UI Musings for 3/14: Safeway’s Just for U App: Is UE more important than UI?

For the little over a year now that I have been involved in the HCC program, I have always viewed the “human-centered” experience has a “Maslowian” hierarchy of needs:
Functionality: At the base of the pyramid, there is the basic need for the interface to enable the job to be done.
Usability: Once the basic need of ‘git ‘er done’ is accomplished, one can address an interface’s ease of use, memorability, learnability and efficiency etc.
User Experience: Once the functional needs are met, and we make the process easy and efficient, we then can make the experience fun, enjoyable and “self-actualizing”
This is the “User Interface” hierarchy of needs as I understand it. I have always assumed that, like Maslow’s hierarchy on needs that one could not experience a higher level of the pyramid without successfully accomplishing the requirements at the lower level. The Safeway “Just for U” savings app is making me question this assumption.
About a year ago Safeway food stores released an app for the Apple and Android markets that allowed the user to find “special” savings when shopping. Every week certain items were available as “Just for U” savings that if you selected them on the app, would be added to your existing Safeway savings account and give you even greater savings.
Right from the start, I knew it was a gimmicky thing, but I found that I did not care. I am not one to shop or really care for sales, but I have found myself shopping at Safeway, early and often, and only shopping for the sales that I have added to my app. As a matter of fact, I use the app, to pass the time if I am waiting in a office or a Jiffy Lube. Adding savings to my card has become a game, a mild pastime for me. Even though I am only shopping for savings, I am shopping harder and heavier than I ever had at Safeway before, and all because of this stupid little app. Safeway’s marketing department was brilliant for coming up this with this! I know I am being manipulated, but I don’t care. This is the poster child for the top of the pyramid “User Experience”.
But that fact is what is confounding me. In order for me to be enveloped in the high level chakra, near nirvana sensation that is “User Experience”, the app has to also be usable, right? It is not! The interface is horrible! (And the functionality occasionally leaves something to be desired.) Yet it is “User Experience” that I am experiencing, and as a result, I am overlooking poor usability. Does this mean that these “three levels” of UI are not a hierarchy? Does this mean that User Experience is so powerful that it trumps all else?


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