UX Case Study: Cocktail App

UX Case Study: Cocktail App



If you get a group of cocktail enthusiasts together, at some point in the evening they will inevitably discuss three things:

  • What’s the best cocktail bar in the city?

  • What’s the best drink you’ve had recently?

  • What’s your liquor of choice?

When I first moved to Chicago, I began a little quest to meet new people and discover the best cocktail bars in the city. I attended events through and later starting hosting events for women who enjoy whiskey.

During these events, the questions above always bubbled up. Eventually, I thought to myself: why isn’t there an app for that? In other words...

How might we help cocktail enthusiasts discover the best drinks and bars in their city?

My Role & Process

I followed IDEO’s human-centered design thinking process to tackle this project. Because this was a personal project, I was the sole researcher and designer for all steps.



I met many different kinds of people who also were curious about discovering new bars and drinks. To distill what I understood about these people and their goals, I created Personas and Job Stories.


Job Stories

job stories@2x.png


I started by brainstorming with sketched wireframes. There were a few main questions that arose during sketching:

  • Were users more interested in individual bars or drinks?

  • Does location/proximity matter?

  • What ranking method do they prefer: stars, score out of 100, upvotes?

Click thumbnails below to see full images.

Click thumbnails below to see full images.

I showed these ideas to potential users and got their feedback:

  • 4 out of 5 testers were more interested in individual drinks versus bars, but it was also important to them to easily find out where that drink was served.

  • Testers were more interested in the ranked list of drinks rather than a map; they were willing to travel to try the best cocktails. There was some interest in seeing drinks near their current location, but to them, this product seemed much more fun as a new cocktail discovery tool, regardless of proximity. I decided to think of “drinks near me” as a feature to add later.

  • For the ranking method, 2 testers preferred stars, 2 preferred an average score out of 100, and 1 preferred a simple count of upvotes. I dug deeper into this in the next step.

Prototypes & Flows

Since there wasn’t consensus about preferred ranking method, I mocked up the two frontrunners with higher fidelity wireframes and tested again. Seeing it more clearly, 4 out of 5 testers preferred the star method.


To flush out the functionality of the app, I created wireframes to define how users accomplish these common tasks:

  1. See cocktail details

  2. Look at bourbon cocktails only

  3. Rate a cocktail


I used InVision to make a clickable prototype. Testers completed these basic tasks with little to no issue.

I then created flow charts to capture how a user would move through the app.

Flows showing discovery and rating actions (left) and adding a cocktail (right).

Flows showing discovery and rating actions (left) and adding a cocktail (right).

User Interface

I started by exploring a few different styles for the user interface (click to see larger views).

I showed these options to prospective users. Generally, they preferred the dark themes. Some people liked seeing photos, while others liked the simple, sophisticated approach of using icons.

Wait a second…

It occurred to me that the visual appeal of the first and second options relied heavily on having beautiful photos. Since photos would be submitted by users in the app, I questioned their ability to take good photos in a dimly-lit bar. I asked a few people to take photos of their drink. The results were… not great.


For this reason, I decided to use the interface that did not rely on gorgeous photos.

To further develop the user interface and visual style, I built out more high-fidelity mocks and created some simple branding.

- big-mock.png


This was a fun personal project that had no particular business goals other than to strengthen my skills in design thinking, UX, and UI. However, it was very gratifying to test the final clickable prototype in bars and hear things like:

Whoah! Can I download this?

I’m really curious to see what the top 3 drinks would be.

I wish this was real!

Next Steps

Further testing would need to be conducted to validate usability across the app. Also, additional features could be added. For example, I anticipate that some users would want to see a map of cocktails and bars near their current location. Or, users may want to be able to leave comments or more nuanced ratings. There are many possibilities that I look forward to exploring!