Sugar coated user empathy: how we stepped into the shoes of our restaurant merchants
When thinking of testing a software product, you might not burst with excitement. But when you work for a platform company that’s known for its food delivery app, product testing usually looks like this:
Yes, we order donuts. And we eat lots of them.
Lately we’ve had our hands full with redesigning our Merchant app, which is one of the three main pillars of Wolt’s product portfolio. On the Merchant app, our restaurant partners receive orders from our hungry customers. They in turn make their orders using the Wolt mobile app or Wolt.com web service and can either pickup the meal or order delivery from one of our courier partners. If a delivery is included in the order, and an available courier partner accepts the delivery task on their Courier Partner app, the food will then be carried from the restaurant partner to the customer.
We kicked off a redesign project with the main goal to improve the user experience for handling large amounts of orders in busy restaurants.
Restaurants are getting busier
To empathise with our restaurant partners, we regularly visit them to observe and gather feedback on how they use our app. At the moment our business is growing at an astonishing speed, which has also been very visible in many of the restaurants we have visited. The most popular ones process dozens of orders within an hour – and they seem to get even busier as time goes on!
Throughout last spring, we were regularly visiting our restaurant partners, and through the in-person conversations, we learned that although our merchant app served them well, there was room for improvement. So, we kicked off a redesign project with the main goal to improve the user experience for handling large amounts of orders in busy restaurants.
Iterative design process
The design process started with creating different high level design prototypes for the new Merchant app. We visited restaurants and asked for their opinions on different early approaches we had. Based on the feedback we got, we proceeded with the concept that was liked the most. Then, we iterated and further designed the new app, and gradually also started the implementation process.
Finally, we got to the point where we were ready to test the app out in the real world. But, before inviting the restaurants into the new app, we wanted to make sure everything was working smoothly in terms of technical implementation. Also, we really wanted to experience for ourselves how it feels to work in a busy restaurant – and involve our Helsinki offices in the testing.
Ice cream delivery – are you kidding?
We came up with an idea to set up two ice cream bars at both of our Helsinki offices. Our employees from office A could order delicious and beautifully crafted ice cream delivered to office B – and vice versa. On a very hot summer day we created two temporary restaurants in our offices, and got some Wolt employees to prepare ice cream sundaes. Using the Wolt app, our employees could order their favourite ice cream flavour and choose toppings from numerous options.
The ice cream orders were delivered between the offices by our awesome courier partners. They didn’t know about this experiment beforehand, because we wanted the experience to be as close to the real thing as possible. Initially, the courier partners arrived at our ice cream bars with a bit of confusion, wondering about the unusual restaurant address, but eventually left with a smile, as some of them they got offered ice cream while waiting for our busy restaurants to prepare the dishes.
The ice cream bar was not only a fun and enjoyable experience for our employees, but also a carefully observed test for our app project team (developers, designers, product and restaurant management representatives). Based on the test, we discovered a bunch of improvement ideas, found some technical bugs, and most importantly, experienced how it feels to work in a busy restaurant. We also gained the confidence that after fixing the most critical findings, we were able to approach the restaurants for the next feedback session – and to release the app later on.
The ice cream bar was not only a fun and enjoyable experience for our employees, but also a carefully observed test for our app project team (developers, designers, product and restaurant management representatives).
One of the most exciting aspects about working at Wolt is designing products that are used by millions of people. Dealing with large volumes means that we really have to have a good rationale for each decision when it comes to adding or changing anything in our apps.
The ice cream bar experiment was a success. We learned, empathised with our restaurant partners – and had a lot of fun doing it!