It’s the summer of 2020, COVID-19 is still raging, and the Belgian government just mandated all dining facilities to keep tabs (names and contact information) on every person that visits their establishment. For the most part this happens by letting people write down their information on sheets of paper.
For the cantina of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, one of Belgium’s top universities, this causes serious concerns: from September on between 500 and 1500 people visit the cantina daily. Not only does the “pen and paper” approach pose serious scalability issues it also raises multiple data privacy concerns.
Is there an app for that?
The Vrije Universiteit Brussel contacted us to help them figure out a solution. There were two main questions:
- Would students and staff would be willing to check in digitally (this was before the rise of national COVID apps)?
- How could we build a digital check-in system that offered as little barriers to entry as possible to maximize usage amongst campus population?
We decided to build an MVP which would be tested for a week at the start of the academic year. Cantina visitors would be able to check in both digitally and on paper. In order to ensure maximal possible adoption we decided to go for a progressive web app, accessible by scanning QR-codes posted at the entrances and exits of the cantina. Upon scanning users are redirected to a page to provide their contact information (unless it was remembered from a previous check-in or check-out).
You can try out the app and check out its original design in Figma below.
Validating at Scale
Over the course of this first week upwards of 4000 people checked-in digitally using the MVP. Although a small minority continued to check in via paper, over 95% of check-ins happened digitally thereby answering the initial questions.
The Vrije Universiteit Brussel decided to further implement this check-in system over the entirety of its campus while also adding additional features (e.g. live headcounts, contact tracing, etc.). The system sported 1500 check-ins daily before it was eventually discontinued as the pandemic thankfully ended in 2022.
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