Proposal: Carpooling Feature in Facebook: “Circle Of Commuters”.

Proposal: I am proposing a carpooling feature for Facebook coined as “Circle Of Commuters” (COC) that attempts to minimize vehicle traffic in Austin, Texas. In the proposal, I have demonstrated how user research has helped me to conceptualize the idea, ideate features, and improve the user experience.

Concept: A Facebook feature that allows commuters to carpool and minimize the stress and time taken to commute daily in heavy Austin traffic.

MVP: The Circle of Commuters feature in Facebook recommends commuters to create or increase their car-pooling network by connecting them with their direct/mutual friends who share a similar travel schedule and route.

Target Users: Daily commuters in Austin metropolitan areas who have a long work commute and would like to save time and money by car-pooling with others.

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Project Road map: Here is how I conducted research, ideated based on findings, and created a concept on carpooling in 5 phases:

Phase 1A — Desk Research: I researched articles on carpooling statistics and traffic data in USA to find out that:
Majority of commuters in USA prefer to drive alone (76%) instead of carpooling for their daily work commute (9%), despite delays, and loss of time caused by heavy traffic.

Phase 1B — Competitive Research: I evaluated COC on the following nine characteristics to determine how it positioned against Lyft and Uber:

1. Cost effectiveness.
2. Reinforcement in form of rewards.
3. Profile matching score based on personal interests.
4. Weekend reminders for advanced scheduling.
5. Smart route recognition.
6. Chat option with commuters.
7. Social media integration.
8. Minimize commuter’s fear/concern.
9. Offers immediate service.

I found out that COC helps to save money (offers rewards and no fees); and provides better call to actions (advanced reminders, ability to chat, profile match score, and smart route recognition); but is limited to offer the service instantly/on demand. Since, the app is designed for daily commuters, it is expected that users plan their ride in advance.

Here are the assessment results: Facebook COC Competitive Assessment.

___________________________________________________________________Phase 2 — User Research: To understand what is restricting commuters to carpool, I spoke with commuters about their driving experience and carpooling views.

I synthesized results from three 30 minutes face to face interviews, to present the following profiles, more likely to be representative of the COC user group.
John: A father of 2 kids, likes to spend time with family.
Barrier to Carpooling: Does not know many people who share a similar travel schedule; and does not want to look for them proactively.
Favorite Car Activity: Plan his daily activities.
Primary Use of Facebook: Connect with liked minded people only.

Meredith: A mother of 1 teenage daughter, who values safety and well-being of her family.
Barrier to Carpooling: Has concerns about carpooling with a stranger, thus is resistant to drive with someone who she does not know.
Favorite Car Activity: Know about current events.
Primary Use of Facebook: To connect with friends, and seek opinions from them when buying a new product.

Tom: A father of 3 young kids, who values his quiet time with himself occasionally.
Barrier to Carpooling: Is extremely uncomfortable to drive with someone who does not share same personal interests.
Favorite Car Activity: Listen to podcasts while driving his car.
Primary Use of Facebook: To know what others are talking about current events/news.

___________________________________________________________________Phase 3 — Ideating The Concept and Features: By understanding the user’s gaps and pain points on carpooling, here is how I finalized the COC concept and it’s core features:

Gap: Austin commuters are looking for non-fee based hyper local carpooling options due to limited public transportation in Austin metros and the abrupt end of Lyft and Uber service.
Feature: I decided to pilot this feature locally first in Austin, Texas before scaling it further.

Pain point: Commuters dislike downloading a new app due to limited storage space (iOS users).
Feature: A feature within an existing platform (Facebook) instead of a standalone app.

Gap: Commuters are oblivious about the personal benefits from carpooling.
Feature: Real time alerts on statistics: % who carpoolers, minutes gained, # of commuters nearby, reduced emissions, decline in accident rates.

Pain point: Commuters expressed fear of sharing a ride with an unknown person.
Feature: An ability to check profile and chat with commuters in advance before confirming the commute.

Pain point: Commuters felt that a lot of time is wasted in searching for commuters like them and disliked the logistical aspect of planning & scheduling the commute.
Feature: The advanced reminder on weekends to get introduced with commuters and plan commute before the week starts.

Pain point: Users assumed that they will have to compromise thier typical carpooling activities during the commute.
Feature: Outcome: Profile Matching Score connects commuters based on common interests and similar carpooling activities.

Gap: Not many commuters are proactive about finding commuters like them.
Feature: With help of Smart-Route matching the COC reccomends nearby commuters based on similar routes. Users, however have an option to keep their personal details in stealth mode to remain unidentified.

Pain point: Commuters clearly disliked overspending on car pooling apps. In fact, they showed interest in receiving non-monetary incentive to use the app more often.
Feature: A point based system that provides shopping points for Facebook partnered stores.

___________________________________________________________________Phase 4 — Persona & Experience Mapping: Inspired from commuters’ real life experience, I was able to demonstrate first time on boarding experience in 10 actionable steps:

A regular work commute for John and Meredith is about 60 minutes one way due to heavy traffic and road work. John does not know many people who have a similar travel schedule; and thus does not proactively look for commuters like him. While, Meredith has concerns about carpooling with a complete stranger.

Step 1: Facebook sends the 1st alert to the commuter to evoke interest about carpooling.

Step 2: Facebook sends the 2nd alert to persuade the commuter to carpool.

Step 3: Facebook prompts the commuter to try the feature.

Step 4: The commuter clicks the screen and fills out a commuter profile form.

Step 5: Based on their profile, Facebook recommends commuters from their mutual friend network.

Step 6: Facebook allows commuters to check profile and/or chat with mutual friends.

Step 7: Facebook requests both commuters to confirm the carpooling plan.

Step 8: Facebook sends a carpooling schedule to both commuters.

Step 9: Facebook requests commuters to provide feedback about COC.

Step 10: Facebook rewards them with redeemable Facebook shopping points.

___________________________________________________________________Phase 5 — Rapid Prototyping: I created prototypes on Figma by using public domain images and icons from Google & Facebook design sources.

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Next Steps: I will be working with a designer to finalize the prototypes and conduct usability testing.

For details on research methodology, feel free to visit my portfolio site here.

Credits:

The article was reviewed by the following UX practitioners. I want to personally thank them for their help and support which enabled me to publish this article. Thanks!

  1. Mhaire Fraser
  2. Carol Barnum
  3. David Munoz
  4. Gregg Bernstein
  5. Priyanka Kodikal
  6. Sally Peang
  7. Patricia Garcia
  8. Ivy Knight

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