The problems with Facebook are many, but its selling point is singular: that’s where the community is. I feel largely the same way about Untappd (free), a beer enthusiast’s app for tracking drink history, keeping notes on different beers, reading reviews from other beer snobs the world over, and seeking out new brews to try. I use Untappd (on iPhone) for the community, not its design or search functionality which are both middling at best.
Among beer apps, though, it’s probably the best you’ll find because it has the strongest community. Beer experts have a presence, as do regular neighborhood bar flies. When I signed up, I quickly got friend requests from several people I know whose opinions about beer I regard highly… except I think most of those requests came about after I posted on Facebook that I was using the app, and should anyone want to add me as a friend, here’s my user name. The Untappd app itself didn’t make the most of my existing friendships.
The way the app works (or should work) is simple. When you’re enjoying a beverage, you launch the app, search for your drink, and when you find it, you share the fact that you’re drinking it with your community, kind of like checking in on Foursquare. Optionally, you can add a star rating from one to five, include the location where you’re drinking (which includes a list of possible venues nearby), write some tasting notes, and upload a photo of the beer.
There’s a “suggested” area where Untappd shows you a list of beers you might like based on your history as well as ratings from the community. That’s one area where Untappd actually leverages its user base fairly well. For example, my history includes a lot of American IPAs and porters, so my suggested list includes those styles as well as some Imperial IPAs. The suggestions aren’t your run-of-the-mill beers, either. They often list small craft beers or regional beers that can be hard to find—and I’d argue that exclusivity is one of the most appealing factors for a true beer snob.
Another section lets you see activity from your friends. You can comment on a friend’s beer check-in, or just “cheers” the activity, which is similar to “liking” a Facebook post. Another area lets you search for beers, bars, and breweries nearby based on other users’ check-ins, or just see trending beers, or those most commonly logged by the Untappd community.
The problem is, after using this app for about two months, I regularly forget what icons mean or how to get to a particular section of Untappd. The menu layouts and navigation make it totally confusing. For example, there’s a lower navigation bar with five icons. The most important icon, two beer bottles clinking together, is in the center, although the standard in app design is to put the most important menu button at the far left (because we read from left to right). Other icons just don’t make sense, like an inbox with an arrow, which opens a page for notifications and Untappd news. Your friends list is buried within a subsection of your profile. My wish list of beers I’d like to try is also tucked under my profile page, although I feel like that’s a much more important section that should be given more prominence.
The search functionality flat out needs improvement. You can search for a beer name if you get it just right, or a brewery name, but you can’t filter or sort the results by style, abv, ibu, or any other variable.
There is something to be said for the database, though. It’s another area where Untappd really leverages its community. I’ve only had one or two experiences in which I could not find a beer that I was drinking, and they were limited release beers. Any user can add a beer that doesn’t exist in the database, and doing so is quite simple and straightforward, which leverages the knowledge of the Untappd’s strong community. Users don’t seem to abuse the database, either. I don’t think I’ve ever found duplicate entries for the same beer with conflicting info. It’s possible there are some, but if so they’re rare. By and large, the beers in Untappd comprise a very well kept list.
Untappd is one of the best beer mobile apps available because of its incredible community, but it’s not a great app in any other sense. The user interface design needs to be standardized and more thoroughly tested, as does the search functionality. The developers shouldn’t rest on their laurels just because they have a large and active community. I like Untappd, but I don’t love it, even though I want to.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc