Decoding UI/UX of India’s food delivery apps

Adithya Venkatesan
9 min readDec 5, 2018

Zomato vs Swiggy vs Uber Eats — Who wins the UI/UX battle?

Design has always fascinated me. Working at GO-JEK has only fuelled the desire to understand the decisions that go behind UI and UX thinking. BUT, i’m not a designer. I have the unique skill of messing up an emoji drawing. I do, however, passionately look at how, and why an icon is placed where it is, how travel apps hike up the price of a ticket only after you enter the payments page, (looking at you Makemytrip) or how bookings.com insists that 10 other people are looking at the same property you’re looking at. Coincidence? Or an algorithm designed to make you panic buy?

Design can be key to user adoption, retention. Design can get the uninitiated on an app to transact for the first time. Design can also be overwhelming enough to close the app and never come back — something e-com companies witness on a daily basis. Design is sacrosanct and can shape product — maybe even add to bottomline. And food delivery apps in India are an interesting study.

In the GO-JEK Super App, we use design to pedal popular memes, be more empathetic to users and share some love. But above all, when you have a Super App of 18 products under one umbrella, there are incredible challenges on crafting UI/UX. For example, if ride sharing and massage services have similarities, a user is likelier to adopt the latter. To get users to use more products inside GO-JEK’s ecosystem, they have to have a consistent look and feel. UI/UX in a Super App is a first class problem. You can’t have clutter, a mishmash of 100 things that keep changing and are annoying to a user.

Anyway… Here’s a simple deep-dive into India’s 3 most famous apps:

The opening screen. (Location turned off)

Zomato: Forces you to switch on location first. The good thing: You never get your order delivered to the wrong location. But for them to take such a measure, there must have been PLENTY of data to back it. I would love to see how many times customers sent delivery boys scampering to a different location. The data must be pretty incredible to validate this. LOL. 😂 Oh, and the bad thing: It’s annoying AF. It’s super irritating and is a battery drain. But that begs the question: How many manually turn off their location? I do, because of the drain on my battery. Sigh…

Swiggy: You can dive right in and place an order, but the blue screen stands out and warns you to select your location first.

Uber Eats: The most interesting of all. Even though my location is switched off, it understands i’m not at home. (I wasn’t). Creepy? 😰 But from a UX pov, i thought the green colour warning does not stand out and one might just miss it and continue ordering.

VERDICT: A tie between Swiggy and Uber Eats.

The opening screen. (Location turned on)

Zomato: Auto-detects location. Check. Basic. For some reason the images didn’t load. And no, the internet was just fine. Must have been an off day. Three buttons on the bottom. Feels simple. There’s A LOT of clutter and colour. I used to hate this, but it is what it is. Swiggy used to be minimalist and neat, but now… Well… Wait for it. There’s a search bar — but I think it’s a tad lost with all the colour. I’ve never used it.

Swiggy: Auto-detects location. Check. Basic. The carousel cards feature is about 6 months old? Was an obvious rip-off from Zomato. But that’s alright I suppose. But good lord, look at the clutter in the home screen. It used to be simple, easy, neat, organised, and then… Management kicked it in the gut? 😝 There’s an obvious oversell on Swiggy Pop, the company’s flagship ‘cloud kitchen’.

Uber Eats: The address doesn’t change despite location being switched on. I tried this thrice to be sure. I thought Uber would get this spot-on given it’s long history with always knowing precisely where people are at any given point. 😂😂😂😂. Kidding. Maybe not? 😈. Moving on, Uber is still looking to onboard merchants, so notice the huge fonts to fill volume.

IMPORTANT: Both Swiggy and Zomato don’t have customised restaurants based on my preferences. Uber Eats does. I order tea from Chai Point frequently and that’s reflected immediately. Subsequent restaurants are also based on what I order the most. This can be good and bad. Good from the pov a customer is a creature of habit. Bad, because ‘discovery’ of new food is stymied. I suppose there’s a fine line to be drawn here to gauge what works and what doesn’t. It should ideally be a mix of the two — something I used to see in Swiggy earlier.

Uber Eats is in the business of Customer Acquisition first. Swiggy and Zomato want Customer retention and reordering. One is chasing existence, the other is looking at driving volumes. With different objectives, design changes accordingly.

VERDICT: Zomato.

Fun fact: Notice how Zomato (568) and Swiggy (378) boast on the number of restaurants on the app and Uber Eats has not? 😂

Search: I know what I want

Zomato: The search bar is not on the banner below and is hidden somewhere in the homescreen. When you click it, this is the first screen that appears. There’s obviously some real estate loss that could be capitalised.

Swiggy: Smart use of restaurants you probably might reorder from and the recent search feature is helpful.

Uber Eats: By adding images and a few options, there’s certainly room to hover and click on a type of cuisine even if you’re not looking for something specific.

Summary: This is an interesting one. If i know I want pizza from Domino’s, the app that gets me there quickest, is Swiggy. But if i’m undecided and willing to explore, it’s more likely to be Uber Eats. Let’s call this one a tie between the two and break it down into multiple probabilities.

VERDICT: Swiggy + Uber Eats

Search: Specific food in a restaurant (1)

I used Faasos as a common restaurant across all three. (I hate Faasos and would rather eat a polythene cover.) Search was available for restaurants and dishes, which was good. There was no ‘dish’ called burst, but Zomato and Uber Eats picks-up keywords in a dish description as well — which is a good feature to have. Sometimes, the description is funny enough and you remember that one word which can tell you what the dish is. I know i’m nitpicking, and there is no right or wrong here, but it was certainly worth a mention.

Payments — The last mile

Zomato: The payment flow is simple, and Zomato remembers your last payment mode and sticks to it. I have Paytm configured and it always defaults to Paytm — which is a good thing. I’m unlikely to change.

Swiggy: Gives me options how I want to pay. It’s one additional step even if i configure my Paytm number.

UberEats: Definitely the fastest of all and the simplest. Zomato prompts an address bar every once in a while, especially when the location is turned off. While that might be a good thing, I prefer how on point UberEats is — get in, get out asap. And that could play a part in ultimately deciding what you want.

Discovery — What’s cooking?

Zomato: Zomato’s homescreen looks like a Christmas tree. But they have variety and a whole bunch of restaurants. The 5.5-inch screen has to be a place to sell ads, promote companies etc… Given these pointers, I think Zomato has a done a decent job at helping users discover food. The opening restaurants are new ones — restaurants you have never ordered from, but not exactly relevant. (I got a veg restaurant option despite only ordering meat.)

Swiggy: The new interface is a tad clippy art-like. It’s very much Zomato-ish these days without the jarring effect. Every third restaurant is now a promoted ad, but there’s some customisation. My last order appears first — not exactly discovery, but likelihood of repetition. This is followed by different restaurants in a similar cuisine: After I ordered a burger and fries, I got options of restaurants offering similar dishes. Clever.

UberEats: Sticks with ‘My Favourites’ — Dishes I am most likely to order and have done so in the past. Discovery is poor.

VERDICT: Zomato + Swiggy

HELP! SOS — Fly in my food

Zomato: The simplest, arguable the quickest as well. Zomato gives you the option to chat or make a call.

Swiggy: Gives you a bunch of options on where things could have been wrong, but the customer exec doesn’t pickup on that specific problem and direct the conversation. All conversations start from scratch, so I’m not sure what the purpose of these options are. But, it’s second best to Zomato — to chat or make a call.

UberEats: Getting to a customer exec is near to impossible. But, UberEats is happy to refund the entire amount even for the most minute complaint. VC money speaking at its best: I’ve had money refunded for absolutely no cause. For example: I ordered a mini tea flask and got a uni tea flask. Instead of refunding the difference, i got the entire amount refunded. It’s a crazy business model and unbelievable really.

Verdict: Zomato + Swiggy

The winner? — Ah, that’s not an easy answer. Never is. But why not?!

There’s obviously A LOT more to talk about. Over the course of writing this article i figured there is so much i haven’t covered and discovered so much more. For example: There’s the entire order flow journey. Which app is the easiest to order if you know what you want? Which app knows your most frequently ordered dishes INSIDE a restaurant — that’s a solid one. (And for some reason no one has managed to crack it). Can I curate restaurants i like on one page — my own private homepage where i pick my favourite dishes? That’s a feature i’d love when there are 500 restaurants and the foodie in me wants to explore it all. What’s the point of ratings when I don’t know what my own ratings for a restaurant are? (I don’t want to repeat a restaurant if i’ve given it a 2 or 1 rating!)

I also understand some of these are not UI/UX and require a fair degree of data science baked into it. Which is why somewhere along the line i decided this was getting way longer than i intended. If anything, this article is more like my own personal account of how food delivery apps are approaching a customer. It may not even be factual and some might vary from customers to customers. Nevertheless, it was time well spent.

What do you guys think? Any pointers that standout? Anything that makes you want to order from one restaurant over the other? Who’s UI/UX speaks to you? Please leave a comment here or ping me on twitter — @ adadithya.

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Adithya Venkatesan

Brand Marketer. Twitter: @adadithya. Travel fanatic. Wildlife lover. Voracious reader. Cenosillicaphobic. Logophile. Past: @gojektech @reuters @ACJIndia