User Experience Evaluation of Instacart
By Shuvankar Saha
Instacart is a widely used e-commerce platform primarily focused on grocery items in Canada and the United States of America. Instacart service is available on websites and in mobile applications. This service has changed the conventional way of doing the grocery and brought the whole market of grocery items in a distance of one single click. A user can browse the grocery items by department, category, and supermarket. In addition, the users are allowed to sort the products by price and popularity within a single marketplace. Finally, a shopper assigned by Instacart delivers the grocery items to the user’s doorstep within a predefined scheduled time. It allows a user to schedule a delivery at any point of future time, communicate with the shopper while picking up the items, change the preferences on the fly, get an instant refund if the item is not available, and some other excellent features that have made this platform widely accepted and popular.
In the next section of this blog, I will talk about some of the major usability problems encountered while conducting a heuristic evaluation and an in-depth evaluation by real users on the most frequently features used within the platform. During the evaluation process, it has been observed that several usability heuristics are not followed, and it has been impacting on user experience at error prevention, user control, flexibility to use and in many other aspects. This blog will also share the recommendations that can resolve the usability issues and add more values to a user experience.
Evaluation Methods Used
This blog has focused on assessing the user experience in the Instacart website which still considered one of the most popular mediums of interacting with an e-commerce platform. As a UX expert, I have conducted the heuristic evaluation for the end to end process that includes searching for a product, determining the quantity, placing the item in the shopping cart, confirming the order, completing the payment, tracking the order, and finally providing the shopper's feedback. Additionally, I have chosen a set of six real users which is divided into the users who have previous experience in using Instacart and the others who have not worked with this platform before.
User Experience Problem in Instacart
1. Users cannot define the quantity in pounds (lbs)
In Canada, a large number of people use the pound (lbs) metric system as a unit of measurement. Instacart only allows selecting the amount in pieces, and in kilograms. So, it does not display the amounts in pounds (lbs) for any product which is not measurable in pieces. Therefore, it leaves the users in between two compromising situations. They are either forced to do the mathematical conversion between kilograms and lbs by themselves or they purchase the product in an approximate quantity in kilograms. In both cases, it creates a non-convenient user experience. This problem violates the following two usability heuristics-
Instacart should introduce a choice between pounds (lbs) and kilograms (kg) for every product which is available to purchase in weight. In this way, users will have more freedom to pick up their preferred unit. The switch between the lbs and kg should act as a radio button. If a user opts for an item in lbs, the system should deselect all previous selections.
2. Users cannot recommend a particular grocery outlet
An Instacart user can browse the items and place an order by supermarkets. But in the real world, each grocery outlet has a different set of available items in its inventory. But Instacart internally picks up the nearest grocery outlet (nearest outlet of larger supermarket like Costco, Walmart, Loblaws, Sobeys, etc.), and the shopper purchases the items from there. Sometimes, the user knows that some items are only available at a specific outlet from their own experience. But Instacart does not allow the users to mention the preferred outlet while placing the orders. Therefore, the shopper cannot find these (special) items from the nearest stores and it causes a large number of unsuccessful deliveries. This problem violates the following two usability heuristics-
Instacart should introduce a new section to define a specific outlet if the user wishes. This field should require optional user-level input. Because not always the users will be eager to set a preference. By default, the system should pick up the nearest store and the user will be allowed to change it in any special circumstances. As the delivery fees are associated with the distance between the user's address and the outlet's address, Instacart will notify about the increase of fees if a user selects a distant outlet.
3. Misguiding the users to register before shopping at the homepage
The initial visible portion of the Instacart home page asks a user to enter his/her respective delivery address and become a registered user of this platform. It is uncomfortable for first-time users who do not have a detailed understanding of Instacart items but still need to register themselves to browse the items and place orders. In many cases, the users prefer to complete the shopping as a guest, without registering for e-commerce service. Moreover, there is an option to start shopping right below the registration option that does not work and does not show the appropriate error message to users. Instacart has a feature to browse the items before registering which is not easily discoverable. The user needs to scroll all the way down to browse the Instacart products by different categories. Very often the users will struggle to find the guest access or forced to register for the service at the initial steps. This problem violates the following two usability heuristics-
Instacart should introduce a new "Continue as Guest" feature (placing a button right beside the login) that will allow the users to browse the items, add them to a shopping cart, make a payment, and place the order as a guest. Registering to Instacart should be an optional choice that should be left for the user's discretion. The system can ask to register for the platform once a user has successfully placed an order. During this time, it can attract the user by displaying the benefits of a registered user.
4. Redirecting the users to stores when they want to navigate to homepage
Once the user steps out from the homepage and starts browsing the items at different stores, there is no system-defined way (back button, home icon, or any external event) to return to the homepage. The usability problem encountered when the user clicks at the "Instacart" icon at the top left corner. By default, the logo icon redirects a user to the system's homepage. Instacart takes the users to the "store" selection page. More importantly, the users are not allowed to go to the homepage even if the user types "instacart.ca" in the browser URL. In both cases, the system automatically redirects the users to "instacart.ca/store". The system also does not display any error message or proper guidelines to land on the initial home page. This problem violates the following two usability heuristics-
The system should display a proper error or information message when a user is redirected to a different page that is opposite to the user's intention. The top menu should have an option to browse the products by multiple categories. This menu should be constant throughout the system so that the users do not need to frequently return back to the homepage to make a customized search.
5. Multiple terminologies used for the same item
On the homepage, Instacart has defined the grocery stores as "Retail stores". Once the users have navigated to browse the items by the supermarket, the system has named each store as "Shop". Finally, the system has mentioned each supermarket as "stores" in the top left menu. There are three different namings to refer to a supermarket. It creates a lot of confusion among the real users. They assume these names as different types of shopping spaces and does the navigation back and forth multiple times. It increases the operational time to perform a specific task (i.e., searching an item in a particular supermarket, placing an order, etc.). This problem violates the following usability heuristic-
Instacart should name a single item constantly throughout the system. "Store" should be used as a unique identifier to refer to a shopping outlet.
The usability issues mentioned in this blog have been affecting the user's operations and therefore influencing Instacart in a financial and strategical way. More importantly, some of these issues are encountered by only a set of six real users. So, the impact of user experience will be much higher if we consider a sample of a million users using this platform for their daily groceries. The product development team should have their eyes on the problems mentioned in this blog. A proper design, layout, workflow, and the dataflow between multiple widgets create a substantial impact on the user experience. Proper implementation of these usability issues according to the recommended solutions can improve the operational time consumed by each user and help Instacart to increase the user-base.