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How not to redesign an app: Starbucks version

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consumerism, web development

How not to redesign an app: Starbucks version

Posted by tcervo on .
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consumerism, web development

How not to redesign an app: Starbucks version

Posted by tcervo on .

On March 26, 2014, Starbucks replaced their well-received mobile app with an entirely new version. They promised easier navigation and a slew of new features, like the ability to leave a tip for your barista.

The problem is, their mobile developers have no idea what they're doing.

One account, two sets of rules

I've had the same password for my Starbucks account for a long time. It's actually a passphrase, and is very secure. Passphrases contain spaces, so they can be very long but still easy to remember. They're more secure than passwords that do not contain spaces. An example passphrase could be something like "Chocolate 1 Broccoli zero".

The old Starbucks app, which I used all the time and liked very much, had no problem authenticating with my starbucks.com username and password/passphrase. The new app, however, is another story.

Screenshot of the error message

For some reason, the app developers decided to use their own rules for what is a valid password, even though you can only use a starbucks.com account to log in, and starbucks.com allows spaces in the password. My space-filled password still works on starbucks.com, yet I cannot log in to the newly designed app.

This is a perfect example of how not to redesign an app.

Note to app developers:

If you're going to require the username and password from an existing website, make sure your app uses the same rules when checking for valid usernames and passwords.

Seems like common sense, but evidently it isn't.

Tech Support not so helpful

I sent the following message to Starbuck's tech support on March 28:

Your new app will not let me log in. It gives me the following error message: "Spaces are not allowed in the password. Please enter a valid password." My Starbucks password is actually a very secure passphrase, which includes spaces. Has been for a long time. It still works on your website (I just now logged in), and it used to work in your old app. Please get with the program and make your new app match your actual password policies by allowing spaces. I'm not going to make my password less secure just to use your updated app.

Six days later, here's the reply I received:

Thank you for contacting Starbucks.

I apologize for any inconvenience. To login to the new Starbucks for iPhone mobile app, you will first want to update your username so it does not contain any spaces.

To update your username, you'll first need to sign in to your Starbucks.com account from a web browser.

After signing in, click the My Profile link located on the right side of the page. Your username and password can be changed from the Personal Info tab.

For further assistance, including walkthroughs with images, please visit our Customer Service page here.

I have checked your account and do not see that you have any spaces in your username. Your username is xxxxxxxx.

If you ever have any questions or concerns in the future, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

For those keeping score, that was a six day wait to find out the support person didn't even read my email. I responded that the username is not the problem, the password is, and, again, it's perfectly valid on their website and previous version of the app.

Four more days pass, then this:

Dear Anthony,

As of now the only thing we can do is reset the password.

In order to best assist you, we would like the opportunity to speak with you over the phone.

Please call our customer contact center and have reference # 14196626 handy to provide to our representative. Our contact center can be reached at 877-309-3180 Monday-Friday 5am-8pm and Saturday 7am-4pm (PST).

I called and told them I will not dumb-down my password just because their mobile developers don't know what the password rules are for their website. I asked them to escalate this up the chain, asking again to have the app fixed so that it uses the same rules as the website (where the majority of user accounts are created).

I'm not holding my breath.

If I ever do get to use the new app, it seems the reviews are mixed, but mostly negative. It seems users like the ability to leave a tip, but are pretty miffed over the strange decision to remove all nutritional info from the app. In the old app, it was easy to look up nutritional info for any drink or food item. All of that has been removed.

Screenshot of customer reviews

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