Improving the Starbucks iOS App Navigation

Making online latte ordering faster and more intuitive

I’ll admit it: I’ve been a Starbucks fan since high school, and I have no plans of changing that anytime soon. As vapid as that may sound, I’ve had a lot of meaningful experiences at various locations across the country and I feel connected to those heartwarming moments whenever I sip my favorite latte. It only makes sense that the Starbucks iOS app is one of my most visited. 

As familiar as I am with the app, I still experience confusion when I use some parts of the app—especially when it comes to mobile ordering. To learn where others get stumped, I ventured to test some regular Starbucks customers to discover ways to improve the app’s user experience. 

Overall Objective

The goal of this project was to conduct an informal usability test to determine pain points surrounding the navigation for the Starbucks iOS app, with a focus on mobile ordering.

Step One: Identify and Learn from Users

In order to identify participants for my informal usability test, I wrote two provisional personas of people who typify common Starbucks app users. This helped orient me to the users’ perspectives and better prioritize their goals and desires. 


Usability Testing Details
With my personas in tow, I recruited seven Starbucks regulars to participate in a “guerrilla” usability test on the Starbucks iOS app. Each user was asked to answer questions and complete tasks to help me understand their main reasons for using the app and their challenges using it.

Before completing the tasks, I asked each participant why they downloaded the app in the first place. Then, each participant was asked to:

  • Navigate to the homepage to place a pick-up order

  • Find the nearest store to place the order

  • Select a drink and modify it

  • Confirm their order

Step Two: Synthesis

After reviewing my usability tests, I sorted each pain point to identify trends.

Pain Points
The following lists the four primary issues observed:

  • Trouble ordering from store and customizing drinks—All participants who clicked the Stores link experienced confusion when trying to place their mobile order at their preferred location.

  • Difficulty navigating back to homepage—Five out of seven participants made at least three attempts to return to the homepage before realizing that they could just swipe the app screen down. Some participants accidentally swiped down their iPhone notifications screen when trying to do this.

  • Menu search—All participants expressed difficulty to finding their specific drinks, and most participants mentioned that the image menu organization did not feel straightforward. 

  • Homepage stories—Several participants expressed frustration that the homepage included mostly promotional stories, instead of core functionality (e.g. mobile ordering, reloading Gold Cards). 

Step Three: Solutions

Upon evaluating the pain points, the most glaring takeaway was to find solutions to make mobile ordering within the app as easy as possible. Given that all issues are related to this, I chose to approach all four to propose solutions that create a better user experience, and that support Starbucks’s online ordering sales goals.

Solution 1: Add an Order Item for Pickup button to the Stores page’s navigation pane. 
Currently, users who select Stores when they try to make an order, they can only access store information: Get Directions, Call, Set Up Wallet. To place a mobile order, they must return to the homepage, click Order, find a store, then confirm their order.

Current task flow:

By adding an Order Item for Pickup button, the Store page dead-end is eliminated and users can directly navigate to the Order page with their preferred store already chosen.

Redesigned task flow:

Solution #2: Enable users to re-order their most recent drink on the homepage
Testing participants felt that the homepage included too much promotional information. To make the page more useful and the ordering process more efficient, I propose adding a Your Last Order card to the top of the homepage.

To support the company's marketing campaigns, I also suggest keeping promotional content on this screen—still visible above the fold so users who appreciate the app’s promotional activities and rewards can still easily access them. 

Solution 3: Empower users to quickly save their favorite drinks for faster ordering.
Currently, clicking the Order button lands users to the Featured Drinks list. I recommend allowing users to one-click favorite items to populate a list that sits above the Menu and Featured Drinks lists. This will save users time and effort, since they will no longer have to search and filter through the vast menu to find the one item they want. 

Solution 4: Add a visible, static Home button to the navigation bar. 
Currently, the app requires users to swipe down on their screens to return to the homepage. As much as I appreciate untraditional design, this action is not intuitive. To make it easier for users to return to the homepage, I added a Home link to the navigation bar.


Performing a “guerrilla" usability test on the Starbucks iOS app was a great opportunity to refine my design process. It was a new experience for me to tackle an app that has such high ratings (4.5 stars on iTunes). Still, I think that my design recommendations show others that, with thought, research, and time, there are always ways to make improvements to an app’s user experience.


Note: I don’t work for or represent Starbucks. I’m simply a Starbucks enthusiast working to improve my UX chops while sipping a Venti White Chocolate Mocha, Extra Hot with No Whip and No Foam most mornings.