Car sharing is part of the larger sharing economy movement. With more and more millennials being reluctant to buy large purchase items such as cars, the concept of carsharing is a market opportunity that Uber wants to explore.
My design team developed a conceptual car sharing app for Uber from the ground up, starting with domain research then moving onto eventually creating a finalized high-fidelity prototype within four weeks.
Instilling the Value of Carsharing in Consumers
Uber is a major contender in the ridesharing industry showing no signs of slowing down. Carsharing services intend to provide users with the same convenience, cost-efficiency, spontaneity and reliable access to a vehicle that ridesharing provides. Our goal was to design a conceptual car sharing mobile app for Uber starting with extensive research on the current carsharing market. We observed that in its current form, car sharing does not perform to the standards of ride sharing, due to the inflexibility of the reservations system and the unpredictability of costs arising from mileage restriction and other fees. Consequently, car sharing has not become widespread as a daily or habitual part of users’ travel routines.
As part of the design process for Uber’s proposed car sharing platform, we looked at the current state of the industry to better understand its major players, primary markets and trends. Through domain research, we gained a better understanding of the current approaches and variations on carsharing and the difficulties and threats facing the industry. We looked at 6 major competitors in the car sharing industry as well as the car rental and ride sharing market as a whole.
Here’s what we learned:
- Carsharing services currently don’t differ much in regards to pricing
- The majority require round trips except for Car2Go, which adds an extra layer of convenience similar to what ridesharing services offer
- We couldn’t find a single carsharing service that offered a strong rewards program, which is a common train of many car rental companies
We kept the strong points of rental and ridesharing services in mind as we moved forward in our research phase. We wondered if carsharing was missing a key ingredient that the other services had to offer.
When scheduling user interviews, we sought out carsharing users in our demographic range to better understand the motivations, expectations and factors that play a role when choosing a carsharing service. We spoke with users who don’t own a vehicle, as well as users who use carsharing in addition to owning their own vehicles.
Research Question 1: How and why do users decide to use car rental or car sharing services? What are their goals, motivations and thought processes? We learned that carsharing is widely used for trips when people don’t want to put miles on their own cars and running errands for non-car owners Carsharing is a 1.1 billion dollar industry as of 2015 and is likely to grow to 6.5 billion by 2024. The car rental industry was valued at 72.74 billion dollars in 2015. There is plenty of room for growth in the carsharing industry, we just had to discover what it’s lacking.
Research Question 2: What pain points and inefficiencies do users encounter when using existing car sharing services? Users worry about hidden fees, which was an issue two carsharing users encountered in the past when using a major competitor in the industry. Another concern was regarding convenience of pick up and drop off locations. Many users don’t want to be confined to having to make round trips to drop their vehicle back in the same location that they picked up in. People who use carsharing generally liked it; the problem was getting them to come back regularly.
Research Question 3: For non-consumers of carsharing services, what obstacles prevent their participation in carsharing services? We conducted an online survey completed by 25 participants. A surprising consensus from the survey was that the majority of users that hadn’t used a carsharing service in the past hadn’t done so because they didn’t have the knowledge of what carsharing was.
Another main obstacle was that users who do not own cars have other reliable methods of transportation already established that are already reliable as well as more cost-effective, such as public or manual transportation for short distances.
We conducted one interview with a subject matter expert who manages a car rental service.
“Avis owns one of the carsharing companies and I see the numbers every month… It’s not impressive. We don’t see carsharing as a threat to our rental company, they don’t offer the same flexibility and rewards that renting a car provides. Our users feel a sense of brand loyalty, carsharing isn’t as established” - Mick, airport rental service manager
This validated our initial assumption that a reason carsharing is not as successful as car rental services is because of a lack of customer loyalty rewards and flexibility.
We began to compile and group our user data with affinity diagramming. This showed us where users goals, pain points and needs lie in regards to carsharing. We crafted an initial overall scope that would guide our focus for the following three weeks. My group and I reflected on our research questions and user data. After the process of iteratively narrowing down what the most important findings were, we uncovered the major question that would end up being the main focus for our scope:
How will we put users in greater control of car sharing scheduling and costs, so that they will feel more comfortable, in control and confident using car sharing, and thus choose to incorporate it more frequently and regularly into their travel routine?
We created two personas that were the synthesis of our user data. Each persona is guided by their own individual motivations, needs and scenarios when it comes for seeking out a vehicle. Chelsea is a young millennial who uses carsharing frequently for running errands and going out on weekends. Peter embodies a family man who relies on carsharing if something goes wrong with his own vehicle. He is very cost-conscious, but will do whatever it takes to make sure he can get his family around town safely.
Crafting our personas allowed us to stay aligned as a group for when we would soon diverge and create individual designs of our prototypes. We crafted a customer journey map applicable to either persona based off our gathered user data and their experiences using existing carsharing companies.
One of our initial assumptions was that millennials would be our target users, so we planned to design with a focus on Chelsea. This assumption shifted quickly, as our experience consisted of speaking with mostly non-millennials; the majority of millennials we requested to interview said they had never used or heard of car sharing. This guided our decision to design with Peter in mind as we continued into our design phase.
We crafted and refined a set of four principles to base our forthcoming divergent designs on in order to stay aligned in terms of core values.
Moving into our design sprint, we started brainstorming and creating concepts as a team to uncover our core features.
What we found most important:
Rewarding our users - A rewards program similar to what car rental companies provide
A guided reservation process - Reservation process would begin from selecting a pin point on the map
Upfront costs - Making final costs differentiate from their surroundings so users would feel confident in what they’re paying
After building concepts off each others ideas and voting on what we found most important to include, we branched off and created individual paper prototypes. We tested 5 participants and had them complete two main tasks on each of our paper prototypes. From our concept testing we validated that the rewards program was very well received by all users. We also learned that price played the most prominent factor for users when choosing a vehicle, as they always chose to sort based on lowest price first.
Our next task was to take our feedback and findings from our first round of concept testing and create mid-fidelity wireframes. We tested another five participants and had them give qualitative and quantitative feedback on what their experience was when interacting with each of our prototypes. We tested the following task flows:
Selecting pick-up location
Reserving a vehicle
In this round of testing, functionality and fidelity were increased allowing us to see what structure allowed users to complete the important tasks most efficiently. My prototype scored highest in the overall survey results, so we chose to take pieces from the other prototypes that tested well and used my wireframes as the skeletal base that we would continue to increase in fidelity as we moved towards creating finalized high-fidelity prototypes.
Finding Our Way To the Final Prototype
Before increasing fidelity on anything, we each created style tiles of our UI themes to use as a guide to follow while creating our individual high-fis. One of my fellow teammate’s design was received well overall by users. As her style tile demonstrates, it encapsulates an essence of sophistication and timeless elements. Our research and user data supported the decision to base our designs with Peter in mind. The dark interface with pieces of rich burgundy and gold struck well with our more experienced users, which validated our thought process of Peter being our primary user.
We still needed to decide on a finalized name for our mobile app. We were trying to stay aligned with Uber’s current line of services - UberEats and UberGo - which were simplistic and to-the-point. We decided on the name Uber Carshare, which left no room for interpretation on what the service would be offering. Because our research proved that many people don’t know what carsharing is, we chose a name that would reach a wide range of users.
A quantitative survey that we used to measure users feedback rating their experience with each high-fidelity prototype proved that users favored the dark, sophisticated interface that one of the other designers created. This aligned with our group's decision to design our interface for Peter.
“The app is user-friendly and guides you through the reservation process effortlessly.” - Jackie, front-end web developer
What users loved about our final prototype
Expedited reservation process - Guiding users through the process of reserving a vehicle while giving them the freedom to choose what they want to drive, whenever and wherever they are. Users appreciated the clear breakdown of cost per hour and the progress bar informing them where they are in the reservation process.
Rewards program - Creating an engaging, habit forming rewards program user experience. This had users saying they would look forward to gaining points and redeeming them, which fulfilled our objective of instilling the value of carsharing in its users.
Easy trip extensions - Giving users a grace period and the ability to extend their time period mid-reservation enables users to make a reservation without the worry of being charged late return fees.
If my team was allowed a time extension on this project, there are certain areas of focus that we would continue to expand and improve upon. These are initial concepts are strong within our final product and are capable of making Uber Carshare rise to the top in comparison to other competitors.
Rewards - Since the rewards program was the major concept that made our project stand out in comparison to competitors in the carsharing industry, there are multiple aspects we would continue building upon in this realm.
Promotional periods and referral program - New ways to earn rewards and encourage users to spread awareness about the benefits of carsharing.
Rewards reminders - Users were excited by the concept of our rewards program, which they all agreed would have them using the app frequently in order to gain rewards. Our biggest problem we were trying to solve was how to get users to incorporate carsharing into their lives more frequently and we are pleased with how our solution played out.
Onboarding - Streamlining the process if a user already had an Uber account, similar to UberEats functionality. Including detailed onboarding throughout the app for new users tested very well and leaves little room for error or confusion. Creating a streamlined and automatic authentication process for current Uber users would match their current software and cut out the process of having to make an account more than once.
This was my first project working in a group going through the process of user research all the way through to interface design. I learned a lot to say the say the least, but my overall takeaway was speaking to a wide range of users and synthesizing that data. Doing this iterative process of testing, synthesizing and ideating taught me how to fully empathize for our users needs, goals and frustrations. Working with my team and having to give and receive feedback on every step of the project taught me how necessary and valuable critique is in the design process. Both of these skills allowed me to grow as a designer and prepared me for moving towards working with real clients.