Rethinking spreadsheets, voter forms, food and wholesale grocery

NEW YORK—Who likes Excel? If you’re the last holdout to spreadsheets or you’re more visually inclined, Airtable should make you use them more. It’ a complete rethinking of spreadsheets; it makes them colorful with visual aids to boot.

Have you tried doing a spreadsheet on your phone? Other than its grid-based desktop web interface, Airtable also carries a mobile app that formats your table rows, allowing to add and remove records and fields, attach files, share tables just like what it says you should be able to do on your desktop. All inputs are synced on all devices.

Andrew Olfstad presented Airtable at the Design-Driven Meetup at Oscar, the health insurance startup in its Soho offices. The other speakers were Dana Chisnell, co-founder of Center for Civic Design, who is always working toward making voter interaction between government and citizens easier. Boxed’s Jillian Bromley, the wholesale delivery service and Greg Hathaway of Maple, food delivery that offers a rotating daily menu from New York’s culinary talents.  

Chisnell showed how democracy can be a design problem. This happens when voting forms turn out to be too confusing when they’re meant to be as simple and clear as possible. She showed how a voting form in the 2000 presidential elections proved disastrous for democracy.

“Design changes the outcome of elections. Design even affects world peace,” Chisnell said as  the photo of George W. Bush beamed up on the projector screen.

“There was no usability testing in the 2000 elections,” she said as she showed slide after slide of poor ballot designs.  

To improve design of voter forms, she also highlighted the importance of accurate instructional illustrations.

Bromley said Boxed is Costco without the membership fee.  When you sign in, you’ll see a dashboard on the left side with the name and illustrated icons of the items you want delivered in bulk, from groceries and stationery to beverages. If it all seems like everyone else offers delivery these days, Boxed should have a sufficient runway to compete in the e-commerce space with the $100 million it has raised so far.  

Maple is also in the delivery space but it hones in on one thing — food and to keep you coming back, it’s not just any food; it’s made and prepared by New York’s culinary talents reportedly using high-quality ingredients.   

“We have thoughtfully sourced and prepaid cuisine. We are redesigning what we eat,” Hathaway said. “(We are) a restaurant without a restaurant.”  

The lesson he learned from designing the site included how people clicked more on Get Started button than its down arrow.  He also showed how its lunch box packaging evolved through time, which almost looks like jewelry boxes.  

Dennis Clemente

Shuttling between New York and other US cities, Dennis writes about tech meetups when he's not too busy working as a Web Developer/Producer + UX Writer and Digital Marketer.

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