Wednesday, October 25, 2006

User observations, round 1

These notes will be shorter than I'd like, but here goes. Note: I'm pretty groggy from an entire week of waking up much earlier than usual - my sleep cycle's not so great at being thrown off like this, so I'm going to ask if we can not meet more than two days in a row or something. Consequently, these notes may be written less coherently than usual.

Chandra and I went out early this morning. The planned route was two independent coffeehouses and one large chain for user observations (no interviews), but when we got to the first independent shop it became apparent that there was no parking, no room (and therefore no place to observe), and everyone was walking out with generic coffee equipment. We hadn't considered that; apparently only big chains have really custom-shaped cups or holders. At this point we decided we were skipping the independents and watching two large chains instead.

Actual notes follow.

  • Most people just get one cup of coffee. Really.
  • Most people hold their single cup of coffee up by the rim because of the nice grip afforded by the lid; holding it higher up also lets them keep their hand away from the scalding liquid (which still radiates a respectable amount of heat through the paper cup). With no lid, the circumference of the cup's top is pretty compressible, and holding the cup higher up by the rim becomes dangerous (too easy to squeeze the top and slosh the contents out).
  • Trays are by the condiments counter or the cash register. Customers get them, not baristas.
  • Trays are generally a one-hand operation; the only time I saw a person hold a tray with two hands is when the tray was stacked on top of a box he was holding with two hands.
  • A very common use of trays and cups when you're holding multiple things is to pin things against each other - for instance, holding your donut bag in the same hand as your tray by gripping both the donut bag and the tray together in a pincer grip, or clamping the bag and your cup together. You can also place your bag on top of the cups or wedge it between the coffee cups on top of the tray.
  • The tray, if it accomodates cups, may want to to hold thick foam, paper, and plastic cups.
  • Both places had a box of coffee - a thin tagboard box folded up (with a decorative design) and lined with a thick-gauge plastic bag with a screw-on lid on the side (it looks like a stubby watering can of cardboard). It's an alternative to cups.
  • Coffee undergoes a lot of acceleration. People grab cups off the counters, whirl around with trays in their hands, and crash backwards through doors when their hands are full.
  • People generally do not drink the coffee in the store unless they are sitting at a table (not a common occurence during morning commuter rush); they carry it straight out instead.
  • One person usually acts as the coffee go-fer for a car of commuters; everyone else sits in the parked car waiting.
I believe that was the important stuff.


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