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Uber proves that mobile UX can exist away from the screen

Adam Williams from Uber showed the Mobile UX London conference 2019 that UX is just as important away from the screen as it is on it. Let’s find out more.

On November 21st 2019, the 2019 edition of Mobile UX London took place at the DeVere West One in London’s iconic West End. The audience of mobile UX enthusiasts got to hear from a world-class line-up of speakers, as well as take part in a wide range of technical workshops. It was a great day and I know everyone who was there found value in it.

We’ve put together a series of articles to recap on some of the presentations, so even if you couldn’t be there, you can still gain insight.

Adam Williams

It was a thrill to welcome Adam Williams from Uber to the MUXL stage. Adam is Senior UX Researcher and Design Ethnographer at the ride-sharing giant. His research currently focuses on drivers and the broader communities of people on the Uber platform, with an emphasis on global connections and locally unique markets. Adam earned his PhD in Human and Cultural Geography at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he studied informal recycling systems and migrant communities in Shanghai, China.

The title of Adam’s talk was ‘A mobility platform for today and tomorrow’. Here are three highlights from everything Adam shared with us.

Uber is a social change agent

Sure, Uber drives people from place to place, but it is also driving social change. 

If you think back to how it was around ten years ago; we were warned not to get in strangers’ cars. To get into the vehicle of someone you don’t know and let them drive you around was a foreign concept to many people. There were taxis in big cities and towns, but they came with a degree of trust. They are easily recognisable, with company names and logos on them. Uber changed all that, offering something totally different. Now we’ll get into a stranger’s Toyota Prius without hesitation.

Uber also spearheaded social change through the conversations it creates. Many people, when they slid into their first Uber, were unsure of the etiquette. Were you supposed to talk to the driver? Were they supposed to speak to you? Between themselves, independently of Uber, the passengers and drivers found a way to interact. Now, it’s second nature to chat happily with your Uber driver, or if you don’t want to talk, drivers will not take it personally. For some people, talking with an Uber driver will be the first time they have spoken to someone of a particular nationality, or someone with a unique backstory. People tell stories in Uber. Stories can make change happen.

UX isn’t just a screen

When Uber drivers aren’t looking at the road, they are looking at their phone screen which tells them who to pick up next and where to take them. Of course, Uber has spent a lot of time researching, designing and iterating to create the perfect app for their drivers. But at Uber, creating an experience for drivers goes beyond the screen.

Drivers have a better experience when they have a place to go when they are taking a break from driving; a place where they can meet other drivers and talk about their lives and the challenges they face. For this, Uber created Greenlight Hubs, spaces in cities exclusively for Uber drivers. These also serve as effective recruiting posts for new drivers.

There is also Vehicle, a print magazine for Uber drivers. The magazine features stories from drivers throughout the world, helping drivers feel like they’re part of something big. It’s also a great branding tool.

Elders make the best testers

Our final highlight from Adam’s talk concerned the fact that different people in different places have different requirements from a ride-sharing platform such as Uber. Uber has to adapt its design to reflect those needs, without diminishing the service it offers to others.

The way it does this is through rigorous research and exhaustive testing. The best market for testing? Elders. 

Elders tend to have time on their hands, are not shy of expressing their opinions and like to make their voices heard. Who better to help you improve your product?

Stay in touch

Thanks to Adam for sharing his insights with the crowd. It was a terrific presentation which I know gave the audience a lot to think about.

Over the next few days and weeks, we’ll be sharing articles and videos from the event, so make sure you stay in touch with Mobile UX London. Subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you never miss a thing.

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