In Canada, few brands are as emblematic or ubiquitous as Tim Hortons. Its app, which allows customers to order and pay with their phones, is the fourth most popular Food & Drinks app on the App Store and boasts over 1 million downloads on Google Play.
As part of BrainStation’s full-time UX diploma program, we were asked to conduct a heuristic evaluation of an existing digital product and recommend design improvements.
Being avid fans of Tims, my teammate and I chose to build on version 2.2.2 of the Tim Hortons app to improve its user experience. We focused on single task flow: placing an order for pickup.
We began by identifying the main steps and features involved in placing an order for pickup.
Next, we sought to understand the users’ current experience to identify potential design opportunities. We looked at some of the most critical reviews of the app on the App Store, in which users expressed frustrations with the login process and selecting pickup locations.
We then tested the app on our own to replicate and verify these issues. Through this process, we identified usability problems with finding (and customizing) items, adding items to cart, and the checkout process.
We used Jakob Nielson’s 10 usability heuristics for interaction design, and identified 5 usability concerns in the context of Tim Hortons app:
To quantify the severity of these issues, each heuristic was measured against a scale of 0 - 4, where:
0 = This is not a usability problem at all
1 = Cosmetic problem only (need not be fixed unless extra time is available on project)
2 = Minor usability problem (fixing this should be given low priority)
3 = Major usability problem (important to fix, so should be given high priority)
4 = Usability catastrophe (imperative to fix before the product can be released)
Due to time constraints, we knew that we may not be able to implement all of the redesign recommendations. This scoring system helped us weigh the impact and the effort involved in each redesign, and determine which ones should be prioritized.
Severity rating: 3. Accessing the app is crucial for experiencing the rest of the app. Tim Hortons does a great job engaging its customers, but as noted by several reviewers, getting help can be a time-consuming process. A smooth onboarding experience can help them start their journeys on a positive note.
Severity rating: 1. The issue is largely cosmetic. It may cause minor annoyances for users, but are not major obstacles for completing the task at hand.
Severity rating: 2. UI conventions are important tools that help users navigate and use an app. Complying with appropriate standards (as demonstrated by competitors such as McDonald's, Subway, Burger King, etc.) can ease users' recognition of the interface and help them place orders easily.
Severity rating: 3. Tim Hortons app does a great job of supporting experienced users (ie. 'Recent' at bottom nav allows users to re-order recent items). However, search engines are essential for helping users quickly find what they want without having to go through unnecessary steps
Severity rating: 2. We all make mistakes or change our minds. While this isn't a major usability issue, a solution could help users avoid unnecessary repetitions
Tim Hortons app is a great product that serves thousands of daily active users. After conducting a heuristic review, we put together a high-fidelity prototype while adhering to the app's existing UI components. View prototype [Figma].
This was a great opportunity for applying my learnings on human-centered design. It also gave me a greater appreciation for it; the project mostly occurred in a vacuum, with my teammate and I conducting evaluations and redesigns while working on other projects). We tried several different things to build empathy with the users (eg. reading reviews, replicating their journey, placing an actual order and going to Tim Hortons to pick up). But talking with the intended users and testing the designs (both ours and the originals) would be immensely valuable for building a better solution.
As noted earlier, testing the original designs with real users would have helped build a more robust case study. With more time, our next step would be to validate and iterate our designs through usability tests. As well, we would like to spend more time collecting Tim Hortons' full brand identity and building more advanced micro-interactions to explore user interactivity and build a more polished prototype.