Starbucks is the world's largest coffeehouse chain -- the third wave of coffee culture if you will. In order to provide a more inclusive coffeehouse drive-thru experience, my team and I redesigned the way you order at Starbucks.
April - May 2021
Prototyper, Product Developer, Experiential Designer
Figma, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro
Strategy, UX/UI, Prototyping, Product Development, Experiential Design
01 | OVERVIEW
THERE'S A SOUND BARRIER.
Of the 330 million individuals in the United States, 48 million are hard of hearing and nearly half a million are deaf. This community, although small, faces a big challenge when it comes to drive-thrus. Drive-thrus are made to simplify ordering, but they aren't made to be accessed by everyone. It can be frustrating and exhausting for deaf and hard of hearing individuals to navigate their way through what's supposed to be a universally accessible drive-thru experience.
STARBUCKS HAS GOT THE BALL ROLLING.
Starbucks aims to inspire and nurture the human spirit -- one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time. With Starbucks' highly customizable menu and mission to create a universal coffeehouse experience, they're off to a great start. In 2018, Starbucks even opened their first American Sign Language (ASL) store near Gallaudet University, where deaf and hard of hearing workers take customers' orders with fingerspelling, murals, and tech pads.
How CAN WE CREATE A UNIVERSAL EXPERIENCE THAT'S WELCOMING FOR EVERYONE?
PROVIDE AN EXPERIENCE THAT'S BOTH REPLICABLE AND INCLUSIVE.
02 | SOLUTION
BREWING INCLUSION THROUGH THE DRIVE-THRU
Most Starbucks' drive-thru orders are taken long before the pick-up window through an ambiguous intercom -- or what we like to call the "desolate black box." It can be hard knowing where to point your ear, what the total is, or even if the order you said is correct. Our digital talk to text screen helps consumers not only better visual the experience, but also expedite the drive-thru process and ensure order validity.
Digital rolling screen
Each order begins at the default menu (as seen on the left menu screen). When either the worker or customer begins talking, a thread of their conversation will appear on the screen. The screen will then scroll as the order continues, much like a text thread would scroll on your phone.
DIGITAL TRANSLATION BUTTONS
The default language setting is based on the geographical location of the Starbucks. If you would like to chose a language native to you, you can tap the "choose language" button and navigate to the language you desire. Or, you can tap the "ASL to text" button to initiate an ASL camera option.
ASL CAMERA OPTION
Once the "ASL to text" button has been selected, users can use the digital camera feature to initiate ASL artificial intelligence, translating their hand signs into text via the default language setting (as seen on the right menu screen).
SOLVING FOR MORE THAN JUST A "NICHE" COMMUNITY
While we wanted to cater specifically to the deaf and hard of hearing community, we also wanted to provide a solution that served more than just our target audience -- those with mother tongues. Native speakers tend to experience a similar gap in communication and would benefit greatly from the option to choose their language with the tap of a finger. Simply tap the "choose language" button on the digital screen to sift through a list of languages and select the one you prefer. The digital screen will then translate your language into the default setting language and make it easy for both you and the worker to communicate.
03 | STRATEGY
Deaf, hard of hearing, native speakers
Coffee, drive-thrus, fast food
NORMALCY, IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS.
In order to develop a universal experience for everyone, we have to focus on the "little things" that make normal feel like, well, normal. That means providing a menu that's both customizable and familiar. In order to achieve this, we decided to keep the speaker in the middle of the menu. Even if you can't hear out of it, you may still find comfort in knowing that it's there for you to speak into if you are able to speak.
So many drive-thru experiences today are the same: you drive up, say your order, pull around to the window, pay the allotted amount, receive your order, and well, that's pretty much it. Because the drive-thru system is so similar across all different kinds of coffeehouses and fast food chains across the US, we knew we had to create something that was both fast and replicable.
Here's what our digital menu might look like for a McDonald's and Chick-fil-A drive-thru experience.
04 | PROCESS
RESEARCH, SYNTHESIS, AND IDEATION
We conducted several primary surveys with those belonging to the deaf and hard of hearing communities to get a general understanding of the challenges and frustrations that arrive in day-to-day life. We also surveyed Starbucks' baristas and store managers to learn more about what practices are already in place for those who who might be deaf or hard of hearing. After this, we synthesized our findings to narrow in on a few solution options.
MAPPING AN EXPERIENCE THAT's INCLUSIVE
In creating the digital menu ordering system, we explored on-boarding flows and asked new users specific questions to better understand their priorities — e.g. order validity, talk to text customization, and average time they spend in the drive-thru. It was this initial phase of sketching flows that also inspired the building out of the additional McDonald's and Chick-fil-A prototypes.
TESTING OUR DESIGNS
We ran several rounds of testing with design mentors and frequent drive-thru goers. From the feedback given, we found that overall functionality of the application was inclusive, ensured order accuracy, removed barriers, and created a fluid process. A few subtle changes were made to design elements to improve camera accessibility and visual appearance.
BRINGING EVERYTHING TO LIFE
After incorporating feedback, we went through several additional rounds of iteration in Adobe Photoshop and Figma to complete our final designs and animations.
05 | REFLECTION
It's not about hearing.
it's about being heard.
I took a signing class in undergrad at the University of Maryland where I was prompted to learn the basics of ASL. Beyond learning how to sign my name and ask others, "How are you doing today?", I learned a lot about the growing challenges deaf and hard of hearing individuals face everyday. For many, it's not about hearing, it's about being heard. I loved working on this service design knowing that I could create something that would help bring even just a little bit of "normalcy" to so many others.
Jackson Baehr, Strategist
Annie Balint, Strategist
Lianne Boxley, Strategist
Erin Philips, Experience Designer