Sometimes the simplest ideas seem to escape us?
Why is that? Personally, I think it’s a matter of time more than anything. I think intentions are noble, but the pace is so frenetic that we run out of time to think and to be considered. We’re in such a rush to get our product into development, then get it built or on a shelf that we fail to really contemplate how it will work or how it will be bought or consumed in real life.
I remember a friend several years ago telling me that when he finished with his day job he was going to go into the business of cafes. I thought that was odd – I’d actually pegged Paul for buying a pub, so it goes to show that you never really know. It was his solid opinion that cafes were places filled with stress and anxiety and not the relaxing escapes they were designed to be. They should be a place where you could chat, enjoy a great brew and sit in comfort. It’s a pretty simple premise really.
So let’s think about cafes, restaurants and the actual user experience. What might help on the design side? And when I’m talking design, I mean the design of the experience rather than the aesthetic which is where most of the effort seems to be.
If you want to visit one and have a chat with a friend, you’ll immediately be doing battle with a crowded entrance. For some reason, people tend to enter cafes and then stop dead in their tracks and have a bit of a look around. It’s a little like when they reach the next floor on an escalator, and you know that can have quite disastrous consequences.
You’ll move to your table and try and put as much distance between you and the barista or the juice creator – perhaps they’re baristas too??? Why? Because the noise will immediately shut down any semblance of a conversation as soon as it begins. I know it’s the same at a cocktail bar, but it just doesn’t seem so offensive there. The noise adds to the fun, but at a café, it doesn’t.
And the seating? Well, more often than not, you’ll sink uncomfortably well into a soft lounge chair and then struggle to get up when it’s time to leave OR you’ll be perched on a wooden stool or hardwood chair that renders your backside numb within minutes. If I had a dollar for the number of times research participants talk to me about the need for comfortable seating (or chairs where you avoid bottom overhang or the sneaky bit that pops out between the back of the chair and the seat), frankly I’d be rich. And chairs are a significant expense when setting up a venue so why not make sure your customers enjoy sitting on them. They’ll stay longer and buy more.
The barista noise is perhaps something we need to live with – after all, that’s part of the experience. But the floors and walls are usually made of concrete or some other cold (and yes, I know) easy to clean surfaces that do nothing to absorb the noise. Carpet probably isn’t good practice either, but there has to be better surfaces and floors with sound absorbing properties.
This stuff isn’t complicated. It is a matter of asking, observing, suggesting and getting feedback from the people you want to target. That reminds me,I saw a fabulous a couple of months back. Look at this table? It has a tray section built in so that you can put your wallet, phones, purses, bags and other items in there without them taking up table space. So simple!