CoverMe is a digital product ecosystem that focusing on equitable scheduling for restaurant wait staff to provide a predictable and supportive work environment.

10 Weeks
Oct 2019 - Dec 2019
My role
User experience design
Interaction design
Visual Design
Adobe PS
Adobe AI
Shian Yang
Adriane Kuzminski
Miguel Gutierrez
Design Challenge
How might we create a more sustainable work environment in restaurants that prioritizes wait staff needs and goals?
In this project, I led interaction design and visual design. I created low-fidelity to high-fidelity interfaces, designed micro-interaction, animated prototypes, as well as iterations. I also built up the visual system, including mood board, color theme, fonts, and logo, etc.
Servers are working in a hospitality environment with excessive working hours. Lack of a predictable and supportive work environment leads to servers feel stressed. As a result, the situation of staff turnover and under understaffed happens, which increases the stress for current workers and force them to leave for other job opportunities.

Moreover, as managers lack of time to consider different individual's needs and goals, the poorly arranged shift scheduling cause increased pressure and tension within servers, which forms a negative circle in the restaurants.

Key Features

Choose preferred work style
Able to select working hours, time slot and the particular day they can't work.
User Needs
Predictable work environment.
Reach personal needs and goals.
Release shift and accept trading user flow
Provide staff with multiple points of entry for accessing and managing their shifts.
Release and accept shifts by mobile phone application or the board monitor in the restaurant.
User Needs
Supportive work environment.
Easier to ask for coverage or cover coworker's shift.
On-site device - job board
Combined same features with phone's version.
Present current week shift scheduling, announcements and open shifts information.
User needs
Ability to access information during their work.
Ability to access the system without smartphones.

Formative Research

Our team conducted secondary research, semi-structured interviews and cultural probes.

We decided to target restaurant small to middle size with 10 to 30 wait staff, because we found that larger size restaurants will be better organized with more mature system. Smaller size restaurants can better self organized as they don’t have too many people.

We visited over 20 restaurants in the Seattle area. In the end, we got 6 key findings. 3 from interviews and 3 from cultural probes.

Semi-structured Interviews
Participants: Servers who are currently working in restaurants
Duration: One hour each with several times in-depth interviews
Research Question:  What are the primary sources of stress for restaurant wait staff?

Goal: To get a general understanding of the roles of servers from both pragmatic and emotional perspectives. We aimed to identify what the common stresses in the workplace are.
key findings


Servers need a “well-oiled machine” to perform well.
“It’s the worst when there’s literally so much to do, no one to help, and those who are there are trained so poorly they may as well not be” —— Participant 3


Lack of control of their shifts which also generate impact of their potential earnings.
It's stressing me out when I'm assigned a shift I know will be slow because I know I won't get any tips." —— Participant 2


Managers tend to reward servers with their personal preferences.
I know the manager always give shifts to the people he likes more. Some other coworkers seem like they will never get the best shifts. That was the reason why two of them quit last week." —— Participant 1
Culture Probes — Community Ballot with One Question
To save restaurant servers time, we designed this culture probes that allow them finish quickly without taking too much time.

Ballot for the top three resources valued in their job, and some keywords of the most stressful thing in their jobs. We wanted to understand what servers valued in their jobs and what the greatest source of stress is in the restaurant environment.
Figure 1 - Culture Probes
key findings


Supportive work management is one of the most important factors. [ Figure 2]
“I want to have proper work management and supportive attitude from the manager, especially when we come across problems.” —— Participant 3


Understaffing is both a cause and outcome of servers unhappiness and stresses.
“[There's] not enough coverage, [I] always work alone.” —— Participant 2


Managers lack of time to consider different individual’s needs and goals.
“Well, I know, everybody is busy, especially the manager. He just keep forgetting I don't have time on Wednesday and keep schedule me on that day. Things shouldn’t work like this, right?” —— Participant 4
Figure 2 - Results from Culture Probes voting, which revealed the fourth key finding.

Archetype and Journey Map

Based on our research, I created two archetype: Ron and Sofia, which represent two groups of people working in the restaurants. Ron is a full-time server and works for a living. On the other hand, Sofia is a part-time server and works for supplemental for daily expenses.
The journey map revealed the negative cycle caused by managerial bias and understaffing.



Figure 3 - Photos of cluster different ideas

Design Principle

Servers First

Make a design which prioritize the needs and goals of servers.

Reduce workload for managers and leave more time for them to provide supportive management.

Promote Equity

Try to make servers to have a fair chance to get high demand shifts and allow them to have personal growth during their work.

Sustainable Workflows

Focus on different individuals and provide a predictable work environment. Positive effects will impact both managerial relations and customer satisfaction.

Three Ideas
Figure 4 - Three ideas - down selection


"Gig" Servers
Establish a third online platform that allows servers who want to work extra time to register. When any restaurant undergoing understaffing problem, the platform can send servers who have similar work experience to help on that day. By doing this, the restaurant can reduce understaffing situation.
Design Principle
Servers First
❌  Although this concept tries to solve understaffing problem, it doesn’t prioritize servers' needs and goals.
Promote Equity
❌  Fail to provide fair chance for servers to get high demand shifts evenly. It even increase their competition as there are always alternate servers stand-by.
Sustainable Workflows
❌  Fail to provide predictable work environment. Servers may have to work with random colleagues and it may cause work conflict.


Establish an online platform to help servers build up a community and promote skills exchange within coworkers. They can build up their skills during their work and being more competitive in the job market.
Design Principle
Servers First
✅  Help servers to reach their goals and needs to gain personal growth.
Promote Equity
❌  Not relevant to provide fair chance for servers to get high demand shifts evenly.
Sustainable Workflows
❌  Not relevant to provide predictable work environment.


CoverMe’s algorithm automatically produces next month shift schedules based on server’s preferences and needs. 
Design Principle
Servers First
✅ Resists managerial bias by empowering servers to control their schedules.
Promote Equity
✅ Promotes equity by allocating high-demand shifts evenly.
Sustainable Workflows
✅ One month shift scheduling can let servers better plan their personal time. Also, managers have more time to provide support to their staff.


Considering Houde + Hill’s prototype model, we are primarily concerned with Role as our concept would be the first in the market to center on server interests as opposed to revenue and customer-centric approaches.

Can current servers see themselves using this platform?

Look + Feel may be a secondary concern, but we feel that we are too early in the design process to consider Implementation.
We tested all three prototypes with 5 working servers.

1: Mobile App - Onboarding
2: Site-Specific Monitor- Covering a Shift
3: Mobile App + Employee Card -Clocking In/Clocking Out

If there are any features are missing or redundant
If the flow is intuitive without any explanation
What the frustrating moment is when users trying to finish a task
Prototype 1:

Participants were asked to role play as a server who has just been hired and has received an invite to CoverMe.

During the process, we asked questions regarding their feelings towards our approach, with some questions regarding interface/pragmatic elements.
Prototype 2:

Participants were asked to role play as a server who wanted to help out their coworker, Ron, who needs his shift covered.

During the process, we asked if they felt the system would be used in their workplaces and if they were able to clearly understand the information displayed.
Prototype 3:

Participants were asked to role play as a server. They were asked to clock in and out of work using the employee card.

As we tested this prototype, we asked about current technology used in restaurants for clocking in and out and submitting shifts (i.e.Point of Sales software and apps).
Prototype Video

User testing insights & Iteration


The Employee Card felt like just one more thing you have to take care of.
“ I don’t want to bring a card with me. I may leave it at home. PIN number is more convenient. " —— Participant 2
“I’ve worked in some places that had a card to clock in and out; it’s not awful, but I prefer just signing in with a PIN just in case I forget the card or something. ” —— Participant 3

Discard Employee Card design and combined it into Job Board.


Users claimed that their information already exists in the system, and they feel confused about picking a color to represent themselves.
“Um...Why do we need to register? Actually my name and PIN number are already in the restaurant system” —— Participant 3
“Pick a color, for what? Then what if the other one pick a same color with me?” —— Participant 4

Took off register process. Users can log in with restaurant ID, PIN number and name, because the information is already stored in the restaurant.
Changed manually color selection to automatically assigned to them by the system.


Users felt confused about Request Coverage button.
“Do I need to click the Request button first? Or the date? Um.... I don't know how to select the date that I want to request coverage” —— Participant 2

• Took off "Request Coverage" button and changed it to "slide left" gesture on date column.
• Visualized working hour data.


Users felt it was hard to drag the little dot to the exact number they wanted.
“I want to drag it to's hard for me! My finger is too thick” —— Participant 3

Designed more intuitive way to select preferred working hour per week.
Added calendar to easier select particular date.


Users didn't know what "Work Style" means, they needed extra explanations.
“Work style? What does it mean? Can you explain it to me?” —— Participant 1

Changed work style description specific time slots.


User Flow

Mood Board and Color Theme

The mood board takes inspiration from solar systems and nighttime activity. We would like our design can promote organization, collaboration, and focus.

Also, we considered some restaurants don't have a bright work environment, so dark mode will help them more comfortable to access the product.

We use dark blue as our primary color, mainly for background color. Red orange and white as primary secondary colors, mostly for buttons and high light information, which can bring fresh and active feelings into this dark mode interface.
We also use three ingredients color for circle, logo elements, which can express vivid and attractive feelings.

Click to view full design specification

Positive Feedback

Participants felt that this could be a real product and they would want to use it.

“I want to use it! It’s really helpful for my work”
-- Participant 2.
“Are you gonna develop this? Can we get this?”
-- Participant 1.

The Job Board is useful and helpful for servers.

“Okay, this is nice, I like how clear it is. I wish something like this existed IRL” -- Participant 3.

“I think it’s helpful, as we can see the information on it. Normally, we only have a printed shift in our break room” -- Participant 2.

Relevant information is emphasized at the right time on the right device.

(With upcoming shifts on home screen) “I like this better. I hated that I had to go through multiple screens [on Kronos], because 90% of the time I’m looking to see what time my shift is” -- Participant 4.

Future Step

Manager's Perspective 

It's essential to let the manager get involved in this process. Thus, in the next step, I want to build up the manager's user side.
After CoverMe generates the next month's scheduling, the manager can make a slight adjustment based on the situation in the restaurants.
Also, managers can deal with the shifts that no one wants to take. The information should send to the manager's side and let them deal with it.

Link the System in the Restaurant  

There are also other types of servers in the restaurants, like counter servers and chefs.
Linking the entire system together can make the workflow runs more smoothly and provide a more comfortable work environment.
It will also be beneficial if we can form a server community, which can help them protect their rights, improve awareness, and encourage personal growth.

Personal Reflection

Build Up Empathy with Users

I learned the value of listening to users and generating solutions by focusing their pain points. Although I did secondary research, I will never realize their problems, stress resources without going to restaurants to observe and talk with them.
Also, research not only existing in the research stage. It also gets involved in the design and iteration stages. I learned more during user testing, which allows me to keep refining my design.

Consider Different User's Needs

During the interviews and user testing, I learned that only have a phone application is not practical due to their work style. Also, concerned that restaurant servers need to physically in the restaurants to clock in/out. Those are the reasons I created two devices.


I gained valuable experiences. I learned communication is essential in a team, including sharing and expressing your ideas clearly, as well as listening to others and giving feedback.
We also need to consider different cultures so that people may think in different layers. Be patience and try to understand others will broaden my mind and learn more from others.