Rethinking the Ike’s Place iPhone Application

If you were to ask ten San Franciscans for the best sandwich shop in town I wouldn’t be surprised if they all exclaimed Ike’s Place as the best sandwiches. Ike’s menu is absolutely astoundingly huge with eighty listed sandwiches and many more secret sandwiches that only the cool kids know about.

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I’m a bit spoiled to be honest as I live just one block away from an Ike’s. I found myself tempted to eat one of their gargantuan sandwiches just about everyday back when I worked from home. Thankfully I had the willpower to know better. Their sandwiches range in price from $10 all the way up to $20 (though the average price is $10.60) and they’re famously large with The Kryptonite sandwich clocking in at 5,700 calories!

Those same San Franciscans that would have suggested Ike’s Place would also add the caveat “But be ready to wait in a long line or order ahead.” Ike’s Place is so popular that they’ve been kicked out of their shops at least twice (?) since I moved to San Francisco. Neighbors pushed them out due to the extremely high traffic. Ordering ahead of time is absolutely essential with some wait times exceeding an hour!

Thankfully Ike’s Place has an iPhone app for ordering ahead of time (no online ordering through their website which bewilders me). It’s made by mCommerce Innovations Group and it’s pretty horrible. Look Ike Shehadeh, I LOVE your sandwiches. I just want the best for you guys which is why I wrote up this post. It’s full of criticisms, corrections and the like but it’s also full of solutions and love.

Disclaimer: I’m not a real designer, I’m not a UX/UI expert for some big dev company, I’m not a real programmer or a guru at any of this stuff. This just what a casual user, who has a touch of OCD, observed when trying to order a sandwich from his favorite sandwich shop.

I’m actually pretty sure it’s just a web portal and not a properly coded application for the iPhone. Either way it’s just awful. Here is an image that simulates the full spectrum of what ordering a single sandwich looks like on the current app. Click the image to pop up a bigger version if you want to pixel peep.

Ike's-Place-Ordering-ProcessThe frustrating process of ordering through their iPhone application prevented me from ordering anything from them for months. I wasn’t about to wait in line for 30 minutes to wait another 30 minutes for a sandwich. Here is an incomplete list of my complaints with their application.

  1. If you reinstall the application you lose your login. It isn’t intelligently connected through Game Center, a universal login like Facebook Connect or Twitter OAuth or even a centralized database hosted by Ike’s Place’s customer relationship management system. Reinstall the app and you lose all your profile information. 
  2. There is no explanation of where your data is being stored. On the app is my credit card, home address, full name and phone number. Yet where is this being stored and what kind of security is keeping it safe? How is this sent from my phone and to their POS system? Is any of this encrypted?
  3. If the username and password aren’t connected to some centralized database, which seems to be the case, how are they being stored? Is there any salting/hashing/encryption?
  4. Nowhere on the app does it tell you they don’t accept American Express. You just keep retyping your number until you give up and order Chinese.
  5. It doesn’t use features built into the iPhone to make the experience better. It should use the GPS to automatically select the best location. It asks for permission to use notifications but I have never actually seen a notification pop up.
  6. The Profile page and the profile you fill out don’t match up.
  7. If at any moment you leave the app, it seems to start over from scratch. In reality it is picking up where you left off but it resets the view which gets incredibly frustrating.
  8. There are far too many granular options. While in my image above I have expanded all of the options to illustrate how many, the fact that you can’t select your sandwich and checkout (for those of us who are easy and don’t need to customize) is annoying.
  9. On the Gluten Free menu are items that have gluten in them!
  10. When you click Get More it loads back to the sandwich category you’re in instead of to the main menu, needlessly adding a step.
  11. Every time you’re given the chance to select a time to pickup the sandwich, the times are different. Well almost. During a busy period you might see a difference in time of around an hour for your sandwich order.
  12. They made a second app for other locations. Why?! One app, one login, one experience.

I put together a workflow of the existing app from start to finish to illustrate how cumbersome the process is. At first glance you might think this is the United States Armed Forces plan on how to leave Afghanistan.Afghanistan Stability

No, actually it’s how you order an Ike’s sandwich using an iPhone. It’s an insanely complicated procedure that has left me choosing other options for lunch more and more.

Original-Ikes-Sandwich-WorkflowI figured there had to be a better way to do this so I sat down and drew up a few options. First there is a lot we can cut out of the process and things that can be done automatically. We can have a central database for user information allowing a single login between all devices with credit card information, preferred location and even one-click ordering of favorite orders. We all have our favorite Ike’s Place orders, why not make them easy to access?

So I’ve made a diagram of what a first time user would experience if I were to have designed the application. It’s dramatically easier and smarter than the current workflow. Then there is a diagram for return customers and the even more streamlined experience that provides. Finally there is a quick re-order workflow for people like me who almost always order the same things from the same location and want them as fast as possible. My workflows are even more compact in action than they are on paper.

Wanna see the difference all at once?

Ike-App-Redesign

It’s not just a reworked workflow that the Ike’s Place iPhone app needs. It’s pretty darn unattractive as far as iPhone apps go. Jimmy John’s, Subway, Firehouse Subs and Jake’s Sandwich Board all have better looking, more user-friendly sandwich ordering apps. And it isn’t like sandwich orders are too complicated to be beautiful and easy to navigate.

There are dozens of restaurants with large menus with lots of customization like California Pizza Kitchen and Noodle’s & Company that look good to great. If GrubHub can have hundreds of restaurants in a single app experience that’s a dream to use and synchronizes seamlessly with their website, why can’t a restaurant like Ike’s do at least one of those things?

iPhone Sandwich ApplicationsAdding to all the confusion and clumsiness of the current app is the fact that there are two Ike’s applications. One is called Ike’s Place and the other Ike’s Lair. I’m not sure why there are two applications for the same restaurant but it is sure confusing if you select the wrong one and get a different set of restaurant options.

The company who made the applications, mCommerce Innovations Group, has made five sandwich shop applications and one POS application that each of the apps use. That’s it and they are all based on the same design and workflows. How have sandwich shops become a niche for this company and with that tiny niche as their entire iPhone app business, how is it that they suck so much? It would be one thing if an enterprising sandwich shop employee took it upon themselves to build this app but for a company that only makes sandwich shop iPhone applications to make such a crappy product is unforgivable. The app is full of other mistakes but I am only allowing myself so much time on this post haha.

Ike’s Sandwiches are amazing. Ike’s employees are amazing (seriously, they’re awesome). Ike’s deserves a mobile application that properly serves their customers and their business. Don’t even get me started on how their website doesn’t have online ordering, you have to use the app, or why for ages their Twitter widget was connected to the wrong Ike’s Places! Seriously, for around a year they were advertising Ike’s Place Bar & Grill of Abilene Texas on their website instead of their own.

Oh and before I go, one more rant. mCommerce Innovations Group doesn’t even have a website. How can you entrust your e-commerce to a company that doesn’t even have a website? Ike’s Place is based out of Silicon Valley. There are probably a thousand startups and iOS developers out here who would make an application that’s truly brilliant and improves upon my workflow even more.

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