is looking for restaurants is overwhelming and unnecessarily time-consuming? To answer this question, I sent out a survey to validate this problem. A total of 78 people filled out the survey. Among them, 30% described picking a restaurant as difficult, and over 57% typically spent over 15 minutes to find a restaurant. They frequently go to review sites such as Yelp and Foursquare to find restaurants that fit their tastes and needs.
Although the data is not drastic - half of the people don’t spend much time finding a restaurant, but for the other half, maybe an app can help them.
The survey also asked respondents about how they pick a restaurant. What are the important factors they consider? Ratings turned out to be the number one factor, followed by distance, and price point.
I further interviewed a few individuals to obtain some qualitative data to further validate my idea. Again, some people I interviewed expressed that they don’t really spend much time picking restaurants, they usually just go to where they usually go, or they just follow their friends. Others, however, did admit that sometimes they spend way too much time on finding a restaurant. While some enjoy the research process, others wish they could make a decision faster. Through my conversations with them, I was able to create different personas.
BUT THERE’S ALREADY YELP
Psychologist Barry Schwartz found that abundance of choice leads to negative emotions, and eliminating choices can reduce anxiety. When presented too many desirable choices, people start to imagine trade-offs and missed opportunities. This is the exact problem of sites like Yelp and Foursquare. When you search for a burger place, you see 50 results that are within reasonable distance and ratings. Although the site is meant to help people with making a better decision, it actually creates anxiety and people are drowning in an ocean of choices.
defining mvp features
Although I have conducted user research, I still wanted to limit the scope of the app and create an MVP to test out the idea. Using the personas I created earlier, I listed out features that would be useful for each type of personas. It turned out that the Foodie persona would be a great fit for the MVP, because features tailored to them would also be applicable to other user types.
designing the key experience
So how do we actually help people make an informed but quick decision on where to eat? To get into the headspace, I jogged down the words in a mindmap format that came into my mind when thinking about the dining experience. It then became obvious to me that the two overarching feelings are:
fun: dining out is a time for relaxation and socialization. You catch up with friends and families while enjoying the food.
mysterious: when going to a restaurant, you are not sure how the experience would be, what the interior looks like, how the food would taste like, what the conversations would be about, etc.
I believe that finding a restaurant is a part of the dining experience, and it should also reflect the feelings of fun and mysterious. But how can we create this kind of experience?
First, users should be able to set their preferences, so that the app can find venues tailored to their likings.
Second, the app should limit the options presented, and only present those that are highly-rated. This will prevent users from scrolling endlessly due to FOMO.
Third, there should be a sense of serendipity. Therefore, I designed the app so that users will need to shake their phone to reveal venues. This process makes the app more fun to use.
wireframes & Visual design
Armed with user insights and the feature list, I started creating wireframes and experimented with different versions of the visual design. After a few iterations, I finally decided on a visual direction that compliments the experience. By using bright colors and white space, I kept the visual fun but clean.
During the design process, I also created the user flows to communicate with the developer.
finding a venue
In the app, users can find three types of venues - restaurants, cafes, or bars. They will also select the desired price range and distance. After all selections are made, they will shake their phone to see suggestions.
The app will display 3 suggestions, selected from highly-rated restaurants that match the criteria. Users can scroll left and right to see the suggestions.
When the user clicks into a venue, the detailed information will be displayed. Users may look at the pictures, view the address, locate the venue on the map, and read the reviews. All data points are pulled from the Foursquare API.
For the play store listing, in order to generate high conversion rate, I wanted the design to be eye-catching while eliciting the feeling of mysterious and fun. Therefore, I created dark themed screenshots with the apps’ accent color blue and pink.
After the app was shipped, we started running ads on Instagram. To optimize the marketing content, I did some A/B testings. For example, as shown in #1 and #2, I used different images of foods. I also tested different copes as seen in #1 and #3. The results? The one that generated the most clicks and downloads was #1. Burger with a concise copy was a great combination.
Featured on Product Hunt
We posted the app to product hunt and it got featured 🎉