Goal: Smartphone app for automated carpool trips between home and office
Duration: 7 Weeks
Team Size: One/ Myself
Role: User research, UX Architecture, Wireframes, Prototypes, Visual Design, Video production
Tools: Sketch, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe AfterEffects
Outcome: Concept app for smartphones, also actively contributed to Scoop- a startup in the Bay Area working on similar concept
Commuting is a major struggle in overpopulated urban areas because of heavy traffic on roads & public transport. The idea of carpooling has always promised that people can travel together at ease, and that it is absolutely wallet-friendly and eco-friendly. Carpool recently became both a symbol and tool of fighting Global Warming as a number of businesses and startups initiated their new revenue models around it. If that continues to be the case we will soon have reliable carpool services embedded into our daily lives. While working as a research intern in Palo Alto during summer 2016, I simultaneously pursued independent research on this topic by interviewing communities of drivers and carpool users, and actively participated and contributed to a few constructive carpool experiments such as Scoop, Uber Pool and Lyft Line. This research further propelled the ideation and design of a concept app that offers automated carpool service.
It was my pleasure to contribute to Scoop- a carpool startup in the Bay Area. Scoop was growing fast and I had a chance to share my research and ideation with Jon Sadow, the cofounder.
Following video demonstrates a quick overview with project insights, rationale behind choosing carpooling as a solution, and the app walkthrough. Tools used for video production are Adobe Illustrator and Adobe AfterEffects. My simultaneous goal was to master microinteractions and principles of animations to the very last detail inside the app UI, hence I chose building and animating artifacts from scratch rather than ready-to-use animation tools such as Flinto.
Driving around 20 miles one way to work is part of daily routine if you’re based in the Bay Area. Traffic sees huge bottlenecks during rush hours at major intersections, commercial areas, and near entries and exits to freeways. This not only adds to the extra time and hassle of commuting from home to work and back again, but also contributes to tremendous amounts of CO2 emissions. Owning and maintaining one’s own vehicle is another facet of the problem: a considerable percentage of interviewees said that they own a car only because there’s no alternative to it, since public transport is neither time-efficient nor always convenient. Some said they have given up driving and have started using services like Uber and Lyft for their daily commute. This creates a perfect opportunity for an automated carpool solution since people are facing commute problems, and are also willing to actively participate in solving them.
Internet of Things has led to new business models based on sharing resources. We have seen notable shifts in recent years from businesses based on ownership of resources to those based on access to resources. Carpooling, combined with a real-time matching service, would be a practical solution. In fact a few organizations that I’ve worked with have already started designing and testing their carpooling apps, and with this projectI hope to contribute further to their efforts.
UX architecture phase seemed pretty straightforward at first, but the process revealed a lot of details that I decided to address. Analysis of current scenario was a huge research project within itself and I was able to apply my learnings from classes I took in design school, such as Ethnographic Reseach. Throughout the summer of 2016 I engaged myself in active conversations with Uber and Lyft drivers as well as co-riders. I also made it a point to talk to coworkers, neighbors and fellow passengers who traveled on a bus or a train. This served two major goals in my process. First, it exposed me to some areas that I had not thought of solely based on my own experiences. Second, as talked to more and more people, I could really see the underlying challenges as in “what is missing” when they talked about “what I would like to have”.
Goals and Design Direction
As I talked to potential users, simultaneously I started narrowing down on a mobile app solution that offers a way for these users to ‘actively participate’. As with any shared service and pay-per-use business model, this app would require simultaneous active participation of a lot of users for the solution to be sustainable. This challenge could be solved with two interdependent steps:
- Taking advantage of already existing and socially valued communities. Neighbors, coworkers, relatives are close ‘social circles’ that could influence a person to start using a new routine instead of an existing model. There is a huge social engineering opportunity here. It could be manifested in terms of perks, monetary rewards, achievement badges etc. offered by workplaces.
- Retaining users with useful, usable, and delightful routines. Once they sign up, it should be easier for them to use the solution, it should be better and faster than their existing means, and it should constantly offer new perks and insights.
I started listing down activities one would need to perform on this app, and I scoped all user’s needs and challenges to see the expanse of what all the app should offer.
At this point I did a quick revision of the goals, and decided to address them from three independent perspectives. My process had so far focused on User’s perspective, but it was still missing the Usability and Application perspectives. Usability perspective pushed me to think through navigation flows, individual tasks, and interdependent information. The application perspective was a holistic review of all capabilities, architecture of high level processes, and taking into consideration the handshakes with other apps for payments, location services etcetera.
User activities and Corresponding Features
Prioritizing features based on frequency of use was the best way to ensure a usable interface. I decided to offer upfront the most used features such as history of trips and daily trip requests, whereas I kept least used features in the background.
The next part of the process was to explore and finalize visual layouts. I started with low fidelity wireframes, made a visual reference grid, and followed Google Material design guidelines for the layout. It is great to experience how neat Material Design guidelines are, and at the same time how flexible their scope is to still apply personal creative liberty. For example I was able to introduce a number of microinteractions and tiny, organic elements while still sticking to the guidelines.