Mobile App Review: Out of Milk
Shopping is getting a lot easier these days with the help of some handy mobile apps. As reported by Tech Crunch in August, a June 2012 Nielsen study surveyed U.S. Android and iPhone users and found that shopping apps are widely used and accessed multiple times per month.
The study rated the top 10 shopping apps based on the number of unique users; and to understand the appeal of these apps, we along with fellow Usability Auditor, Kathy Totz, tried a few of them out to evaluate the user experience, identify trends, and assess areas of opportunity. This is the first in a series of blog posts reporting our findings.
In our opinion, we have one of the best jobs in usability as Usability Auditors at ForeSee. With over 1,000 usability audit reviews delivered to date, we have significant experience evaluating our clients’ websites, mobile sites, and apps to distinguish what is and what isn’t working, and prescribe best practices that will help them improve the customer experience, satisfy consumers, and drive results. This opportunity to analyze experiences across devices and platforms gives us a unique perspective on the state of usability and helps us provide more value to our clients.
While we would love to take a look at all of the apps listed in the study, we felt looking at a select few would be more feasible. We first sorted the 10 apps into four categories: Physical Stores, Daily Deals, Online-Only Stores, and Shopping Aids. With holiday shopping season quickly approaching and with Amazon always performing well in the ForeSee E-Retail indices – both Holiday and Top 100 editions – it made sense to review the Online-Only Stores category that also consists of eBay. We also tackle the biggest category: Shopping Aids.
Let’s start by taking a look at the shopping aid category where Out of Milk Shopping List, SavingStar Grocery eCoupons, RedLaser, and Shopkick all ranked in the top 10 and provide a variety of functionalities to help consumers make the most out of their shopping trip while at their favorite stores. First up, we tested the Out of Milk Shopping List app to see how useful it is for organizing products that need to be purchased from the grocery store.
About the App:
The app is available for the Android platform (an iPhone version is reportedly in the works) and allows users to keep track of items they plan to purchase at the grocery store, as well as create to-do lists. There are three main functionalities: Pantry List, Shopping List, and To-Do List.
In the Pantry List section (below), users can add items by scanning product bar codes, selecting from 38 common item types, or manually entering the item names:
Once added to a pantry list, users can add details about items such as the amount on hand, unit price, number of items, and enter notes. These items can also be categorized using a user-supplied name and color.
In the Shopping List section (below), users can add items to lists for purchase in a store. These lists can be populated using Pantry Lists, user purchase history, or manually created like Pantry Lists. Users can indicate when items have been purchased by tapping and holding the name label, which adds a strikethrough while keeping the item name on the list and visible – just like a traditional grocery list:
To-Do Lists (below) are pretty straightforward. This functionality allows users to create a task, add a note, and set reminders and due dates:
This app has a lot going for it:
- It allows families with multiple shoppers to tag-team Shopping Lists, taking advantage of real-time synchronization between the app on multiple phones and the website, OutOfMilk.com. When one shopper indicates a purchase has been made on either the app or the website, the strike-through notification occurs on the other users’ devices when logged into the same account.
- Items can be added via barcode for brand name items, saving users the time and effort of entering them in manually or choosing from common items already in the system. Items can also be added on the website for users who prefer that approach.
- Users can easily reorganize items on lists and remove the strikethrough from individual items or all items at once, overcoming the limitations of traditional paper lists.
- Lists can be added to the home screen as a widget, so it’s easy to access them when shopping.
- All lists can be imported or exported as .CSV files to simplify information sharing.
- Lists can be shared via social media or email.
- The ability to create multiple lists and categories offers benefits for keeping track of food for particular family members, special dinners (such as Thanksgiving), or even a grouping like “Staple Items” that always need to be on hand.
- Signing up for the website is easy, as users can use their Facebook or Google account credentials.
Some areas of opportunity and recommendations are:
- Users are able to move items from the Pantry List to their Shopping List, but the app lacks the functionality to recognize when items on the Shopping List have been purchased and automatically update the Pantry inventory.
- The assortment of 38 pre-set items is far smaller than what is available in a store, so users must do some data entry out of necessity.
- Brand name items are recognized by the scanner, but regional store brands were not recognized for us. Providing the ability to bar-code scan regional store brands would make entering those items into lists easier.
- As a usability concern, there isn’t an easy way to simultaneously view To-Do lists with Shopping Lists or Pantry Lists without navigating back to the app home screen.
- With the drag-and-drop sorting option active, it’s easy to inadvertently reorder the list if users try to scroll down the page too close to the right sidebar, resulting in extra work to get the list back in order.
Overall, the app is a good substitute for the traditional handwritten list for those who are seeking easier ways to keep track of shopping items. Team-shoppers also can find it helps them avoid situations of overbuying, such as when both members of a couple pick up milk and bread on the way home from work. Additionally, creative uses outside of groceries are easy to envision, such as holiday meal shopping lists during this time of year.