Student-created app unlocks innovative online menu
Caf Wizard allows people to easily access the Caf menu. | Marika Adamopoulos/THE CHIMES
Look no further for your menu and meal exchange choices: Miles Luders, senior computer science major, created the “Caf Wizard” app and released it last semester in the iTunes App Store, providing a useful mobile alternative to the Bon Appetit website.
“Caf Wizard” has a clean, easy-to-read appearance, displaying food options in the Caf and meal exchange choices along with their service hours. It requires little effort to navigate through the menu, saving time for those who wish to quickly glance at the daily food selection. There is also an option to vote on the quality of the meal, and it displays a small chart comparing your thoughts with other voters’ thoughts.
Luders created the app because he felt the Bon Appetit website seemed too inconvenient to load and navigate quickly, especially on a mobile interface. Although he liked the availability of the menu, loading it on his phone and scrolling through the website every time was too difficult.
“I noticed that it wasn’t a very good website design, but I always wanted to have the foods with me,” Luders said.
realistically benefit many people
He began to work on the app as a personal project, challenging himself to develop something that could realistically benefit many people. Though he initially had little experience creating mobile apps, he developed valuable knowledge throughout the task.
“I realized there was more to Caf Wizard for me than just providing an alternative that was more streamlined,” Luders said. “I realized it was also an exercise, because I’ve learned so much in the process about programming.”
The app’s development began during the summer of 2015, and went through nearly 10 initial iterations in the first few weeks. After stages of planning, programming and testing, the general app was complete within two months.
room to grow
Basically, Luders explained, the app displays data read from a hidden — but still publicly available — web address from Bon Appetit. This data includes all the information that is posted on the official website, but is updated earlier and sometimes more accurately. In this way, “Caf Wizard” can display information from the source that is as accurate as possible.
Programming “Caf Wizard” was not as simple as it may seem, however. Many small, overlooked parts of the app took a while to implement — for example, making sure the app does not have to refresh constantly.
“There’s lots of little things in this app that I think people take for granted or don’t really notice,” Luders said. “There are lots of little things that make it completely streamlined and really awesome to use.”
“Caf Wizard” still has room to grow in the future — there are several features Luders is interested in seeing. For example, one useful idea would involve a feature allowing students to directly send messages to Bon Appetit. Similar to the feedback pages posted on the bulletin board outside the Caf, it would enable people to give suggestions or comments about the food in an anonymous and easy way.
An Android version of “Caf Wizard” would also be an important addition. However, Luders admitted the Android programming style differs significantly from Apple’s. He believes an Android version could appear if another student comfortable with programming apps was willing to take the reins.
“I’d like everyone at school to be using Caf Wizard, so I’d like to see an Android version,” Luders said. “If anyone wanted to make one, I’d be happy to help them.”
The Chimes contacted Bon Appetit regarding the presence of the app on campus. This was the first time Bon Appetit was made aware of the app use and has since been in contact with Luders.