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Ex Libris Cafe is a student run organization at the University of Chicago. The cafe serves thousands of customers a day as it is located in the busiest and most central library of the campus. In order to promote customer involvement and ordering efficiency, Ex Libris Cafe wanted to develop an app that caters to UChicago's needs. 

Project Details

My Role

UI/UX Designer, Research


2 weeks


Hi-Fi prototype, concept implementation

Understand the Problem

Customers are looking for the best service and coffee at UChicago.

After many years of fueling the UChicago population, Ex Libris Cafe entered into the hands of a new management group with big ideas. The new and improved Ex Libris revamped their machinery, switched to more sustainable providers, and implemented various marketing campaigns that have increased its prominence amongst students, faculty, and other community members. Because of the immense amount of customers, Ex Libris would like to address two major issues: 

  1. Customer involvement: Previous giveaway tactics have proven to drastically increase follower numbers on the Ex Libris Instagram account. Creating an app in which customers can be engaged with their purchases could lead to increased customer attraction and loyalty to the coffee shop. Additionally, having a system that engages customers would give Ex Libris a competitive advantage over other coffee shops on campus.

  2. Ordering Efficiency: Customer confusion has arisen from the limited menu board at the cafe. There tends to be many inquires over pricing differences, syrup flavors, and the contents of drinks and food items. Creating an app that can lay out all this information for customers would make it easier on them and the baristas.

Initial Research

Competitor Audit

To better understand what the necessary components of a coffee shop app are, I conducted research on 3 main coffee providers. The table shows the best points for each app under 4 categories that I deemed crucial to creating a unique experience.

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Customer Persona

While people of all ages go to Ex Libris Cafe, an overwhelming majority of customers are college undergrad and grad students. Many of these customers are not coffee aficionados and are simply students searching for some caffeine to get through the day. I conducted 10 customer interviews to uncover trends in the general population of Ex Libris Cafe. 

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Conclusions From Research
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Customers want to be informed of new promotions, event announcements, and product availabilities. Creating a conversation between the cafe and customers is important.

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Customers want to avoid making last minute changes to their orders. Customers would also like to be rewarded for their constant visits to Ex Libris. 

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Wait Times

Between hustling to commitments and scavenging for time to complete assignments, customers do not want to wait for a long time. They want the ordering process to be faster. 

In addition to these results, I had to keep the capacities of the cafe in mind. Student run cafes at UChicago are not able to have the same amenities as larger coffee store chains because they are under supervision of the college administration. Thus, there were some limitations to the design of the app:

  • No linking credit cards/mobile payments through the app

  • Inability to constantly edit app

  • No mobile ordering

  • No need for a location page 

Design Process

Initial Sketches

After distinguishing what basic components the app needed to have, I drew out some sketches to define the flow of the app. 

Version 1 Prototype

The first version of the app was a good place to start, but I realized it was missing certain features that would be necessary for resolving the main issues this app set out to fix: efficiency and involvement. Additionally, the design needed more consistency with the background colors, text families, and overall design. I also realized that the menu seemed too cluttered and would require too much effort to scroll both vertically and horizontally. There was no information regarding products, so the app would not help customers decide on orders before arriving at the physical cafe.

Version 2 Prototype

The second version of the app included features that had been missing in the first design such as individual item information and a reward redemption option. After this second iteration, the app felt much more robust in terms of what it could offer customers. It improved in enjoyability as well because of the universal aesthetic throughout the frames. The version included 3 major improvements:

Design System

Final Thoughts

Next Steps
  1. Conduct a usability study. This is an app I worked on mostly by myself. While my manager gave me some points of revision, I would want to reduce bias with a larger pool of input.

  2. Complete flows for other aspects of the app. If the app is to be developed, finishing flows for tasks such as reward redemption and account page options is necessary.  Would the user see a confirmation screen or message after tapping the "Get Reward" option? What information boxes will be available under the "Personal Information" or "Security" options?

  3. Find a group of student developers. I presented the prototype to the Ex Libris management team, and they were very invested in the idea. Thus, I am currently talking to a couple of friends and members of a tech club that could turn this prototype into a reality. 


This project was definitely challenging designing because I wanted to strike a balance between mental models for cafe apps and creating its own personality. At the beginning of my design process, I found myself sketching out wireframes that had an uncanny resemblance to the Starbucks app. However, pushed myself to create distinguishing features that used other apps as inspiration instead of a template.


Attempting to create a whole app from scratch was a little bit daunting. In particular, selecting the right amount of screens to create without going overboard began to seem like a challenging affair. After looking at some case studies, I noticed the importance of keeping track of the main flows needed to resolve key problems set at the beginning of the design process. 


This case study was very special to me because it allowed me to make an impact in an organization that I am involved in. I look forward to leaving my mark in other ways through UX.

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