OVERVIEW 

Working with the company CEO, we researched, developed and created the wireframes and user flows for the manager-side of a startup's new POS app.

CHALLENGES

  • 3-week time frame
  • design a simple, powerful and robust offering that would speak to minimum 80% of owner/manager needs
  • create a competitive deliverable within a eye-poppingly saturated market
  • deliver a Statement of Work (SOW)

MY ROLE

Competitive analysis, user interviews and testing, contextual inquiry, affinity diagrams, persona development, user flows, service blueprint, sketches, wireframes, user interface design, and client presentation.


We dove in with an intensive stakeholder interview.  Siddharth Gutta, the CEO, told us he already had the front-of-house aspect of POS system designed and built out, but had yet to create the back-of-house, management-facing app.

Entrée brand iconography

Entrée brand iconography

He also informed us of a saturated, but quickly growing market.  Little did we know what we were facing when we began to research and quickly discovered over 100 other competitive electronic POS systems already on the market.

Still, with hundreds of thousands of independently owned, single-location restaurants across the country, we saw the potential.

90% independently owned

90% independently owned

His asks were:

  • dynamic graphic reporting
  • ability for possible future integration with other pertinent systems and apps
  • a clean, material-design influenced look
  • simplicity and ease use while providing functionality for both 'Full' and 'Quick Service' establishments

So we dove immediately into contextual inquiries, visiting over a dozen restaurants to get a sense for their current systems, pain points and preferences.  We also did multiple rounds of user interviews with restaurant owner/managers, staff and servers.

It became evident that each establishment functioned largely within it's own ecosystem, with its own preferred systems and structures.  

contextual inquiries

contextual inquiries

This added to the challenge of understanding and developing a single system that could bridge the spectrum of both Quick and Full Service systems: from as simple as a tiny food truck to a 100-table restaurant.  

We performed a competitive analysis and began sketching mindmaps and doing affinity maps with the needs and preferences we'd collected from our interviews.

affinity mapping

affinity mapping

developing user blueprint

We also developed a primary persona, user journey and service blueprint to give us a design focus.

user journey

primary persona

service blueprint

We also realized that with so many POS systems out there trying to best each other with more and more features, they were actually setting themselves up for more failure-prone devices.  That due to their complexities they might often slow or even fail during service - which were two of the biggest anxieties expressed in our user interviews. 

So with this knowledge, we came up with a set of principles and focal points to guide our design, specifically:

  • integration with existing tools
  • improved error prevention and software backups
  • improved customer support
  • high value with low price-point
  • efficient; no extraneous features
  • accessible reports from any device
  • easy setup
  • help with easing managerial burdens

With these as our guides, we dove into the design phase.

a sitemap takes shape

We found we were struggling putting everything together, so we decided to build a paper prototype that could help us get a real sense of the actual interactions and needs we should be designing for. 

a paper prototype takes shape


This we found extremely helpful to unlock our creative flows, and especially give us some user testing opportunities that vastly improved the formation of our digital wireframes.

So we began our digital wireframing, based around our user principles. 
 

A run through of the wireframes I created
Based on our users preferences, I:

  • simplified the top navigation to 'Menu', 'Employees', 'Reports'; I added a 'Need Help?' option as well to make sure users always felt fully supported;
  • offered an easy 'Insights' page where managers could see system-generated evaluations and recommendations that could increase efficiency or delineate problem areas; 
  • gave users opportunity to compare multiple layers of real-time graphs quickly and easily, switch graph types with a click-and-hold, and pinch-and-zoom to dial in or get a quick quantitative overview;
  • built an 'Alert' function page where managers could customize pop-up alerts with 2 specifications: 'important' or 'emergency';
  • and offered essential information for easy employee and menu item evaluation, addition and subtraction.


We then tested the usability of a few of the flows with a restaurant manager, who gave us ample and useful feedback.  

For the presentation to the stakeholder, we annotated a few frames to illustrate important flows.  We also explicated our work in an official statement of work (SOW).
 

Above: a few of the annotated wireframes
 

TAKEAWAYS

Our research and interviews yielded some interesting takeaways:

  • The POS field is packed with competitors; yet even still, opportunities abound.
  • There is a vast array of complexity unique to each restaurant.
  • Each restaurant is in essence its own unique ecosystem.
  • The technology of POS systems is meant to serve people who serve people.
  • The system should only empower, not weigh down.
  • Owners/managers are often too busy to even consider a new POS system.
  • Efficiency and speed are essential.
  • Owners/managers need to be able to trust in the dependability of their chosen system, especially if it's new.

These points guided our decision-making.  Yet with reflection on the CEO's needs balanced with the saturation of the market, I expressed my opinion that he ground the app in an essential, bare-bones functionality; thereby effectively differentiating himself from the herd while better serving the overworked and time-strapped managers.

Since the industry is so variable and people-focused, I thought it best for him to develop his brand with a meticulous 'white-glove' focus to truly fit user needs and develop brand loyalty.


From our offerings, if we had more time I would:

  • research the easiest potential integration with other 'most-used/wanted' apps;
  • research and whittle down to bare-minimum features;
  • refine and build out UI of reporting graphs and affordances;
  • carve more time for robust usability testing to continue refining the ease and functionality.