Why don’t you be real, app?

Generally my posts tend to be offshoots from earlier posts and this one is no different. This is loosely related to my rant about UX and UI design and the overall app-culture claiming to be great experiences. You can read the previous article here.

This started yesterday while I was waiting for my QuickRide. For those uninitiated, QuickRide is a Bangalore local car pooling mobile app. It seems to be the only real saviour for the overstressed, mismanaged city of Bangalore. And if you are hearing the name for the first time and you drive a car in Bangalore, you, my friend, are part of the problem. Lets get back.

The picture below is that of Manyata Tech park, one of the largest and busiest tech park in Bangalore. The location of this tech park is quite far and as expected, isn’t connected by metro. People working here seem to heavily rely on QuickRide and the bus service. QuickRide has done a lot of PR in almost every organisation within tech parks, to urge usage of car pooling. And man, it has worked! The issue now is, there are these benevolent car owners putting up their car for pooling, but as they wait for their fellow passengers, they wait in a haphazard fashion. Large portion of time of the security guards go in shooing them away since they create more traffic bottlenecks — and not just any bottleneck, like the Heinz Ketchup bottleneck!

All the people you see in both of these photos who are on phone, are trying to hail a QuickRide or a cab. The Maruti Suzuki S-cross in the below picture has been waiting for at least 15 min for someone to turn up, right in front of an office gate. Looking at this, other cab drivers also line up behind. It is virtually impossible to expect people to be on time. Also, co-locating your QuickRider in an absolutely tardy app is beyond comprehension. While the team deals with location accuracy and server breakdown issues, it is really important to solve this issue on the ground first. And only then you would be real service providers and not just an app on the phone. Why don’t you do real stuff?

This is where the user experience comes into play. Quoting from my previous rant, user experience is not just fancy animations or even well thought-out flows behind a 2D glass surface. It is what the app entails us to do. And the app is built to solve a real world problem and it can’t do so virtually.

An app can’t be solving a real-world problem virtually.

The Indian cab sharing company Ola has managed to be a tad bit better at this. It has identified certain spots within tech parks and only allow pickups from these location. Passengers can walk to the nearest pickup point. Though I’m not sure how they came up with these pickup points, but definitely QuickRide should adopt this. These points should be according to the propensity of people’s booking location and trip’s start location. These should be hotspots of some sort, then the companies can designate them to be pickup points. However, the problem is not solved until the locations are actually identified on the road and checked for bottleneck possibility, traffic violations, and there should be space enough for a bunch of cars to wait. Boards and signages can be set-up for users to identify these points designated pickup points just like bus stops. These cab companies have had to do this at airports, but it needs to be done at every location where high number of rides are initiated.

The avalanche of cab aggregator services is now the prime reason for increase in traffic by 180%. Quite the opposite to what they had hoped for. And before governments start banning them in sections after sections of city centres and residential areas, they should make their infrastructure better, and experience robust. In the real world.

The adjoining image is a very popular business lookup, how Uber owns no vehicles and how Airbnb owns no real-estate. This is really not something to be proud of. Uber pays no attention to the drivers and the cities it thrives on. They really need to understand the ground realities. Airbnb houses have cameras installed to spy on the guests.

Thanks to such business models, these companies wash their hands saying they are not responsible about their ‘partners’ doings. This is absolutely not acceptable.

Airbnb should not boast about their user experience if spy cameras is the experience that customers get.

Every single app is now doing this. The restaurant rating app Zomato has a food-delivery service and have recently started pinning delivery locations on maps. Regardless of this, there are times that the delivery person does not get the location on their device. Result — he calls me multiple times, in language I don’t understand, whilst riding his motorbike, referring to landmarks that I have never seen!

Merely starting a delivery service without actually having the entire experience sorted out helps no one. It damages the brand while putting lives of delivery persons at the mercy of traffic and errant late-food-receivers.

The adjoining screenshot is me trying to tell the customer service chat agent to send my location to the delivery boy since it did not reflect on his app. The chat agent pays zero heed, perhaps not caring of the overall problem.

With delivery services, why doesn’t Zomato realise that the delivery boys are now the face of the company?

It is not just these, even giants such as Google fail to provide real-world connotations to its apps. Take maps for example, I tweeted this to them recently.

Every society or park or any large plot of land is pinned at its geometric centre. As seen here, Purva group of buildings are pinned at the centre of the complex. This resulting in first time visitors to circumnavigate it in search of the entrance gate. Almost every delivery guy, every Uber, even when we use the maps, create congestion while finding the entrance to such complexes. This again causes traffic — which will rightly be shown on this very map!

Don’t get me wrong, the maps have done probably the most important job after the rise of the Internet, however, user experience still is far from perfect.

The issue at hand is the understanding of user experience in a systemic manner. The implications of these mobile applications in the real world. They are not exclusive from it.

User experience cannot be confined to the virtual boundaries of the 2 dimensional glass surface in the palm of our hands, we are real people, our experiences are real. Deal with them.

If you enjoyed this piece, consider reading “Why most timelines are horizontal?”

Procrastinator by profession, facetious by talk. Traveller, wanderer. Musician, writer. Engineer, Designer. Not in that order. www.adityaaserkar.in