As a user, I want chicken

A tenuous case study of content design in the Asda mobile app.

Brad Ewin
4 min readMar 12, 2023

You’ve seen it before. The user story template.

As a [user persona], I want to [outcome], so that [reason why].

It’s a software development thing. Or a product design thing. Or both. Or more. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I wanted chicken, but Asda threw me a curveball.

Buying chicken from Asda is pretty easy

You got to and you sign up. It’s actually a really quick and easy sign up process, compared to some other processes I’ve been through recently.

Then it’s as simple as searching “chicken”.

Chicken search results on Asda’s website

You add all your items to your basket. You choose a delivery slot. You check out. All sorted.

On the delivery day, Asda might not have what you ordered

They might need to make changes to your order. Substitutions. I guess because the website can’t perfectly reflect the stock they’ll have on hand when packing your order.

Handily, they email these changes to you on the day of delivery. And if you have the Asda mobile app, you get a push notification about it too. Thinking the app would have an equal, if not better, interface for viewing these changes, I tapped the notification.

This is when my user story came to an untimely end.

So what has my order changed to?

As an Asda online grocery shopper, I want 1kg of boneless chicken thigh fillets, so that I can make the meals I had planned this week.

That was me when I placed my original order. As fate would have it, 1kg of boneless chicken thigh fillets wasn’t available. So Asda made a substitution. Which makes me the protagonist of a new story:

As an Asda online grocery shopper with a substitution, I want to know exactly what’s been substituted, so that I can decide whether it suits my plans or not.

And Asda knows this to some extent. Because when your order is delivered, you can simply leave any substitutions you don’t want in the basket. And they’ll be returned with the delivery driver, and you’ll be refunded.

So when I tapped that notification to open the Asda app and see the substitutions to my order, I saw this:

Substitution content in the Asda mobile app

My “1 x Succulent Boneless Chicke…” (the 1kg of chicken thigh fillets) had been replaced with “2 x ASDA Tender Chicken Breast Fi…”. Not ideal, as I wanted the thighs, but I’m open to keeping them for the convenience of not having to do a separate, in-person trip to the grocery store just for chicken.

But I’m left with an unanswerable question

How much chicken breast had they replaced the thighs with? One could assume they went mass-for-mass, swapping 1kg of thigh meat for 1kg of breast meat. But assumptions can be dangerous things. So I tapped on the item in my app to expand it, to see the full details.

But it didn’t expand.

All the information I could see about my replacement was a little icon-sized image, and “2 x ASDA Tender Chicken Breast Fi…”. Nothing else. The element wasn’t interactive.

So I went to my email.

Substitution content in Asda’s email

And thus my question was answered. I would be getting 40% less chicken than I ordered. Which does affect my meal plan. Something I instantly found odd the app was unable to tell me.

First. World. Problems.

Obviously. Naturally. This is such an absurdly first world problem. I recognise that. But it is a content design problem nonetheless.

➡️ When you order groceries online, you’re often ordering for the week (or more).
➡️ ️️When you’re ordering for the week, you’ve often got some kind of meal plan in mind.
➡️ When the exact product can’t be supplied, a similar substitute is a welcome alternative to getting nothing.
➡️ And when a substitute is being supplied, it’s really nice to have advanced notification of that.

But if that notification doesn’t fully and accurately describe the substitution, it significantly undercuts its usefulness. And I’m struggling to picture a scenario — outside of products with very short names — where the app’s substitutions content is useful.

Now, Asda obviously did a great job with the email. The helpful content does exist. And it was made readily available to me. But it’s odd that they implemented a much less effective version of this content inside their app. And particularly given I’m presented with both versions of the content at once (through simultaneous email and app notifications).

Outside of all this, Asda’s online shopping experience has been quite good! As a relative newcomer to online grocery shopping, I’m really pleased with the experience. But as a content design nerd, I couldn’t help but see this little quirk and write a little piece on it for fun.


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