Pond: Meet New People.
People struggle to make connections with new people in the real world. Most people want to meet new people, but yet struggle to do so. We now live in big cities surrounded by many people and we have the technology to communicate with them easier than at any other point in history. Yet we struggle more with loneliness than ever before. In the UK 60% of 18 to 34 year olds report regularly feeling lonely  and in the US 46% of the entire population reports this . People want to connect with other people. At Georgia Tech this is especially visible in graduate students, which is our initial target group. Students spend time in big classes but only know a fraction of their fellow students, even though they would all like to meet more people. This Kurzgesagt video on “Loneliness” has the following quote which concisely summarizes the philosophy which inspired me to bring this idea to this class and build it with my group:
“Humans have built a world that is nothing short of amazing, and yet, none of the shiny things we’ve made is able to satisfy or substitute our fundamental biological need for connection. Most animals get what they need from their surroundings. We get what we need from each other, and we need to build our artificial human world based on that”.
This is exactly the problem we are aiming to solve with Pond. Everyone has the same problem and we have the tech to do so but nobody has done so yet.
Initial Problem Identification
To inform our solution approach we validated the existence of this problem with 12 interviews and could clearly identify three recurring themes common to all the interviews. P1 helps explain loneliness, and P2 and P3 why people struggle to meet more people:
P1: Lack of physical proximity. People yearn for in-person connections and find them much more valuable than talking to someone virtually.
P2: The Approach Problem. It is often awkward or even socially unacceptable to approach a stranger. It can also be awkward because you’re not sure if the other person is open to meeting new people.
P3: Overwhelming choice. People meet more people in smaller groups, because they are overwhelmed with options in large groups and end up meeting no one. Therefore we knew that any successful solution would need to solve these three sub-problems (P1, P2, and P3) to solve the larger problem. An additional thing that came up in some (but not all) interviews is that people tend to connect over food.
Traditional social apps create a separate virtual bubble in which to interact, so perpetuates the problem instead of solving it. Most competing apps focus on dating and tend to overwhelm people with choices (P2) and conversations rarely move into the physical world (P1) because people still have to swipe on someone and then initiate the meeting through chatting with the person (P3). Our solution approach is to build a social app that connects you to have lunch with some other person who you have never met before, whenever you have a short bit of time open over lunch. Our app which is completely focused on physical meetings in the real world (P1): it gives the user only one match if, and only if, they request one for that day and they then HAVE to meet once the meeting has been set up (P1, P3). You just give your time preferences to the app and it sets up this physical meeting at a certain place and time without you having to organize it all or ask the person to lunch (P2).
We built an initial prototype for the app which we've continued to refine over the course of four "sprints" based on further research. Since this is a class project we've had the opportunity to pitch our updated prototype to the rest of the class every second week and receive user feedback. In each sprint we also gathered more data from user interviews and field testing the app.
We have drawn up a structured methodology to perform this testing. It consists of two parts: user interface testing, and user experience testing (with this we mean the actual in the field experience of meeting someone new through the app). For the first part we have a structured questioning approach which we use to interview people while they use our interface or wireframes. We have used this to evaluate the interface. Experience will be evaluated by post-meeting questionnaire. Since we have the email addresses of all users on file we can easily email the users who met someone on a given day and ask them questions to answer our learning prototype questions specified above. This will include: On a scale of 1-10, how was your meetup? Did you enjoy the group size? What is your optimal group size? What did you think of the matching process? Did you feel ready to meet your match or no? Was there enough contact?
When opening the app users have to provide their Georgia Tech email address to use it. On the morning of any given day a user who wants to meet someone that day can specify one of three time slots in which they are available. This is sent to the server which stores all the users interested in meeting on the server. At about 11AM we manually call an endpoint from Postman which matches all these users to meet over lunch at times that suit them. All matched users are given the first name of their match and are sent to a specific location which we determine. Users receive an email informing them of their match as well as a reminder notification to check the app. They can then meet someone new that day. The process repeats itself the next day.
The following video summarizes the flow of our app: