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Needs AnalysisThe launching point for our information gathering was the existing knowledge of bar patrons shared by our group members. This varied wildly:
Ryan had numerous connections to bars and bar patrons in the area, while Danny was new to the bar scene. By sharing this information, we were able to advance the group's understanding far faster than we would have been able otherwise in the two weeks.
With this initial understanding, we were able to target our user research to mid to high-end bars, where we conducted research to learn more about bar patrons.
We primarily gathered data by observing our users, a technique which we found works well for design contexts in public spaces without expectations of privacy, such as bars. Bar patrons going out in groups were less amicable to conversation, so observation was very important, listening for clues to why they were there and potential desires hidden in normal conversation.
Bartenders were generally happy to chat with us, and helpfully sat us in different areas. In addition, we conducted interviews with bar patrons we knew previously. While our team encountered some expected logistical problems (including having a team member under 21 who couldn't go to all of the bars), we feel this process gave us a good understanding of our design space.
We learned that the bartender interaction is really important to most of our users. They used the bartender as a helper to find new drinks or a companion. In some cases, the patron even used their interaction with the bartender as a way to show off to their dates with examples of wit.
We also learned out have no consistent conceptual model about the process of ordering/finding new drinks. Instead, it process seemed to them to be predetermined either by chance, by looking at those around them, or choosing something that “looked good.” We only saw some sort of organized process at one high end bar, whose selling point was the bartender basically organized the process for the patrons: “what kind of alcohol do you want? Do you want it to be bitter? Sweet? Fruity? Etc.etc.etc”.
At the project proposal stage, we did not yet know if we wanted to focus on menus for bar patrons, or interfaces for bartenders and owners.
Very valuable information came from talking with bartenders, as we learned about the existing systems for keeping track of chairs and tabs. This helped us not only decide that we wanted to focus on the patron experience, but gave us insight into existing frameworks with which our designs can work.
We were additionally able to gain insight into potential needs of our users by looking critically at our own interactions while at bars. By observing the environment, including the hard to see collection of bottles behind the counter, the confusing drink menus, and our own interactions with the bartenders, we started to see potential needs and pain points that we will be able to analyze though the eyes of our personas as the project goes forward.