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Uber Builds Connections Between Riders and Drivers with Mini Ethnography Project

What exactly do Uber drivers and riders want to know about each other? Uber’s Director of User Experience Research used dscout to find out.

Molly Stevens, Uber’s Director of User Experience Research, walks us through the recent “Driver Profiles” project, the company’s effort to connect riders with the real people behind the wheel.

On the impetus for incorporating Driver Profiles into the Uber experience…

One of the things we hear a lot from both drivers and riders is how much they like meeting people from different walks of life, people they wouldn’t normally connect with. And so the Driver Profile initiative—which had actually started shortly before I got to Uber—came out of a design sprint that the team had done looking at ways to better connect drivers and riders and promote driver referrals.

There were a lot of questions about what exactly riders wanted to know about drivers, and likewise, what drivers wanted to know about riders. Most riders that I speak with end up talking to their drivers. Of course, there are situations where riders may just want a quiet ride because they need to do some work, and they can let the driver know that.

But often they’re open to having a chat and getting to know a little bit about this person they’re spending this time with. And we also hear from drivers quite a bit that they like being a tour guide for their city, sharing what they love about it with someone else. So the project was really about enabling those connections and conversations to happen.

On the feedback they’ve gotten…

User experience research and qualitative methods have been adopted strongly at Uber because we help tell the story of what’s happening behind those numbers.

In general, putting a face and personality to the drivers has had a really positive effect overall, for everyone within the system. Riders feel a lot more comfortable with who's picking them up, and they’ve been able to get a better sense of who this person is. And on the driver side, they’ve been able to show off the fact that they have a high rating, or rider compliments and positive notes, and that they really are good stewards, they're good at what they're doing.

On qualitative vs quantitative research at Uber…

Uber is known for having a huge amount of quantitative data. We have a lot of information about what's happening in the marketplace, and about how people are being matched, and what's working and what's not working. So, user experience research and qualitative methods have been adopted strongly at Uber because we help tell the story of what's happening behind those numbers. By bringing the qualitative story in, we've been able to help shed light on projects like the Driver Profiles.

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