From CS 160 User Interfaces Sp10
Microbrews - beers made by relatively small-time operations (as compared to large-scale breweries such as Budweiser) - are a very popular alcoholic beverage with an extremely wide variety of styles and large number of different producers. Once somewhat difficult to come by, there are an increasing number of establishments catering to the desire for a variety of so-called "craft" brews, offering an almost paralyzing selection of beer. I propose, as a project, to create an application to allow people to keep track of their own subjective feelings on a wide variety of beers.
Target User Group
The group of users I have in mind for this application is people who are interested in and passionate about beers and consume a wide enough variety that they have trouble keeping track of them all. This is a relatively easy group to get a handle on as you can find them at any of a number local establishments - call them "beer bars", "gastropubs" or what have you. Their interest in a relatively recent phenomenon (specialty beers) and their available disposable income (lots of these beers ain't cheap!) make them exceedingly likely to also be iPhone users. They want to be able to remember details of and make informed guesses about a very subjective quality - taste.
With the combination of a massive variety of beers available and those beers coming in a massive number of distinct and not-so-distinct styles, it can be hard to keep track of one's own feelings on beers that they've tried - especially when the bars they frequent like to rapidly rotate through different offerings. Because there is much more to remember about beers with the type of complexity you can find at high-end beer bars than simply "rate this on a scale of one to five", some somewhat sophisticated note-taking needs to take place to remember all the nuances. Questions like "how hoppy was it?" might need be answered, but also might lead to further refinements of question, like "did the hoppiness present as more bitter or more floral?". One also would like to remember what other beers a particular beer reminded them of, and get recommendations on new beers to try that are catered to their particular likes and dislikes. Of course, there are also more practical things to recall about a beer, like where it was had and what price was paid.
In addition to the complexity of the task, there is obviously a more practical reason why a beer aficionado can't rely on his or her memory - the very beverage they're enjoying is inhibiting their ability to remember!
Problem Context and Forces
This is a problem that is not well solved by traditional note-taking. Where are certainly folks that would be happy to sit and write out extensive notes while drinking a beer, the average person is unlikely to want to spend huge amounts of time detailing the beer they're drinking while drinking it. Drinking beer out is typically a social experience, which you don't want to massively interrupt by stopping to chronicle each beer. Also, traditional note-taking is not suited to keep good track of connections - between beers of similar types, between beers and locations that serve them, between breweries and the beers they put out, etc. A robust but easy and quick to use application is called for - something that makes it easy to record a quick impression, but also possible to add a wide variety of relevant info, with a few simple taps of the finger.
In a search through the app store (which I know of no good way to link to), I found a few applications that seem to be aiming to accomplish the goal I've set out. (The vast majority of apps found in a search for "beer", though, are unsurprisingly not at all what I'm aiming for, and arguably largely frivolous). One specifically called Rate: Beer seemed to incorporate some of the ideas I've had while brainstorming this project - but even that app was fairly poorly reviewed, leaving me confident that there is room out there for a well-designed beer rating app.