Examining goPuff against Dieter Rams’ design principles: Part 1

Screenshot of goPuff’s marketing site

Ever since COVID hit, I like to think that I’ve become a delivery app connoisseur. You can get pretty much everything you’d ever want or need through one app or another. Grocery delivery is just the beginning; if you ever find yourself needing a 5-in-1 indoor grill with an air fryer, there are delivery apps that will deliver that to you within an hour or two. The future is now, my friends.

I’ve tried out apps like Postmates and Instacart many times, but within the past year, I’ve gotten fairly dependent on goPuff, a snack/household goods/alcohol delivery app. I’ve found it’s one of the least expensive to order from and delivers my goods the quickest. Since I’ve become such a fan, I wanted to do a quick study on it and how well it fulfills Dieter Rams’ design principles.

For those unfamiliar with these principles, they are the 10 rules any product should follow to be considered good design. They are that good design:

  1. is innovative.
  2. makes a product useful.
  3. is aesthetic.
  4. makes a product understandable.
  5. is unobtrusive.
  6. is honest.
  7. is long-lasting.
  8. is thorough down to the last detail.
  9. is environmentally-friendly.
  10. is as little design as possible.
Dieter Rams (Photograph by Abisag Tüllmann)

For the first part of my examination of goPuff, I’ll be focusing on the first 5 principles.

Image of 5 screens from the goPuff app
goPuff’s mobile app screens (L to R): Splash, Home, Search, Settings, Snack browse page

1. Is goPuff’s design innovative?

goPuff is designed similarly to other delivery apps such as Instacart and Shipt. The purpose of the services almost identical and the design reflects that similarity. In referring to the actual definition, to be innovative in a product or idea means a design must feature new methods and be advanced and original.

I do not necessarily believe that goPuff’s design is innovative, but that isnt to say it is outdated either. It is designed in a way that incorporates modern mobile app design, such as a fresh color palette, using familiar screens (search, home, etc.), and minimizing user input, but nothing about it is particularly new or special.

2. Does it make the service usable?

I have yet to encounter any real usability issues while using goPuff. It was clear from the beginning how to find what I might want through searching, or can choose to browse from any of the categories on the Home page. It is simple to find account setting from the home hamburger menu, and it is very obvious to look in the bottom navigation for my cart.

However, I do think some aspects of the design take away from its usability. There is a lot of color and imagery use, which felt overwhelming and made it more confusing to find what I need. I don’t think this made it impossible to use, but it was less clear than I believe it could be with the addition of some more white space, fewer colors (or more purposeful colors), or more emphasized text.

3. Is goPuff's design aesthetic?

I do not think there is enough consistency, space, or purpose behind many aspects of the design to consider goPuff to be aesthetically pleasing. If I had to use a word to describe the aesthetic of this app, it would probably be “fine”.

Since products have to be well-executed to be beautiful, I struggle to be able to call this beautiful. There are inconsistencies in the capitalization of titles, as demonstrated between the Settings and Search page, and the sheer amount of different images is visually overwhelming. I think being a bit more minimal overall would make this app more appealing to the eye.

4. Does it make the product understandable?

The structure and flow of the app is clear enough, and the tagline on the splash screen clarifies the purpose of why a user might be coming to use this service. The copy used, user flow, and obvious Cart feature in the bottom navigation make it clear why the user is here, how they can get what they need, and how to complete the purchase.

5. Is it unobtrusive?

Rams’ definition of how a product can be unobtrusive includes that it must “be both neutral and restrained”. Although the aesthetic is not what I would consider neutral, I think the service is built in a way that is not meant to be purely artistic or decorative; in other words, regardless of what I think about the overall look & feel, the artistic pieces of the application do not get in the way of its functionality.

Stay tuned for part two of my investigation of goPuff, including my redesign to fulfill each of Dieter Rams’ rules for good design!

Reader, writer, designer, singer, animal lover.