Uber Design Challenge: How UX Design Can Improve the Pickup Experience

Introducing Add Details

It’s a simple scenario. I am staring at the Uber map, watching the car icon literally pass by me in a seconds notice. Another possibility: the car is at a just-so close distance from me, a few minutes away — but also so far, I don’t feel like walking. In the end, riddled with frustration, I call the Uber driver to try and calmly explain where I am. The calm lasts about ten seconds into the conversation, and then the next thing I know, the app reads: “sorry, your Uber driver cancelled the trip”.

I believe more clarification between the riders and the drivers is essential to improve the user experience.

User Research

There are a lot of attempts to improve the pickup experience.

Most current attempts have been made to add features on the second arrow (as the driver approaches), such as the official Uber Beacon or the idea of Uber mobile sign. However, an Uber driver I talked to mentioned,

“I want to know more about the [pickup] location before I start getting close to the rider.” — Jessie

7 other Uber drivers I talked to also seemed to want new features on the first arrow. However, I must not break the current flow of calling an Uber; too much fancy redesign, and the flow could be broken, resulting in a worse user experience.

Introducing Add Details

With the research in mind, I came up with a new optional feature called Add Details — a simple supplement to Uber app that is accessible after request and during the waiting time. Basically, riders will be able to add more details on their location and how they look, smoothing out the interaction for both riders and drivers.

A lot of deliberation went into the Add Details button. Such as the consideration: 500 words description of where you are may help the drivers pinpoint the location, but they are too busy navigating the road. Or: a selfie of you may help the drivers identify who they are picking up, but they have no time to look at each individual faces on the road. Whatever information that Add Details is going to provide has to be a quick, efficient, and crucial one.

What’s under Add Details?

The first question was to consider how a rider can stand out in the crowd without specifying race or gender. By knowing your rider in advance, the driver has a much easier time scanning for a familiar face. After multiple cycles and iterations, I discovered an outside-the-box idea: instead of focusing on the face, we can focus on the color of rider’s clothes. Color is a quick and memorable feature that the driver can use to instantly narrow down the number of possible riders and pinpoint the correct one.

The second question was to find a way for the driver to determine the exact pickup location with the minimum extra words. For this, I engaged in conversation with many Uber drivers. I learned that: Uber map shows whereabouts, but once the drivers arrive close to the pickup locations, they often have no idea where to go. If the driver can know a little more beforehand — e.g. in front of a specific store — then the pickup experience can be much smoother. Before presenting my designs, let me quote an Uber driver I talked with:

“Technology is less than Technology and Human Input combined” — Josh

User Testing

This update is about you, how you want to experience the things you want to do and the places you want to go. We are all looking for a smoother pickup process to avoid miscommunications and save time. So I ask you for a few extra taps, easy finger movements, to help the drivers arrive to you faster and easier.

The next step is user testing. I hope to see many riders use the feature, and I hope to see the percentage of request cancellation decrease significantly. I also want qualitative data from Uber drivers: are adding details like the color of the rider’s shirt and the statement “in front of Walmart” helpful? I did present my final prototype to 8 Uber drivers in Atlanta, and they all appreciated the extra three-four words description part, as it could really help them navigate quicker and more accurately. However, I want to go beyond Atlanta and see if this idea could help in other cities as well.

Overall, I want to thank all the warmhearted drivers who took the time to talk about methods that they believe will improve their experience with Uber. Thank you for all your input and feedback; this isn’t just my project, it’s all of ours. If you enjoyed this article, and you have your own opinions or suggestions, I hope you will leave a comment so I can hear them and work with you.

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