I’ve got 99 problems, and unfortunately, my shopping list is one. Ever since Google moved grocery shopping lists out of Google Keep and into Shopping as a service last April, I along with many others have been continually frustrated with that decision. The new location for them isn’t bad, per se. It allows you to have more functionality special to groceries like sorting by department, for example and can be added by voice, but having it stuck in a web page on your phone’s browser while you shop is just weird.
It means you can’t access it without a cellular connection, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve experienced this in real-time! Back when it was baked into the Shopping app for Android, I was able to access my list of groceries in the middle of Publix even if I was a victim of their metal roof or a bad storm – not anymore. At least, not until Google adds better offline support for PWAs, which is something it’s working on.
Then, there’s the annoying case of having to add that web app to your phone’s home screen using the “Add to home screen” feature in the browser’s menu. You can do this, but then you’ll not only be going out of your way but going out of your way for a fairly generic icon with a Chrome browser icon attached to it. This feels makeshift, half-baked, and right in line with Google’s philosophy right now.
It’s clear that the move from Keep (where it was fine, by the way) to Shopping for lists was fueled by Google’s desire to push users towards purchasing said products via its Shopping service to compete with Amazon. Unfortunately, this decision meant that the user experience greatly suffered, and still does a year later. I’m not sure if Google has a larger plan at play here, but it kind of feels like they set it and forget it and now we’re all suffering the consequences.
The problems don’t end there though – attempting to add a grocery item by voice via Google Assistant is currently plagued with issues because Google can’t seem to make up its mind on how it wants users to proceed. Saying “Hey Google, show me my shopping list” doesn’t open your list on the web where Google re-routed it. Instead, it opens a Google Keep note called “Shopping” – assuming you have one. If you don’t, it will open Keep and return no results! What? Why is this a thing? It feels as though some of the older functionality of Shopping lists being maintained in Keep has been left there, or that Google is keeping it there so it can move things back to the way they were if Shopping fails.
Furthermore, asking “Hey Google, add peanut butter to my shopping list” or something similar on Android will open my Keep note and add it, but if I do this via a smart home device like the Nest Hub or mini, it tries to add it to Shopping List in Google Shopping. Then, if I ask the Assistant to remove it from my list, instead of removing it from Shopping on the web where it added it, it attempts and fails to remove it from Keep’s “shopping” list note, where I never placed it! I know this is occurring because it says “Sorry, I couldn’t find peanut butter on your list called shopping” even though I literally just added it! Insert hulk GIF here – that’s how I feel even writing this out.
Once again, the entire experience is busted and disjointed because Google wanted to play around with it and valued its money-making services over the user experience. I shouldn’t be surprised, but something’s gotta give eventually, right? Maybe, maybe not. People will continue to use these services despite their incongruence with their expectations – myself included – in hopes of them improving through feedback, but so far, that just hasn’t seemed to work out.
Shopping Lists should have remained in Google Keep, and you can “keep” it there if you aren’t interested in relying on the convenience of voice to add and remove things, but for me, that’s just not going to work. Users shouldn’t have to lower the bar so much and so often just to benefit from something, but that’s just my personal opinion. If Google was dead set on trying to build a consistent system for task management – and I see groceries as tasks – then it should shift Lists over to Google Chat’s room tasks, and allow us to access them by voice to add or remove items. I’ve been managing groceries here for a while, but without voice automation in my smart home, I’ve forgotten to add things and that makes it worthless.
For the time being, I’ve gone back to Lists in Shopping on the Web, but having these items out of reach through an app and away from my other tasks for the day causes me to forget to check in to see what I need to buy, and that just sucks. Let me know if you’ve been frustrated with this entire system, and also how you’re currently using Google’s services to remember the milk.