ChowChums is an app conception that aims to strengthen cultural connections and improve the campus experience for international students. According to our research, international students on Cornell's campus have the added hurdles of quelling homesickness, finding new friends, and adjusting to their new surroundings. We also found that domestic and international students largely spend their time apart when outside of the classroom. To help bridge this divide, we've created an app that allows students to find, create, and share cultural potlucks in their area. We believe one way to start sharing experiences is to first share a table and meal together!
The Design Process
To begin the design process, we first had to identify a user group. Our focus was on connecting Cornell's international students with domestic students, this meant our user group was split. The challenge was to design a singular system that could be used with two different end goals in mind. Based on a series of interviews with both international and domestic students, we found food and social culinary events to be one of the best and most unique ways to bring these two sides together. Not only did international students tend to cook more for themselves and friends, but domestic students also reported that they tend to attend more international events on campus when there are new and interesting dishes to try.
Through a rapid brainstorming session where over 100 ideas were considered, we decided the feasibility of a social app that emphasizes real-world interaction with food outweighed the other ideas. With this feedback in mind, we then began making storyboards for potential user scenarios. One storyboard featured a domestic student who was bored and hungry. The user then uses the app to find a local event so that he could both get fed and find friends. Another scenario featured an international student group like the Cornell Chinese Society advertising an upcoming social event with the hope of attracting domestic students to share in their culture.
Next, we completed both paper and low fidelity prototypes in the hopes of finding a general user flow for the creation of the potlucks and finding events. We also included a few sub-features like finding international food markets and collecting "passport stamps" for attending events. From the user tests conducted with these prototypes, we found that users were more interested in browsing for events, the original layout of the landing screen was not intuitive, and the wording of features was often confusing. Taking this feedback into account, we then began our high fidelity prototyping and user testing.
Finally, a high fidelity prototype was created that addressed the major issues of the low fidelity prototype. Major changes included the visual design of the event "cards" on the landing screen that made browsing more appealing, a less detailed event creation flow, and the rewording of features to make their use more apparent. After 10 user tests, we made some final adjustments like making the chat feature more event-based rather than person-to-person based, having the ability to pay a host for attending an event, and a recipe book for simple dishes aimed at young adults in small kitchens.
Using ChowChums is easy for both searching for events and creating events of your own. Once the app is opened, the user is greeted by a browse screen. Here, users can scroll through potlucks in their area. If the user clicks on a potluck card, they can view the potluck information, including the proposed menu, the host's information, a guest list, and ways to contribute to the event.
Creating an Event
Creating an event is just as easy as finding one. Users can make an event simply by clicking the “Add” button located at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Once prompted, the user can add information about the potluck including the date, location, cuisine type, suggested menu items, and payment information.
Finding International Food
We know finding international food in Upstate New York can be hard, so we've made an intuitive feature that allows users to find international products and markets through a simple search. This feature also allows users to store their favorite products and markets for future reference.