How might we simplify our order fulfillment process and make it a personal experience for our customers?
A concierge-style coffee delivery app that serves the buildings the client is part of and the immediate, neighbouring community.
An Axure prototype that is ready for service simulation and user testing.
When you work at a coworking space, it’s just a matter of time before you start befriending the people that you “work” with everyday.
Analytical Engine Interactive (AEI) was no exception and we soon found ourselves in a strategy meeting to build an order management app for the space’s coffee shop.
About the Client
Our client is one of Toronto’s independent coffee shops.
I was getting my usual latte when Nick, the store’s owner, asked about myself and what I do. He was looking for a technology partner to streamline his catering delivery services and companies who could make that happen.
Soon, we were in a conference room kicking off a project with a business we’ve grown fond of.
The Kickoff Meeting (and the Eureka Moment)
At a tactical level, they wanted to simplify the ordering process for its catering services. They wanted to know if technology can help manage their catering orders, whether they receive it in-person or online.
Strategically, they wanted to keep the emotional connection the business has been known with its customers. They wanted to ensure that whatever solution they adopt communicates a positive feeling whenever customers interact with it.
This boggled me: How do you create an “emotion” with an inanimate thing like… an app?!?
And then it hit me: “This is a Service Design problem! No wonder it felt too squishy than the usual UX design problem. It’s about people and the service they get from someone like Nick!”
This flipped the lightbulbs on. I realized I had to go beyond conventional UX research methods to get useful insights.
That’s when I decided to go “undercover”. 😎🔍🕵
Jem Goes Undercover (a.k.a. Ethnographic Research)
I spent some weekday mornings and afternoons at two branches observing each store’s activity, customer base, and environment. I wanted to see the branch in its “natural groove”, so I took HUGE strides to hide myself (at least until the right time).
Each branch had a unique customer and cultural imprint:
- The main branch had more activity than its western branch (i.e. number of people ordering per hour).
- There were more couches and wider tables at the main branch while the western branch had stackable chairs and square restaurant tables.
- The main branch had a bigger kitchen than the western branch (which wasn’t surprising since the former was the main branch).
Catering Order! Catering Order!
I was observing and taking notes on-site one morning when Steve, their chef, rushed and started wrapping boxes in plastic wrap! 😲
I went to his side and asked what those boxes were.
“Shipping to Artscape!” he said. Gorgeous sandwich boxes that will be shipped to Artscape Youngplace that morning.
Beside him was a black fridge where a tiny whiteboard hung. It seemed like a to-do list, although I wasn’t very sure.
Lindsay, their kitchen manager, said that it was a list of catering orders to be fulfilled for the week. It happened to be Thursday, 11:30 AM, and Steve was wrapping sandwiches for delivery.
True enough, this was the catering order on that tiny whiteboard.
Minutes later, the sandwiches were handed off to their delivery person.
All these details would help me build a set of journey maps the following week.
At this point, it was becoming clear that there were three players in this project: the business, the customer, and delivery staff. Each had a role in delivering a successful catering order experience and we want to harmonize them effectively.
So I created a journey map for each player, one of which we examine underneath.
Unlike most journey maps that focuses on someone’s feelings throughout the entire experience, this one looks at what someone does to get their jobs done.
Lindsay has to fulfill every single line on her kitchen whiteboard. Those food orders have to get to her whiteboard so she could go and prepare it. She must also ensure that the order gets to the customer correctly and on time.
Right there, you could see some possibilities for tech helping to streamline the catering workflow.
Orders, for instance, can:
- Pour into an electronic list that staff can move up or down
- Be labeled a Priority Order
- Be marked as done when finished/delivered
This appears to address the tactical side of our client’s challenge, for they wanted to know if there was a way to manage orders from one dedicated spot (e.g. device, list, etc.)
Let’s recall the project’s two prongs:
- Simplify the ordering process for its catering services.
- Deliver the same emotional connection the business has been known for with its customers.
Their ideal solution is a product that would help the company collect and manage catering orders + extend their successful emotional brand through the interactions within that product.
And that’s how the concierge-style order delivery web app was born.
Ultimately, this research led to an Axure prototype that I built for user testing. I liked how Axure prototypes can be shown on a mobile device, which was precisely the context of use we wanted to test at the time.
An Axure 7 prototype of the Coffee Public concierge app.
As of publication, our client is still determining the best time to conduct user testing. Their business has grown so much since that kick-off meeting (e.g. new branches, new kitchen equipment, business permits to fill out/update, among others) that it made sense to let the “new business dust” settle and regroup once they feel it is sensible.
What Did You Get Out of It?
Exploring this concept has been an extreme joy. From ethnographic research to building my first ever Axure prototype, this project taught me the value of field research and iterating on concepts early and often.
It’s not everyday that you get to do ethnography for digital product design; and to communicate those findings in a journey map and translate them into explorable design concepts makes UX research so much clearer and valuable for design.
So whenever I doubt whether UX research can be a value add for design, I will look back to this project. It’s a picture of what UX research can do, and an image of what UX design should be – thoughtful and well-designed.
Client: Coffee Public (Toronto, Canada)
Role: User Experience Specialist, Analytical Engine Interactive, Inc.