Now spread in several cities across the US, Hotspot is a startup I started working with in Spring, 2013 (Co-founder, Chief Creative Officer). Originally based out of Seattle and now moved to New York, Hotspot is a “deals” app that let’s users get cheap- if not free- drinks and food from bars and restaurants by simply texting their friends to join. Their friends don’t even have to show up. What’s even better is that the app can alert you when you walk into or even past a bar or cafe that has a Hotspot deal.
The design challenge here was making something that college students would gravitate towards; something with an edgy feel, both bold but easy enough to use that they could grab a deal in a few seconds while standing in line for a drink.
Another UX challenge, common with new app startups, is acquisition and retention. I had to pay attention to the number of potential users who were getting texts from their friends using the app, as well as creating web-based, mobile friendly versions of the app that people could use before they committed to downloading the full app. In addition to the UX/UI design, several marketing campaigns and a website redesign are currently underway.
Most of this process has been defined by rapid iterations that could get into the hands of users quickly, testing what works and what doesn’t, as well as reaching out to users who have tried the app and seeing what their impressions were and what hangups they’d encountered. The result is bold, vivid and easy to use with very little to no training.
Once a user has found a deal they are interested in, I worked on a clean and intuitive details view that gave them clear instructions on how to get the deal, as well as mitigate any confusion they might have, especially when using the app for the first time. Honestly, the deal model was so great that users had trouble believing there was no “catch” to getting a free drink:
As we fine tuned the in-app experience for users finding specials and claiming them, we wanted to explore more ways to drive interaction between bars and users organically. Below are test UIs for a “Newsfeed” feature that allowed users to follow their favorite bars, and for bars in return to both gain a following, but also to push special deal straight to users.
I also played with the interaction model and UI for the newsfeed itself, taking in special consideration that most users would not have a lot of friends on the app early on, nor be following any nearby bars. I designed streamlined “get started” prompts to get them going in moments and ensured that there would most always never be an empty newsfeed:
I also had to consider the greater experience outside of the app itself, both in generating training materials for bar staff, as well as designing out clear touch points and collateral for engaging users. Below are a weekly summary receipt sent to users, as well as a simple GIF we were able to blast out to bar staff that quickly teaches them everything they needed to know about redeeming an app voucher (as well as make them laugh).
Here is a simple GIF we sent out to bar staff explaining Hotspot in just a few seconds:
As well as working on designing the larger app experience, I also helped roll out new marketing strategies aimed and viral attraction to the app. Below is one such campaign called “Office Heroes”, whereby a Hotspot user could get their entire office a free happy hour at one of our partner locations, only requiring folks to download the app to get their drinks.
An example of weekly email sendouts detailing what’s new and nearby- these generated tons of new users and were often shared with friends:
– – – – – – – – – – Process & Evolution (2013-2015)
Early on we tried to explore an app experience more about connecting friends, regardless of where or what type of venue. The direction was bright and bubbly and focused more on “hangouts” and had very little forethought into venues being able to leverage these social interactions. Eventually, after speaking with both users and venue managers, we would move away from this and on towards a more mature app experience that honed in on the distinct business model of connecting users directly with bars, and rewarding them for inviting friends (tons of free drinks). However, here are some of the earliest iterations of Hotspot:
Of note, the idea behind Hotspot has changed as well; initially it was a meetup app for friends, allowing users to send out invites to events or hangouts and essentially broadcast the invite through friend groups. The design for this original direction (which never took off due to lack of interest) was much more cartoony and bubbly- a direction I am still trying to move further away from… Designs below: