Commuting in bustling Paris every day, I am curious to figure out how could we lead towards a new approach to mobility in urban areas. Indeed, the French capital may be known as the city of lights but for many of the drivers that live here, it is also known as the city of wasting your time in your car during traffic jam. And if you ask me, that’s not surprising. Cars first became an integral part of the Parisian landscape in the 1920–1930s with the boom of private car ownership. But today, as the population has risen, jam conditions are getting worse and driving a car in the French capital is risky, forcing many Parisians to switch their cars for public transports, bikes and, most recently, to car-sharing services. Indeed, the demand for mobility-shared services is growing following the trends of sustainability and sharing economy.
In this context, we decided to focus on e-scooters that have recently invaded the streets of Paris since this summer. Two competitors are fighting for the French market: LimeBike (the Los Angeles based start-up backed by Uber) and Bird, launched in June 2018 and August 2018 respectively.
We had tons of questions on our minds. What are their value propositions and what do they aim to offer? Which one delivers the best user experience? Did they manage to create a faster and easier approach to urban transportation?
To reach a fair conclusion, we decided to try their vehicles and to compare the two apps in a row. And here are our thoughts…
After a delicious Bò bún on a sunny terrace off of Rue Montmartre, we decided to digest our meals by testing Lime.
In terms of branding, Lime seems to get it right by making the connection between e-scooters and the green trend of new mobility. Their logo is a gentle reminder of the tiny lime fruit, but looking at the details it is nothing else than the wheel of the scooter in flashy green and yellow colors. Looking at the details, it is nothing else than the wheel of the scooter. It is a very smart move from Lime to go for such a flashy visual identity, helping users quickly recognize its fleet of e-scooters.
Opening the app, we saw the map full of Limes and one less than 50m from us. We took it, scanned the QR code and a funny, cute sound started playing. We immediately understood that we are quickly and easily connected to the vehicle. Before starting the ride, we were directed through the onboarding process of the app which told us how to ride properly with some nice illustrations. And here we go!
Standing up on the scooter, Victor wanted to feel the speed and he activated the accelerator but nothing happened. He immediately thought “Did I break it?” Nah, we watched the onboarding too fast and forgot to push with our foot to make the first impulse. After taking a bit of speed, he realized he didn’t know how to brake. We definitely should have paid more attention to the onboarding... Could we have had a better experience with voice onboarding or with lights on the scooter guiding us during our first ride?
After all, our first ride were shaky and blurry and a scooter driver was screaming at us because we were blocking the lane.
Just after finishing our first ride, as soon as we left the e-scooter, a young girl took it. It seems like these Limes don´t have time to rest! She was in a hurry but she took the time to answer a few questions we had in mind for our spontaneous user interview. According to her, the scooter is something really accessible in terms of speed, size and volume. She finds the service quite expensive (1 Euro to unlock the vehicle and then 0,15 Euro/min thereafter) but seamless and in addition, it allows her to get faster as opposed to walking or waiting for the metro.
Our thoughts on Lime:
In terms of usability, Lime app is simple and intuitive. They’ve build a smooth and bump-free userflow which makes it really easy to use. And that is perfect for people in a hurry. Or just lazy ! However, our first ride was shaky and we would have appreciated some more focus on the onboarding such as how to start the vehicle and how to brake.
Let’s move on with Bird.
Compared to Lime, we immediately noticed on the Bird app that its e-scooter fleet is much less supplied (about a dozen Birds compared to fifty Limes in the dead center of Paris). Besides having to walk a bit more to find a Bird, we found the apps geolocation a bit off. The direction is not synchronized with the smartphone, forcing us to spend a bit of time orienting ourselves. We would have appreciated a functional compass view synced with the phone’s direction, similar to map provider apps Google Maps or City Mapper.
Bird’s branding is more discreet compared to Lime’s strong green presence. It’s design is more elegant, with a minimalistic or masculine touch that remains discreet on the busy sidewalks of Paris. They evoke a “rider” feel, having a logo that could be associated with a biker’s club. In terms of brand colors, there is a real difference between what has been chosen for e-scooters and those used in the application that are warmer with shades of purple, red and many gradients. We also noted a lack of graphic consistency on all points of contact of the Bird service — App, social networks and website - that shows the visibility of the brand is not as qualitative as that of Lime.
After having tested the two apps we quickly realized that the quality of the e-scooter Bird was superior. It is lighter, more rigid and what we enjoyed the most was it’s thick wheels which resisted the pavement holes. It’s wheels are smart as they very well absorbs the roughness regularly found on the Parisian pavement, the acceleration is more powerful giving us confidence to go full speed and the braking has a quicker but soft response rate, contrary to Lime where we were forced to quickly put a foot to the ground to resist an obstacle.
Our thoughts on Bird:
Bird offers an e-scooter of better quality, but the app leaves things to be desired. We would have liked better geolocation, better guidance for the user and especially some additional ways of payment.
Our general thoughts…
Our main pain point after testing both e-scooters was that they don’t provide any way of facilitating a ride through GPS navigation. So if you don’t already know your route, you feel lost and unsafe not knowing where to ride (on the road or on bike lines, watch out for pedestrians etc). This is great to be able to move so quickly and easily but it is even better to move knowing where you go.
It was surprising to learn that all 3 of us had the same feeling of insecurity on the e-scooters. Both apps incite us to ride on sidewalks but it seems insane to do so in Paris as the sidewalks are tiny and already crowded with terraces. Furthermore, as the vehicle can ride up to 25km/h, this makes the sidewalks too dangerous for pedestrians. On the other hand, we wouldn’t dare to drive inside an intersection where buses, cars, scooters and bikes already struggle to share the road.
French laws remains blurry and it makes the use of the vehicle very dangerous.
And that’s a funny coincidence that we heard last week France’s transport minister has vowed to legislate those speedy scooter and ban them from sidewalks. But we still need to figure out where to drive them. To be continued…
Goodpatch is a global product design studio with offices in Tokyo, Berlin, Munich and a small team based in Paris. We work with clients big and small, realizing the potential in startups and developing new business ideas for big corporations, with a focus on mobility services for current and future innovations.
Pssstt.. And we are hiring ! ️
This article is also available in French.