Internet Cafe — A Digital Third Place to Work, Study, and Socialize with Friends

Eileen Lee
3 min readDec 17, 2020


Adhiti Chundur,
Eileen Lee,
Lisa Leung,
Reina Liang,
Michelle Zhu,

Internet Cafe home page — browsing rooms

Our design intervention, “Internet Cafe” is an online coffee shop simulator, a digital platform where people can work, collaborate, and socialize virtually with friends and coworkers. As life and work increasingly occurs online, students have been struggling to replicate the social interactions that are now missing from their everyday lives — one example being studying with friends. Our coffee shop simulator aims to merge the new digital workspace, similar to Zoom or Slack, with an element of spontaneous socializing and relaxation.

A key feature of our design concept is to craft such interactions that are both accessible and low-maintenance. Rather than having to schedule plans and mark calendars with acquaintances simply to catch up and chat with a cup of coffee, the cafe affords an experience where one can casually meet with and talk with a friend in a “third place” environment. From our research and literature review, we found that third place environments are incredibly valuable to bridging the gap between home and work. These spaces are, in essence, neutral, low-profile spaces that provide a foothold for maintaining and developing social communities and relationships with transitory visitors, who come and go.

Creating a room to share with friends

With our coffee shop simulator, one can create their own room or explore public rooms.

In personal rooms, one can invite whoever they want and choose to

  • video or audio chat with others in the room,
Showing and hiding videos of friends in the room
  • indicate that they are studying and do not want to be bothered,
Selecting study mode or active mode
  • adjust lighting and background to fit a preferred mood or ambience,
Changing light quality and background picture of room
  • stream playlists with friends,
Sharing your Spotify stream with friends in the room
  • or order from a nearby local coffeehouse.

We went through multiple rounds of iteration and user testing, mostly to improve on details and clarify any confusion that users may have when using our platform. Although our platform may perform many of the same functions as other popular sites and applications, such as Zoom or Discord, we believe that Internet Café is unique in that it offers a flexible and relaxed space for both work and play. This online space is not far off from a physical coffeeshop or library where tired students may go for studying and meeting a friend.