starbucks menu as example of usability and ux in everyday life

While waiting in the airport, I stopped at the terminal’s Starbucks only to find this menu on the wall. I immediately went into usability mode, thinking how can they do that? To me, the poor contrast of white letters on a red background really made it hard for me to see the menu items from a distance. Of course, it’s the Christmas season and we all want to be festive – we’ve all heard of function over form but what about function over festivity? One of the most fun parts of my Better Software Con session, in which I covered How to Improve the Mobile User Experience (UX), is the application of usability and UX in everyday life. The same principles that we use in designing good, high-quality software can be utilized in our lives and vice versa.

I can certainly see that Starbucks wanted to create a festive mood with their choice of colors on their menu. However, at the expense of poor contrast, not to mention making it difficult for those who might already have poor vision, I thought it was a bad idea. When I think about the menu, it reminded me of some key principles for usability and UX in software design.

  • Form over function: In almost all cases, consider function before form. When you are laying out your screen, do it the same way that you would a sign in a store. Can the user see this clearly? Which direction would they be reading from? Is the sign in the right location relative to the products you’re trying to sell? How many clicks (or steps) does it take to get from one place to another?
  • Colors and visual appeal: Make sure there is enough contrast for important buttons and text you want the user to see. You can do this by choosing complementary colors and by considering color-blindness as well.
  • Vision: How big is the space I have to use and how far will the user be reading from? 12 inches or 12 feet? If your audience contains mostly Baby Boomers, you might want to consider that they most likely wear reading glasses.

As you can see, there are many usability and UX lessons from everyday life that we can take and transpose into software design and vice versa. The golden rule is to consider the end user first, whoever it may be, whether it’s a customer reading a sign or a user entering data and navigating your software.