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.
- Drivers — Intra-city commuters and inter-city commuters
- 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.
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).
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 -
- Traffic congestion and parking woes in urban areas
Rising fuel costs
Cuts into their monthly budgets
Hard to find verified, reliable people for carpooling/ride-sharing
Hard to find cost-effective transport options on their route
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 -
- Private cabs are comfortable but expensive
Public transport can be unsafe at odd hours; and it's worse for women
High travel time
Flaws in ride algorithms lead to pick-ups and drops that aren't on the route
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🧐
Focus on profile verification
Competitors incentivise government ID verification. Social media profiles are also visible for added trust.
SOS button for security
Some of the apps use this for added security.
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.
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.
- The app is aimed at private car users and not cab drivers.
- 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.
- The app has its own wallet for payment. Riders need to have sufficient funds in the wallet before they ride.
- 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.
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)
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)
Sharing a ride (the driver’s journey)
User flow diagrams
Annotated for clarity.
UFD for Irfan’s journey (Rider 1’s flow)
UFD for Ankita’s journey (Rider 2’s flow)
UFD for creating a ride (driver’s flow)
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
- Getting a ride from someone travelling in the same direction, share costs, and get a faster and comfortable ride compared to public transport
- Enable a driver to get co-riders who are travelling on a common route
- 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 -
- Allow users to select a primary mode (rider/driver) so that they don't have to select that every time they open the app.
- 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.