For the past 4 years as students of Stevens Institute of Technology, we’ve relied heavily on the independent businesses that make Hoboken feel like home. They’ve provided us with not only food and services, but places to study, conduct business, and build relationships. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many local businesses are facing struggles that don’t just affect their patrons, they affect almost half of the American workforce. According to the U.S. Small Business Association, 47.3% of the American workforce is employed by small businesses, nearly 60 million people. We’ve strongly felt the absence of these Hoboken businesses, and we wanted to develop a solution to help the businesses we love reopen, and stay open.

What it does

ReShape is a dynamic, two-part platform for small business owners to collaborate, communicate, and optimize their business while remaining compliant with social distancing regulations. One half of our solution is an e-Marketplace dedicated to facilitating the collaborative spirit of local Hoboken businesses. On our platform, business-owners can offer and request resources that benefit one another. For example, businesses can offer physical space such as kitchen, storage, or floor space in return for a set price, profit sharing, or any other agreed upon terms. ReShape’s e-Marketplace platform is adaptable to the needs of local organizations and facilitates the communication between Hoboken business owners.

The other half of ReShape is a tool, tailored to restaurants with dine-in services. The tool is designed to dynamically change the layout of a restaurant or bar to maximize the number of patrons while maintaining the CDC social-distancing guidelines. Any restaurant will be able to digitize their floor plan in our web app and specify the amount, type, dimensions and capacity of seating available. As reservations enter the restaurant’s system, the platform will automatically optimize the layout to ensure the safest and most efficient means of serving customers.

How we built it

Prior to developing the solution, the team used a series of agile problem-solving techniques similar to Google Design Sprints to understand the unmet needs of the customers we wanted to help. The layout and wireframe functionality was all built in Figma to model the user’s experience while navigating ReShape.

Challenges we ran into

  • Developing our understanding of what the “new normal” might look like. To overcome this hurdle, the team modeled our solution to reflect the steps taken by countries that are beginning to reopen, despite being devastated by COVID-19.
  • Identifying the scope of the problem we intended to address. We communicated with local business owners and restaurateurs in the Hoboken area to identify the immediate challenges they were facing locally, so we can design something that was both feasible and purposeful.
  • Coordinating and maintaining communication with a diverse group of individuals using online platforms. With clear and direct management, we were able to optimize the skills of 9 different teammates to work collaboratively towards a common goal.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • We were able to pivot quickly when we determined that one of our original concepts was not addressing the Hackathon prompt
  • We identified a problem and interviewed customers to determine their pain points and adapt our scope before creating a solution.
  • We developed a marketplace that addresses actual needs and help businesses cope with the new normal.
  • Hearing from local Hoboken business owners that they not only find great value in our solution and would use it in their establishments, but they would invest in the product if we were to take it beyond this Hackathon.

What we learned

  • The customer is the center of every solution and UX design is imperative not only in designing a front end solution, but the overall viability of a product.
  • Managing communication is difficult online, especially across multiple parties with varying agendas during this unprecedented pandemic. Organizing an internal infrastructure with specific communication channels is imperative in maintaining synchronicity in a collaborative design effort.
  • Work quickly in small sprints by clearly identifying actionable items and delegating responsibilities across teammates' skills

What's next for ReShape

  • Conduct small scale experiments (fake front door experiment, Wizard of Oz experiments, etc.) to determine the desirability, feasibility, and viability of the e-Marketplace and floor planner solutions.
  • Interview more target market customers to determine the most important features necessary to include in the Minimum Viable Product
  • Once experiments have proven that our solution would be desirable, feasible, and viable, we would develop the entire technical solution for customer use

Additional Materials: click here

For additional materials, please visit the linked appendix above to view important auxiliary information that further outlines our design process...

  • Customer Interviews
  • Market Research
  • e-Marketplace Technology
  • Floor planner Technology
  • Business Model
  • Health, Safety, and Liability Concerns

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