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Unintended negative UX
Every design decision has tradeoffs. Sometimes we don't know what those tradeoffs are until we face the unintended consequences of those decisions.
For those who don’t know, Starbucks has a feature in their mobile app where you can place an order from the app and have your drink waiting for you when you walk in. It's a wonderful feature for those who want to pick up their morning coffee quickly.
As we can see from the photo, it’s a popular feature. But an unintended consequence is its negative impact for those who don’t use it.
When you get in line at a coffee shop, you’re assessing how long it will take to get your drink. You’re looking at clues like the line in front of you, the number of people already waiting for their drinks, and cars in the drive through to roughly estimate how long it's going to take to get your drink.
We take these things into account because we set expectations on how long we’re prepared to wait for our order. Things get frustrating when reality doesn’t match our expectation.
What the Starbucks product team created was a third, invisible queue: the mobile orders queue.
If you were to get to a coffee shop and see a line out the door, you’d probably reconsider wait in that line. Yet that could be the case when you place an order at the counter. You just don’t know it yet.
Some people on that Reddit post shared experiences of waiting 45 minutes or more for their drink. I had a brief stint as a barista in high school and I would not want to deal with customers waiting that long for their caffeine fix.
It’s a good reminder that every design decision we make can have consequences.
I’m curious to see what the UX team at Starbucks does to solve this issue. Left unchecked, customers will start associating a visit to Starbucks with long, frustrating waiting time.
If you want a deep dive into the psychology of waiting, I recommend grabbing a copy of Delayed Response by Jason Farman. There’s a lot of great information about the waiting, our sense of time, and how progress is relative. Lots of great information you can apply to your apps. Here’s a quote I’ve referenced a lot:
Waiting icons make us willing to wait longer—three times as long as designs with no visualization to indicate something is happening behind the scenes. But we tend to respond even better when we receive some direct feedback about the progress being made behind the scenes.
What do you think about Starbucks’ waiting problem? How would you solve it?
🧠 Psychology Patterns
A concept from psychology to improve your product.
Perception of Time
Perception of time is subjective.
We crave progress. How can we positively influence the perception of time in our designs?
Waiting while looking at a loading animation is perceived to be faster than waiting without one
Even better, waiting with a progress bar is perceived as faster than a loading animation
For longer wait times, is it possible to allow users do something productive while they wait?
🖤 Cool Things
📚 Book — Delayed Response
A solid book on the psychology of waiting. Lots of lessons that can be applied to design. Also just a fascinating look into what happens when people are made to wait (and why it might not be bad).
🛠️ Tool — TextSniper
Super handy Mac utility that allows you to take a screenshot of text from an image and it will copy the text to your clipboard. I have a global keyboard shortcut (⌘ ⇧ 5) for this because I use it constantly. Someone on Zoom is sharing a browser tab? No more asking them to send you the URL. Just snap the URL and paste it into your browser.
📝 Article — Re-approaching Color by Kevyn Arnott
Great deep dive by Kevyn Arnott at Lyft into creating color systems for accessible UIs that scale. This is a fascinating read for anyone who's working with color for their design system.
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