THE NEW UBER APP: THREE NOTABLE UX CHANGES

Guobin Ng
Guobin Ng
Dec 13, 2016 · 6 min read

Uber’s recent App refresh has received mixed response from the Riders. The new Interface redesign is impactful and has caught the attention of the Uber Riders and Design Gurus alike. While assertive debates on the Uber App Design and User Experience Strategy seems to be gradually cooling down, few areas continue to be the talking point. After two weeks of my own analysis backed by some Open Hallway testing I decided to put forward findings on Users’ Experience feedback in three areas of the App — New Interface Design, Location tracking and Uber Feed.

New Interface Design

The graphics User Interface definitely looks neater and stylish than the previous version of the App. There is far more white space, graphical elements have overlay effects and colour is quite carefully used.

However, most people expressed that interaction with the new App interface confused them at times. Some opinions were strong, as this one:

“I was very confused with the new UI. Some information, like car plate number, was not placed at where they used to be. I have to search all over the place for it and I gave up.”

One of the items creating discontent is the way Surge Pricing is shown. In Uber, the Surge Pricing seems to have two effects — Riders wait for surge to decline and Uber Drivers start moving to areas of surge. Some special cases of Uber Surge Pricing are described in this interesting article on Forbes.

In any case, riders do not like to pay a higher price unless they are in a hurry to get to their destination. The new User Interface has made the surge periods a tad unclear. In the previous version of the App Interface, the surge was indicated with a little flash symbol on bottom of the main screen, and the surge factor was clearly shown thereafter. In the new Design, this has been replaced by a subtle text indication which hardly is able to grab attention. Some of our respondents claimed they ended up paying more for the ride accidentally. This discontent isn’t helping Uber.

Another issue with the App Interface is the way several Riding options are presented. Earlier the bottom of the screens was used to select the type of ride among several UberX, UberPOOL, Premium, TAXI, etc. Clearly, this choice of Interface was limited by screen width, thereby limiting Uber to present more riding options.

In the new App Design, Riding options have been changed to paginated panels in which Pricing is combined with riding options. While the Panels look aesthetically advanced, they make users think (Interesting book “Don’t make me Think” by Usability author Steve Krug). Firstly, the indication of Ride Type under ‘Economy’ panel is not clear. People end up taking UberPOOL inadvertently because, that is the first option. Secondly, the App indicates maximum number of riders in the car irrespective of UberPOOL or UberX. People get confused whether they selected UberX. Lastly, the panels take up almost half of the phone screen space concealing the maps to some level.

I observed people guessing or even searching online for solutions. Although most users were able to learn the new interface after initial struggle and repeat usage, some people went as far as quit using Uber because of the new Design!

The animated maps, routes, icons and panels certainly provide a playful appeal. At the same time, high amount of animations has left some people wondering if the Uber App is consuming too much of their phone battery.

So what could Uber have done differently? To prevent the loss of Usability, the new design could have maintained some similarities with the old design in terms of placement of frequently used features, information so as to mitigate learning curve.

The new Uber App has changed the flow of how users make booking for a ride and it comes with some clear User benefits. The App starts by asking users for their destination (“Where To?”). This allows the Uber drivers to choose the most convenient pickup point based on the location of the Riders. With the destination keyed in upfront, the App is able to provide the estimated time of arrival and fare of the ride before the Rider makes the booking. This helps Riders to make informed choices, especially when they need to be at the destination by a certain time.

With so many new Design changes in the App, Uber could have treated the existing Users on-boarding journey as if s/he is a first time User. Uber Design is known to have created a unique Design language, and it would be surprising to me if such user frustration was not pre-empted in their User Research. To me, it appears that a more balanced Design decision-making was needed to achieve Uber’s business goals.

Location Data

Uber is requesting users to allow the app to collect location data, even when the App is not in use. Uber is claiming to do so to deliver the best possible experience to their customers like improving pickups, drop-offs, customer service, and enhancing safety of its users.

This has come as a big turn off for many existing Uber Riders. Besides, higher battery consumption due to GPS being always on, Riders view this as a major privacy intrusion. To make matters worse, Riders realised that the option to turn Off location would mean a downgraded user experience. If the locations services are turned Off, the Destination needs to be entered manually.

Most press releases regarding this update is not helping to allay fears. Many might be aware that Uber were sued for misused of the location data, and had to change their policies to protect users’ information. As the settlement of the case was made only recently, I am sure that the regulators will be keeping an eye on Uber, and users’ data will be secure.

Uber Feed

Uber has acted on its belief that User Experience does not end when the user boards the ride by introducing ‘Uber Feed’. It is a feature that would provide users with information, like transportation table, restaurant and location, and entertainments, like Music and Snapchat. ‘Uber Feed’ acts like a personal assistant and provides personalized information based on Rider’s traveling history and usage habits.

Although Uber claims that the new App is designed with the end users in mind, there are doubts on whether ‘Uber Feed’ is what Riders would really want. The Riders have their own favorite Apps to entertain themselves while commuting, such as various Social Media apps, Apps for listening to music and reading. Will Riders prefer ‘Uber feed’ that kindof brings all these Apps together, or their existing standalone apps? Will ‘Uber Feed’ be able to predict what information the Riders need and provide them at the right moment? We will find out when Uber feed is released in this part of the world.

Conclusion

I like the fact that Uber has improved its App interface, put Users’ experience of the entire journey at top priority. However, in my opinion the balance between User Experience and Business Strategy could have been executed better. I do believe that despite the initial few rejections, from Users and analysts, Uber would be able to deliver a great user experience in the long run.

If you enjoyed this post, please like, share and comment.

This article is based on primary research with 8 Uber users, secondary research online, and, of course, personal use of the App for myself and the awesome Team at UXArmy.

UXArmy

Online User Testing platform https://www.uxarmy.com/remote-user-testing

Guobin Ng

Written by

Guobin Ng

User Experience Researcher and Designer at @UXarmy. Follower of Tech startups and seeker of great UX design. Organising member of @UXSEA.

UXArmy

UXArmy

Online User Testing platform https://www.uxarmy.com/remote-user-testing

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