Foundations to build on: OpenTable's UX principles

May 7, 2021


5 min read

Design Team
Foundations to build on: OpenTable's UX principles

We started our journey in creating our UX principles by first outlining why we needed them. Our UX principles help in three key areas:

  1. Drive consistency in our UX across restaurant and diner marketplace.

  2. Create a shared understanding on how to navigate user problems.
  3. Ensure that we are all steering in the same direction towards our company OKRs.

To uncover these principles in both our process and culture, we went through several cycles of feedback from design, engineering, and product.

This included surveying designers, engineers, and PMs to better understand what should we be optimizing for in our UX principles, what’s the most ideal / least ideal UX we provide today, and which proposed UX principles will help guide decision making. We then workshopped the top five proposed principles to better understand how each one could help guide decision making. 

During this process we asked ourselves the following questions to help keep us grounded in coming up with the right principles:

  • Is it authentic and unique to OpenTable?
  • Does it have the ability to inspire teams?
  • Is it relatable and easy to remember?
  • Can teams take action tomorrow?

Our principles

Putting "Be a friend" into practice:

  • How might we put our users’ needs first by being radically transparent?
  • What can we do to help our diners and restaurants in tough times?

UX design principles help teams establish the grounding values for the products they are building. As we are constantly growing and adapting, these principles will help us make intelligent and thoughtful decisions throughout the product development process.

- Lily Samimi, Design Manager

Example: State of the industry

In March 2020, we began sharing data about how restaurants across markets are handling the impact of COVID-19.

How it relates back to the principle:

Many have questioned whether or not the restaurant industry will survive the pressures of the pandemic. The objective of this page is to provide restaurant owners and relevant stakeholders with a transparent and insightful view of where the industry as a whole is headed.

View it live

Example: Ways to support our restaurants

Restaurants need our support to stay afloat through the COVID-19 pandemic.

How it relates back to the principle:

We all dream of a future state in which we can dine at our favorite restaurants, mask-free and without social distancing. However, in order to stay afloat, OpenTable restaurants needed to pivot their operations to identify alternate revenue options beyond reservations. Being a friend means equipping our restaurant partners with opportunities and resources to make it through tough times, such as:

  • Highlighting safety precautions on the restaurant profile page
  • Showcasing delivery and takeout solutions
  • Featuring restaurants that offer gift cards
  • Creating a tailored hub page to identify restaurants that have recently reopened

View it live

Putting "Respect their time" into practice:

  • How might we anticipate user intent?
  • How might we expedite wait or processing times for both sides of our marketplaces
  • What might data tell us about where we can reduce friction for our users?

Example: Quick search

Host need a quick way to search for guests.

How it relates back to the principle:

A host is balancing many demands at once—seating diners, answering the phone, and observing the status of tables, amongst other tasks. Oftentimes, they need to be able to find diners and reservations quickly so they can move on to the next task. This quick guest search feature helps them find and make reservations without delays.

Example: Offline to online booking management

How it relates back to the principle:

Many of our reservations are created via walk-ins or over the phone. Now, diners can quickly modify their offline reservations and see their reservation details via a text link provided by OpenTable. We respect our restaurant partners by freeing up their time.

Putting "Think holistically" into practice:

  • How does the experience we’re building impact both diners and restaurants?
  • Are there any gaps to close in either the diner or restaurant experience?
  • Are there any unintended or unknown impacts to the other side of the marketplace?

Example: OpenTable Experiences

Discover the latest culinary experiences from your favorite restaurants in metros around the globe.

How it relates back to the principle:

With the rollout of new experiences features, the design team had to ensure that restaurant needs as a business were meeting diner expectations. This meant that they needed to collaborate, understand, and ultimately connect the two user journeys together.

Example: OpenTable Photo Gallery

Restaurants can attract diners by uploading photos of the restaurant ambiance and dishes onto their OpenTable restaurant profile page.

How it relates back to the principle:

Photos are critical for decision-making when it comes to choosing a restaurant. In order to improve our photos, our team had to come up with a self-serve solution that ensured restaurants and their profile pages were enticing and accurate.

The diner design team brought their knowledge about consumers and embedded themselves into the restaurant-facing product in order to solve this problem. This crossover ultimately created a better user experience for both sides of our marketplace.

Similar to how a restaurant manager would communicate their set of values to staff, these UX principles are meant to achieve similar goals. It really is about mindful expectation setting in our product development process.

- Briana Lee, Senior Product Designer

Like with anything we design at OpenTable, these principles are not set in stone. We frequently collect data from our teams on how they are using these principles, and we’ll iterate on them every 1-2 years to improve their efficacy over time.


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Design Team

We're a global team of designers, content strategists and leaders. We love helping diners experience the world through dining and helping restaurateurs run thriving businesses.