Cafe Aquaria is one of two dining options at the Georgia Aquarium, and serves as the aquarium's main dining experience providing a homestyle buffet, salad bar, and off-the-grill favorites.
Georgia Aquarium has had a steady influx of visitors over the years, with 2.5 million visitors in 2018 and record breaking numbers of visitors this summer. The aquarium has projected that numbers are only going to increase, anticipating added stress to their exhibition spaces and dining areas.
Our team was tasked to work the Georgia Aquarium and focus on the overcrowding issues present in Cafe Aquaria and create solutions to help control the traffic flow and improve the overall dining customer experience.
Competitor Analysis, Cafe comment cards, Family Persona & Empathy Map,
Observations, Interviews, Usability Testing (expert review, customers)
Ideation, Interactive display design, Information architecture, Wireframe, prototype and hi-fi iterations,
3.5 months (Aug 2019 - Dec 2019)
Victoria Green, Rhea Laroya, Whitney Li, Yining Liu
Having a pre-ordering web app available allows customers to order at their convenience at any point in their aquarium visit while eliminating unnecessary overcrowding at the cafe and increasing throughput at the same time.
The aquarium gets millions of visitors each year from all over the world, which includes locals, international tourists, students, elderly, and within each of these groups, there are different dynamics including families, couples, and friends. We had to make sure that our potential solution could serve all these user groups.
To keep the users’ perspectives in mind throughout the entire course of our work, we created a set of personas and empathy maps for three main user groups (young couples, families, elderly) informed from our research that captures the majority of the visitors in the aquarium.
In addition to understanding users' initial needs and desires, we took multiple visits to Cafe Aquaria to gather data on customers behaviors within the context of the cafe and to get a closer look of what may be causing the overcrowding of the cafe than simply due to a high volume of visitors. To achieve our research goals, our team came up with a research plan and employed the following research methods:
Through our findings and analysis, we found overcrowding and negative experiences of the cafe can be grouped into four main categories
With these insights uncovered from our research, our team began brainstorming various solutions to the overcrowding problem and improving the cafe experience overall for both the customers and staff. The goal during this phase is to narrow down a solution quickly in order to begin prototyping and testing it out with real customers to see how the solution works in context.
Because we had formed a very specific problem statement further informed by thorough research, ideation came quickly. We sketched and mocked out conceptual solutions, gathered feedback from our stakeholders and users, and analyzed the pros and cons of each.
Kiosks at fast-food services and other restaurant chains are getting more and more popular to ease the load of staff and create a self-service experience for customers. We explored this concept in the context of Cafe Aquaria.
With many food-delivery and pre-ordering apps such as GrubHub, UberEats, Doordash etc., people are becoming more accustomed to on-the-go ordering. We see this solution as having major potential in reducing overcrowding and streamlining the food ordering process to make the staff's lives easier and the customers happier.
However, use case for a pre-ordering food at the aquarium would be limited since visitors would only use it when they are at the aquarium and if they choose to eat here. This means that the barrier of entry has to be low as possible and is why we decided to go with a web-app where users could potentially scan a QR code to bring up the pre-ordering services instead of having customers download a standalone app. (However, it is important to note that Georgia Aquarium does have an existing mobile app for general information)
During our observations, we had found multiple large digital displays around the cafe showing rotating slides of the cafe menu and special discounts and ads. However, users could not interact with the display and because the display screens were on a loop, the customers would have to wait through the ads to see the menu again.
We wanted to see if we could leverage what the cafe already has and improve upon this display to solve for overcrowding issues and give customers more relevant information including an interactive layout of the cafe so customers can have a mental model of where all items are located before entering, as well as the food photos, ingredients, and prices of each item
After we chose our solution, we quickly mocked up wireframes to validate the interaction flows and features of the app in order to get feedback with users, hoping to narrow down the solution scope even further.
We then had the cafe manager and customer services manager review the app. We had them go through a series of task-based usability app
1 facilitator + 1 notetaker
Cafe Manager, Georgia Aquarium Customer Services Manager
- Task-based usability test to uncover any usability and interaction issues
- Feedback on Menu items to validate information architecture
- Features survey for both consumer-facing and kitchen operations app to gauge feature priorities
1. Need to balance customization of orders
2. Account for vouchers and combo meals
3. Nutrition and dietary restriction info should be clear and discoverable
4. Common practice to offer sides and beverage after creating an order
5. Display food availability
6. Prioritize map info for finding seat feature
From the expert reviews, we quickly made iterations to address these issues while increasing the fidelity simultaneously.
As we iterated on our design, we began to testing it again with real cafe customers to further validate our design and features. To evaluate the overall usability of the prototype, we had customers think aloud and complete tasks such as ordering a burger and finding seating info. In the end of the testing session, we had participants fill out a SUS form.
Home Page - mostly positive
- Likes the simplicity of the design and easy to understand
- Glad to see kids' meal and combo info on the top
Ordering Food - some confusions
- Want to see a list of toppings and customize the burger
- Would be convenient to have the checkout button at the bottom of food item page
- Glad to see info on calories and allergy issues
Checkout - average, but clear
- "It's all normal info requested, so I can understand"
- "I'm happy that I can schedule a time to pick up my food"
- "How would I pay by cash?" Need more instructions here
Tracking your order - mostly positive
- "I have all the info I need and it's easy to understand"
- Concerns about directions to the counter and how to interact with staff
Finding seating info- confusing
- Over half of the participants tried to interact with the seating map
- Need more guide on directions of "real-time" information
System Usability Scale
- Average: 82.9
- Median: 83
- Highest: 94
- Lowest: 72
Having a great team dynamic
This last point is often brought up, but I want to thank my teammates for being awesome and collaborating from start to finish with the many team meetings and constant communication, and committing even when everyone was juggling many things at once.