Usability, Accessibility, and Ethics: The Starbucks App
Starbucks is a popular coffeehouse chain that was founded in Seattle, Washington in 1971 and now operates over 28,000 stores worldwide. In 2011, they launched a mobile payment program that introduced users to a smartphone application with a Starbucks Card stored within the app. This provided the most convenient and fastest way to pay for Starbucks purchases and has continued to become the most successful payment app, exceeding Apple Pay and Google Pay.
What are the heuristics that contribute to this application’s success? I wanted to take a closer look at the usability and accessibility heuristics of the Starbucks app to identify its strengths and weaknesses.
How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they use this application?
Whether you are new to mobile payment apps or ordering your morning cup of coffee on your mobile device, using the Starbucks app for the first time is straightforward. You are greeted with a main screen that displays your rewards, navigation options, and a button that you can select to pay for your order in store. Ordering and viewing the menu is easy to interpret with the affordances of the iconography used throughout the app. When looking to order, one can tap the order button in the center shaped like a cup of coffee. Labeling and actions remain consistent throughout the app making it feel cohesive.
How quickly can users perform tasks?
The Starbucks app allows users to pay in store with just the tap of a button placed within a thumb’s reach. Those who hold up the line while searching for their wallet can pay for their order much faster on their mobile device by selecting the pay in store feature. With the visibility of this option right above the navigation bar enclosed in a contrasting green pill button, users can efficiently pay for their order with this accessible design.
When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
I once decided to take a break from Starbucks to support small local coffee shops. This also meant weeks of me not using the Starbucks app or earning my Starbucks reward stars. When I decided to use the Starbucks app again, I was delighted to see the options, actions, and objects that were available that made me feel as though I never stopped using the app. When ordering through the app, your usual pickup location is listed along with a map of locations, making it convenient for users to use this application after a hiatus. Your past orders along with your favorited menu items are displayed and your pickup location is automatically set to your most frequented Starbucks store.
As you select menu options throughout the app, users are not provided with the cost of each item. It is a 4-step process to see how much an item costs and it is not visible until user reaches the checkout process. Once at checkout, there is a Reload & Order option available where you can reload and add funds to your Starbucks card. I had some difficulty with the amount I wanted to reload into my app since you are automatically prompted to reload $25. But what if users are looking to reload a smaller amount? I was not sure if I wanted to frequent Starbucks so $25 was on the steeper side for me. I then had to go to my settings to reload my preferred amount. There are often times when I do not notice the reload amount is set to $25 and proceed with reloading although I was looking to input a custom amount.