case studies · customer research · web 2.0

hngry? Not *that* hungry.

hngry logo

Here’s a product that’s just been released and has managed to generate a little noise in the blogosphere.

Here’s the low down:

… get all of the menus from your favorite restaurants, sit down in front of your pc, open hngry and put in all the important info for each restaurant.

… When you’re hungry and can’t decide where to eat, just log in to hngry and click on “Where to eat?” hngry will ask you for the amount you’d like to spend, and the type of food you’d like to eat. When you’ve picked, click “I’m hngry”, and hngry will tell you where to eat, based on that information. … If you’d like, you can just print off the whole page and take it with you when you go!

And that’s it.

Here’s another idea. When you get junk mail or get take away food, grab the menu and put it with a group of others in a place you’ll remember. I use a very high tech bulldog clip and the botton drawer in my kitchen. My friend Penny uses a more high tech solution involving twine and a hook on the back of her kitchen door.

Why on earth am I going to spend my time entering all that information into a web app? What do I get?

Well, nothing. Nothing more than my free kitchen drawer solution gives you. Except, perhaps, problems. Because I can’t file my pizza shop under icecream as well, even though they’re the best place to get gelati. And there’s no way to distinguish which Thai places I actually like (until I read the entry I’ve written on them).

But, most crazily of all – there’s no information sharing!

There’s no hngry community from whom I can search to finally find a in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney that does a pizza anywhere near as good as what I used to get in Leichhardt. And I can’t tell you about the place I just discovered that is great for fish and chips on Sunday evening, watching the sun go down over the water in Sydney (which is pretty rare. Sun generally rises over water in this neck of the woods).

Now, I’ve read that Hngry was not intended to be a community based site, so I’ll acknowledge that was the intention of the developer of the site. But that doesn’t mean its crazy. Hngry with a bit more thinking, could have been a great idea. In its current state, it’s going to quietly fail.

Why? Because there’s no compelling incentive for users to enter all this information if all they get is a very poorly designed interface to query (in a very limited way) their own information. (Which they could be keeping neatly in a drawer in the kitchen).

Also, I think the query terms are wrong. When I’m hungry but I don’t know what to eat, part of the problem is that I don’t know what food type I want to eat! (This may be a chick thing, but I think its reasonably universal). I think that having food type as the primary means of querying my database of restaurants is flawed – unless I can select a few at once.

If it were up to me, I’d want to be able to organise my list into categories like this:

  • healthy stuff
  • fried and/or fattening but totally worth it
  • spicy
  • seafood
  • special occasion
  • sunday nights

Now… I know that this is very much a personalised kind of list… so, I guess what I’m saying is that I think this site *needs* to use tags.

It also needs to do something about location… not only for the absolutely necessary content sharing capabilities that it will need to support, but also for individual use. I know that I’ll be putting restaurants in that are close by, and others that are further afield. I’d want to be able to filter out those further afield if I were in a lazy mood.

And, home delivery. That’s another kicker. I know at my house we’ve been through the pile of takeaway menus on several occasions filtering out those that *didn’t* do delivery, because we just didn’t want to leave the house.

Now, I know that building in the content sharing introduces a whole world of pain for the poor guy who just slaved away to bring this site to life… but, frankly, I think its a deal breaker. The site just isn’t going to be used otherwise.

Perhaps there are opportunities to work with others who are aggregating content in this genre? In Sydney, for example, you could take the idea to HWW who do restaurant listings, or Eatability who also have a wealth of content in this area and a nice little community to boot.

In general though – it seems pretty clear to me that this project did not include:

  • persona, scenario, use case development
  • market research/user testing (even informally)
  • thinking about the place of this application with the web ‘platform’ that is 2.0

I know (from various blog posts I’ve come across) that a lot of hard work has gone into this project, so it’s a shame that it is so fundamentally flawed. By including at least two of the three items listed above, this wasted effort could have been avoided. (Sorry… now I’m sounding *really* pessimistic).

This is another example of a site that obviously hasn’t had the advantage of any kind of designer, interface, graphic or otherwise. It’s a food site, for heavens sake… it should be pleasurable. It’s only just functional at the moment.

Raise the bar.

In review: Had the makings of a great idea, and someone will probably grab it an work with other content providers to create a really cool service that is actually useful and valuable to users (and to those content providers who will then recruit a whole other community to build them even more content!).

A great case study in why you should think more about how your users behave and how you can create incentives for them to use your product if you want to build a 2.0 product with legs.

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3 thoughts on “hngry? Not *that* hungry.

  1. Hey Leisa-

    I’m Richard, from hngry.

    I said on the hngry blog from day one that I was and am fully committed to bringing features to hngry that people wanted, and of course, I’m taking your post to heart, because I think that you have some great points. I just wanted to get a solid core out the door and let people start using it… I do think it does have a couple of good features right now.. My girlfriend and I have a stack of to-go menus, but we don’t take them everywhere we go. hngry is web accessible, and all the relevant information that you need to make your decision is available to you online. That’s #1. #2 is that it decides for you, given a food type and amount to spend, mostly so you don’t have to dig through all your restaurants. You can just reload the results page and it will give you another restaurant that matches the given criteria.. or you can use the Totally Random button if you don’t even know that. I realize that that’s a bit limiting, but it forces you to make a quick decision so hngry can help with the rest. That’s how I like it, but some people don’t, so I will be adding more options for that.

    Anyhow, I’m working on implementing tagging and restaurant sharing right now. It’s actually not bringing in a “world of pain” for me. I fully expected to be writing additional features soon after launch, and have written a couple of small ones just yesterday, after someone requested them.

    You’re very right, in its current state, many people will look at it and dismiss it because it doesn’t fit their needs right now.. But that’s ok. Right now, I’m going after the people that do. If it becomes more useful to people later on who didn’t want to use it in the beginning, that will be awesome. I don’t know if this was clear from the weblog or the help page on hngry, but I built this because of a need that my girlfriend and I had.. and it works great for us… so I figured why not get it out the door so I we can use it, because perhaps someone else would want to use it too. Why not open it up to the public? I didn’t just kick hngry out to see it die. As users request things, I will see if they would benefit the site as a whole, then impelemt them if they do.. and since I’m a user, there are things that I’ll see all by myself and make a new feature for, or fix. I’m on it! :)

    Keep checking hngry, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised in the time to come.


  2. hey Richard,

    thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate you sharing your pov here.

    here’s the thing that I don’t get. You say:

    ‘My girlfriend and I have a stack of to-go menus, but we don’t take them everywhere we go.’

    Neither do I… but I’ve never felt caught short without them. Can you run me through a more detailed scenario where you see yourself using hngry ‘out and about’.

    Speaking for myself (and, when designing a site, that’s a dangerous thing to do, I know), the vast majority of times that I have the problem that I understand hngry is designed to solve is when I’m at home. When I’m out and about, my geographic location what I’m doing tend to limit the options for me and help me choose…

    I just don’t see the need, in this context.

    Perhaps there are *lots* of people out there for whom your concept is screamingly obvious and I’m in the minority.

    If you’re of those people and you’re reading this, can you pls just leave a brief note to that effect here.

    Much appreciated :)

  3. There is no detailed scenario to run through… I use it everyday at work, and sometimes after church on Sunday afternoons.. and I know people who use it at school.. close enough to be able to choose from the same restaurants to eat, but not close enough to have your menus at hand…

    I also find that the “What to eat” page works pretty well on my Treo, no matter where i am in town.

    I totally accept that it doesn’t work for you right now… that’s fine. I’m aiming for those that do. However small that number might end up being, it’s important to me.

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