Turning strangers into friends over lunch
Lunch with 4 interesting people is an app meant for anyone who is looking for professional guidance or looking for an opportunity to meet the discerning business owners in their city. One can even use it while they are in different parts of the world on business/leisure trips. However, it’s limited to hosting lunches in the US. We have designed and developed the mobile application.
The concept is simple-- go to the app and create/participate in a lunch. On the decided date, meet these people while breaking bread and talking about interesting things. The idea is to create a free flow of information, meet like minded people and share, grow, learn from them.
Creating role-based personas to gain user’s perspective
The application has 2 personas-- a host and a guest. A host can plan and invite people from his/her connections to participate in the lunch. The host can even invite someone who he/she has just met (maybe in an elevator, or in a conference). Sending an invite is easy, the host has to add the contact and send the person an invite via text.
The other user persona is of the guest. A guest can browse through the list of lunches happening nearby. When a guest shows interest in participating in the lunch, he/she requests the host to book a seat for him/her. The host can accept or reject the request based on their own discretion or the availability of the seats.
Once all the slots are filled, the app sends a few reminders to all the participants before the decided date of the lunch. Users can check the distance of the restaurant’s location and can look at the profile of the people who are attending the lunch.
Once lunch is completed, the app also sends a reminder to ask people if they want to thank anyone for the guidance.
David Matthews Host
27 years old
Meet new people, make community connections and gain knowledge from professional networking
- Existing meetups lead to transactional relationships.
- Creating a friendly, open atmosphere takes a back seat.
- Professional Development seems unsatisfying
Janice Patel Guest
35 years old
Meet discerning startup founders on business trips and learn from their experiences
- Limited time availability on business trips
- Popular meetups are crowded
- Lack of 1:1 guidance in meetups
What were the technical challenges?
When a user hosts a lunch, the people who have accepted to participate should receive an update in their calendars. Similarly, in situations where lunch is rescheduled or cancelled, the calendar should be modified automatically for all guests. So we did a lot of API integrations to run it smoothly.
We also did Google maps integration so that a user can look at the location (not the exact location, though, until they are a confirmed participant) before planning to attend the lunch. Only when a user has requested, and the host has accepted the request, the exact location is made visible to the user. This is also applicable for hosting public and private lunches.
In one of the features, where the host can’t find people on the app and is interested in inviting people from his/her phone book, we did phone book integration where he/she can invite people by sending them the information about the lunch over text message.
Another challenge was implementing deep linking in the app. Our partners wanted that when a user receives an invite with the link to the lunch in the email, then clicking on the link should open the exact same lunch (if the user has the app installed). It’s, afterall, a smart app!
Acing the product development challenges
We had our share of challenges while developing Lunch with 4 Interesting People. Earlier, our perception was that every guest should download the app to participate. However, after the launch of the first version, we realized that a lot of people felt restricted by this functionality. They didn’t want to download the app. As a result, we saw lesser participation.
To solve this problem, we removed the restriction. Now, the app has the feature where people can accept lunch, even without downloading the app. We decided to introduce the concept of an external user and an internal user, and redid all our functionalities according to the new change.
Designing an experience that makes lunch with strangers interesting
The idea was simple (in our head), but to design it in a way that it appears simple to the end users was a challenge. So, at every stage we have kept the designs clean and minimal.
We started the design phase with the wireframe sessions. These sessions helped us uncover many blind spots. For example-- when a host is inviting people from his phone book, the contacts appear in a horizontal scroll. Now, when he/she starts selecting people, would the selected contacts stack above the contact list? What if the host selects 20 contacts at a time? How would that affect the experience of the app?
So in our designs, we’ve used horizontal scrolling for selecting guests and vertical scrolling for phone book contacts. This ensures that the user can easily scan and differentiate between the two.
The onboarding process is simple and intuitive. Anyone can login to the app with a phone number or his/her LinkedIn login. During the onboarding, we’ve used illustrations with actual screenshots of the app. The idea was to give users an idea about what they can expect to see in the app.
When the host starts creating a lunch, text labels guide the users to enter the right information. We’ve also used animations to add elements of delight in the interactions. The font that we’ve used is Circular, which is a bit rounded and doesn’t have sharp edges, thus helping in readability.
In the application, a host can be a guest as well. So, we have introduced tabs where users can see which lunches they have attended as a guest and which ones they have hosted.
Font & Colors
An app that gives a fantastic host/guest experience
The iOS and Android application is live on the store. We are now working on adding more features. We’re also putting focus on load testing so that we can handle a large number of users in future. Parallely, we’ve also launched “Lunch 4 your cause” where one can invite people over lunch to raise money for charities.
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