How the UX of food delivery apps in UAE measure up

  • By
    Yonette de Ru
    June 14, 2021
    July 28, 2021

The recipe to delivering an incredible food delivery app. With a huge convenience culture in the UAE and a relatively young population from all over the world, with one of the highest smartphone penetrations, it's no wonder customers are demanding seamless, efficient experiences from brands. This, coupled with the pandemic, has given rise to many on-demand apps in the last few years, especially in the food delivery sector.


As competition heats up between food delivery apps all trying to grab a bite (pun intended) out of this lucrative market, the user experience becomes paramount. High customer expectations and the ability to switch means that they need to stay ahead of the curve by providing a quick, easy and delightful experience.

As food loving UXers, we decided to dig in and assess the UX of some of these apps using our very own DOT score to carefully navigate the areas that need improvement.

Through past research, we identified that Deliveroo, Talabat and Zomato are the most popular food ordering apps in the UAE. So, we decided to evaluate these apps to see how they stack up.

Ok, now you have the context, but what exactly is the DOT score?

How do we measure UX? The DOT Score.

In short, the DOT Score is an in-house evaluation tool, created and adapted over months, to measure and evaluate digital products and services. There are lots of heuristic evaluation methods out there, which were used to form the foundation of the DOT score, but we took it to the next level - we spiced it up with our expertise and added one critical ingredient that is missing from these tools - a quantifiable score.

The DOT score recipe includes:

Each heuristic is weighted and our own algorithm scores each of the six key heuristics out of 100, then gives an overall score. The DOT Score only measures UX, it doesn't factor in other aspects such as price, product selection, offline customer service and so on. Find out more about the DOT score here.

What method did we use to get to the DOT score for these food delivery apps?

  1. Each app was evaluated independently by three UX experts using our model
  2. Each score is applicable per app
  3. Only questions applicable to the product were taken into consideration
  4. The score follows the red, amber and green metric, where anything above 80% is a good score.

And now… drum roll, please. Here’s how they performed:

All the apps fared well, which was expected, but adjustments can be made to optimise the experience.

What were the takeaways from our evaluation?

All three apps scored highly, with Deliveroo taking the lead. However, some key themes for improvement came out, especially within the Inclusivity and User Control categories. Instead of going through each of the attributes, we summarised the findings into four themes.

These key themes are becoming more prevalent and if not addressed, there might be a disruptor in our midst that would consider these opportunities and win the conversions.

1. Personalise experiences and users will invest their energy

Cue the broken record. Personalisation is such a universal theme and it’s relevant in all industries, but not one of the food delivery apps has nailed it.

Food aggregators know so much about you; they know where you live, where you work, how much you spend on takeaway food, the time of day you order, how often you order, what your favourite cuisines are, and so much more. They could really use this data to create a truly personalised experience.

As far as cuisine preferences go, no feature caters to a user's preferences aside from being able to re-order or bookmark a restaurant, in all 3 apps.

In the scores below you can see how low the personalisation sub-hueristic is for all three apps.

It’s shocking that these businesses have access to so many data points, yet they can’t apply them to offer a more tailored experience to reduce the paradox of choice dilemma.

Netflix tackled a similar dilemma recently by introducing the ‘Shuffle’ feature  - making it easy to find content tailored to user’s preferences... Netflix understood that too many choices could be tiring for viewers.

So it’s good to take note that by letting people "customise" their experience, you allow them to invest energy in your product for a future reward and these users would likely stay loyal vs switching to a competitor due to their initial time investment.

Generally, decision making is influenced by convenience, fatigue, laziness, and routine in this region. People are busy juggling their personal and professional lives and prefer the comfort of familiar and easy choices such as past orders, or recommendations tailored to you.

Therefore, personalisation would elevate the experience and eliminate the need for customers to bounce around.

Can you imagine what the ROI could be if you tapped into this missed opportunity? It’s a no-brainer.

2. Localise and make the process efficient.

With over 200 nationalities in the UAE,  and considerable diversity in food preferences, localisation can be challenging to check off the list. Still, it’s crucial to consider localising your products to the region.

All 3 apps offer cash on delivery, which is important in this region. More than this, only Zomato accounts for local preferences as they understand this is a region that has a large vegetarian user base. Their quick toggle for egg or vegetarian options is an excellent way to eliminate irrelevant choices.

We love this feature when we order in a group because it's efficient, easy to cater to multiple needs, and gets a big thumbs up from a localised perspective.

Overall, all the apps have fared well in the Effective and Efficient heuristic but there can be some improvement on Ease of Use to make it as optimal as possible.

The filtering aspect on all the apps is inefficient. It's a core consideration in the decision-making stage to find the right food based on preferences, but for some reason choosing the right filter on all the apps is time-consuming.

A key takeaway here is to think about how localised options can improve efficiency for your users and save them time by narrowing down their search through a taxonomy that organises filtering into categories with appropriate naming conventions.

3. Craft every flow thoughtfully to align with user expectations

The timing of a task is crucial - from the moment we decide to order something, to when we receive it, updating users along the way  is vital. For example, all of the apps have great progress timelines and micro animations to delight the users during those waiting times.

But, while delight can enhance an experience, Talabat's untimely survey before an order confirmation can sour the experience for a first-time customer and these users may not come back because of such an inconveniently placed pop-up in the journey.

As such, you need to think about all journeys and processes carefully and even plan when you want to incorporate pop-ups to gather feedback.

4. Design with empathy and be open to all users by integrating inclusive design

This theme is gaining increasing traction, especially in Europe and the US, where government and corporate entities must comply with inclusive design and accessibility regulations or face legal consequences.

While there are no legal implications for accessibility (yet) in the UAE, it’s sad that inclusive design is not included in any of these three apps.

By designing with an inclusive focus, we are able to create a better outcome for our customers, using the technology in the most efficient manner possible.

One of the main findings was that none of the call-to-action buttons or majority of the content in all the apps was AA compliant; therefore, someone who is colour blind or has visual impairments relating to contrast may not be able to read the copy of the pages or buttons. Did you know that 11% of people in the UAE have some form of impairment? So, that’s the percentage of users that you might exclude from interacting optimally with your app.

As well as failing to follow through with the features indicated above, developers did not code for screen reading purposes. Meaning some of the information, including top deals, was not incorporated for any assistive technology.

So what’s the solution? It can be really easy to understand different circumstances in order to incorporate inclusive design in your app. Below are some quick inclusive design scenarios to get the juices flowing.

All this said, it is imperative to incorporate the key user situation to evaluate their journey. By doing this, you will have a fail-safe product and most likely reduce customer churn.

So, what’s next, and how can you stand out among these multitude of options?

If you jumped straight to the summary, please do yourself a favour and read the findings. You won't regret it. Either way, here's what you need to know.

Through our DOT score analysis, we identified over 50 issues within the relevant attributes across all three apps. So, we suggest the following quick wins to improve the score:

Our score identified some gaps that can still enhance the usability and benchmark year-on-year. However, additional aspects need to be considered regarding customer personas, mindsets, behaviours and different pain points - this is where further research can be done.

In short, we gave you the ingredients, now you need to make up the recipe…

Have questions?

Reach out to us, we'd love to hear from you!

P.S. Don’t forget to sign-up for our newsletter to stay up to date with our findings.

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