151689781_33592b6bae_oWhat makes designing a great software app user experience successful? Understanding users, that’s what! That means observing real users at work in the wild, as they do real tasks, interact with real people, experience real interruptions, and rely on apps and all sorts to complete tasks. These real world surroundings UX pros call “context of use“. We even shadow mobile users with a “ride along” technique imported from anthropological research called  “ethnography”.  This kind of informed research enables UX pros to come up with mobile design solutions and best practices for app makers to use.

But what of context of use in coffee shops and cafes? The same principles for UX apply. If the difference between user experience and usability is that UX is not just about how you click but about how you work, then we’ve arrived at the a place of “it’s not just how you click but how you work in between the slurps”!

With phenomenon such as bring your own device (BYOD – does not mean Buy Your Own Drink) largely driven by mobilization, the rise of remote and casual work, and the consumerization of IT (COIT) we now see traditional as well as hipper business types working on the go in coffee shops everywhere.

Coffee shops are a place of great innovation and action. If you don’t believe me then I encourage you to read the book Out of Office by Chris Ward (@chrisatcoffice). Foursquare, Cranium, Craigslist, Moshi Monsters, Harry Potter, and more, all owe their provenance to coffee shops as places of work. I’ve worked in coffee shops and houses for years now myself and some of my best work was done there. I even wrote some of the Oracle Fusion Applications user experience design patterns and guidelines in the Uffizi gallery coffee shop in Firenze? Hardly masterpieces for future generations maybe, but you get the idea how such places can inspire ideas!

Back to work. Let’s take CRM users on the go, working in coffee shops, for example. They might use their laptops to check into the latest sales leads collateral or PowerPoints, use a tablet and social media apps to see what’s hot in in the market and turn a lead into an opportunity, and then use their smart phone to make a call and turn that opportunity into a sale without even getting to the second long black! I’ve studied users a lot in coffee shops globally and guess what? The context of use and therefore user requirements for working in coffee shops varies around the world. Whether you’re in Dublin, London, Berlin, Melbourne or San Francisco, differences are apparent.

But why not do some guerilla user experience research the next time you work in a coffee shops yourself? Take a look around. Consider the following questions as you discover and compare working environments: What are the opening hours of the shop. How much seating is there? How secure is the location? Is there enough space to conduct confidential transitions yet allow collaboration with others close by in meeting spaces? Are there sufficient power points to keep the juice on? Is there WiFi? What speed? Is it free? Skype allowed? What is the background noise like (tried using Siri when noisy)? Are headsets required? You can think of a few more contextual areas based on your own experience.

So I was delighted when I downloaded the WorkSnug app and went to add my favourite place on the web. Guess what I saw? Options for determining of context of use (Wi-Fi, Power, Noise, and so onx). That’s smart information to gather and share. It helps users find a work environment that suits them.

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Adding contextual factors to a new location using Worksnug.com

What’s more, the WorkSnug app gives the mobile user real contextual information on the location, and leverages device capability to even measure noise levels and to write reviews on the spot!

WorkSnug app lets you know about Skype, Power, Noise, Coolness and even measure the noise level and send feedback immediately!

WorkSnug app lets you know about Skype, Power, Noise, Coolness and even measure the noise level and send feedback immediately!

Now, if those factors that influence how users work as they slurp understood by the WorkSnug folks and reflected in their apps user experience isn’t a rocking example of context of use, then what is!

Keep an eye out for work being done in coffee shops by remote workers, and especially workers on the go with mobile devices. If they’re sales people you might even get a laugh if the Barrista is quick enough on the uptake to ask them “Room for CReaM?” when they actually order something!

Any feedback or observations on how working in coffee shops can vary by location? Well, find the comments below!

About the author: Ultan O’Broin

Ultan O’Broin (@ultan), Director of Applications User Experience, has worked in Oracle applications development in the US and EMEA since 1996. A passionate advocate for applications technology he communicates development integration guidance and resources to ADF developers, partners, and customers worldwide. His developer relations outreach includes evangelizing about Oracle design patterns for developer productivity, how to extend and integrate SaaS applications with PaaS, and delivering best practices for building great technology and look and feel solutions with the Oracle toolkit that go beyond just functionality. His blog is at https://blogs.oracle.com/userassistance/. The views expressed on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle.

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