Car Mates — A UX case study for a ride-sharing app with a difference

Car Mates — A UX case study for a ride-sharing app with a difference

A UX design assignment that led to a staff job offer

Design assignments are perhaps the worst part of a job hunt process— they require a lot of effort and there's no guaranteed payback at the end.

Sometimes, though, they push you to come up with interesting solutions.

🤷‍♂ ️Why did I build this? — The problem statement

Here's the brief I received from the hiring manager.

Design an Android app for car sharing which is powered by realtime data & availability.
If a ride seeker needs to get somewhere e.g. commuting to work, why not get a ride from someone travelling in the same direction, share costs, and get a faster and comfortable ride compared to public transport.
On the other side — the app should enable the driver to get co-riders who are travelling on a common route.
The app could work globally and provide only locality-based search results of ride seekers and drivers.
Focus areas for solution -
- How does a user get a ride?
- How does a user share a ride?
Preferably highlight the use-case when the car is shared by more than 2 people.

⏱️ Timeline — 4 days.

Platform — Android.

🤔 Who am I building this for? — User research

This phase covered the first two steps of the design thinking process (empathise and define).

There are two types of users for this app, with distinct sub-types.

  1. Drivers — Intra-city commuters and inter-city commuters
  2. Riders — Intra-city commuters, hitchhikers/inter-city commuters, rural commuters

I followed the MVP model since I had just 4 days. So I limited the scope to intra-city commuters.

User interviews

Goals: Discover user contexts, needs, and frustrations; validate app concept

Given the two distinct types of users, I conducted 5 user interviews (the minimum needed for statistically-relevant results).

User interview questions
User interview notes

These interviews helped me fulfil an important goal — validate whether the concept of such an app could be helpful for users.

More importantly, they helped me understand the needs, frustrations and contexts in which target users would use the app.

🤯 When and where would this app be used? — Contexts of use

Problems faced by drivers -

  1. Traffic congestion and parking woes in urban areas
  2. Rising fuel costs
    Cuts into their monthly budgets
  3. Trust
    Hard to find verified, reliable people for carpooling/ride-sharing
  4. Route
    Hard to find cost-effective transport options on their route
  5. Carbon footprint
    Greater climate-change awareness leads to increasing guilt about driving solo
Contexts of use — destinations where parking is unavailable; when driving alone is tiresome; destinations close to the driver's original destination.

Problems faced by riders -

  1. Private cabs are comfortable but expensive
  2. Safety woes
    Public transport can be unsafe at odd hours; and it's worse for women
  3. High travel time
    Flaws in ride algorithms lead to pick-ups and drops that aren't on the route
  4. Public transport issues
    Unreliable bus timings, long queues and waiting times at peak hours, and tiresome multi-modal travel with no guarantee of getting a seat
Contexts of use — When public transport gets tiresome; To avoid adverse weather; when speed and cost matter equally.

Personas and User stories ‍♀️ ‍♂️

The first two represent riders while the last represents drivers.

Rider 1 — Irfan Abbasi

User Stories for Irfan 

As a professional, I want the convenience of travelling in a car, so I can look presentable when I reach my destination.
As a budget-conscious user, I want to spend less on my commute, so I can save towards a better camera.
Rider 2 — Ankita Singh

User Stories for Ankita 

As a woman, I want a mode of transport I can trust, so I do not have to worry about my safety.
As a student with limited allowance, I want a cheap way to travel, so I do not have to depend on public transport.
Driver — Sid Raizada

User Stories for Sid 

As a driver with a family, I want to save fuel costs, so I can use that money to invest for my kids’ future.
As a commuter on a long journey, I want to have someone I can talk to, so the journey can feel shorter.
Quick note: The standard design thinking process uses the HMW (how might we) format for framing problem statements. In my experience, user stories help better in keeping the user in mind while also being easy to explain to developers and getting them onboard.

Secondary research 

I checked out some of the competition to see how they were solving the problems I’d identified.

Apps considered: BlaBlaCar (10mil+ downloads, 1mil+ reviews), Quick Ride (1mil+ downloads, 44k+ reviews) and sRide (1mil+ downloads, 27k+ reviews).

I also checked their first 10 reviews on the Play Store to identify additional pain points.
A quick comparison table for different problem areas
Quick note: I did not consider Uber Pool and Ola Share in my comparison.
While they solve similar problems from a user’s perspective, the positioning (and hence design) of this app should be distinct to inspire appropriate behaviour.
This assumption was validated by an app review which mentioned that riders often treat car owners like paid drivers.

Insights and Opportunities 🧐

  1. Focus on profile verification
    Competitors incentivise government ID verification. Social media profiles are also visible for added trust.
  2. SOS button for security
    Some of the apps use this for added security.
  3. More opportunities in non-urban areas
    Indian carpool companies are focusing on urban areas. This provides an opportunity to target rural and tier-II/III cities in future iterations.
  4. Making an emotional connection via ecological impact
    Only one app displays the ecological impact of app usage. This is an opportunity to make an emotional connection with users.

Now I had everything I needed to move to the next phase.

‍ What was my solution? — Design

This phase covers the ideation and prototyping phases of the design thinking process.

Assumptions 🤓

  1. The app is aimed at private car users and not cab drivers.
  2. The driver’s vehicle details and phone + govt. ID verification of drivers as well as riders happens before users can offer or take a ride.
  3. The app has its own wallet for payment. Riders need to have sufficient funds in the wallet before they ride.
  4. Since the app provides search results that are based only on the user’s location, it can’t be used to book rides for someone other than the user.

Initial sketches 

User Scenarios ️

Goal: Empathise with the user; generate ideas

To help me generate ideas and get into the users’ shoes, I created user scenarios for all 3 personas.

These user journeys also cover the use case highlighted in the brief — what happens when the car is shared by more than 2 people.

Irfan’s journey (Rider 1) 

Ankita’s journey (Rider 2) 

Sid’s journey (Driver) 

Prototypes

Showing is better than telling. Here are some quick videos to take you through all the screens.

If you wish to see the screens at your own pace, scroll past this section to the user flow diagrams below.

Getting a ride (the rider’s journey) 

Irfan’s experience

Ankita’s experience

Sharing a ride (the driver’s journey) 

User flow diagrams 

Annotated for clarity.

UFD for Irfan’s journey (Rider 1’s flow) 

Flow diagram for Irfan’s experience of taking a ride

UFD for Ankita’s journey (Rider 2’s flow) 

Flow diagram for Ankita’s experience of taking a ride

UFD for creating a ride (driver’s flow) 

Creating a ride — Lots of space to help a driver process info quickly when the phone is mounted on a dashboard holder
Flow diagram for Sid’s experience of sharing a ride

How did it perform? — Wrapping up

I wish I had more time to test these flows with users since that’s the real test for their effectiveness.

Nevertheless, I was able to solve for the problem areas mentioned in the brief

  1. Getting a ride from someone travelling in the same direction, share costs, and get a faster and comfortable ride compared to public transport
  2. Enable a driver to get co-riders who are travelling on a common route
  3. Solving for the case when the car is shared by more than 2 people

Here are 2 flows I would add to improve the experience -

  1. Allow users to select a primary mode (rider/driver) so that they don't have to select that every time they open the app.
  2. Let users schedule rides at a fixed time and frequency, which would often be the case for commuters.

And yes, this earned me a job offer.

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Car Mates — A UX case study for a ride-sharing app with a difference was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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