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How can an application better connect two people in a crowded place?


The head of research at Uber requested research from user experience designers to explore the topic of passenger pick-up at airports in the greater New York area. The research was aimed at identifying passenger and driver pain points and gaps in communication during the pick-up process. How could we enhance the existing application to change the behavior of both drivers and passengers to make the pick-up process smoother and more customer friendly?

Role: Project lead and interviewer -- conducted interviews during field research and collaborated with team members in the analysis and synthesis of our research to identify new features and recommendations. 

This project was completed through the summer MFA IxD program at SVA working with Uber's Head of Research.



The research began with a stakeholder interview with Uber, who identified passenger pick-up at airports as a particularly challenging problem for them.  

The next phase of the research included brainstorming outcomes and hypotheses with the team prior to field research. Shortly after, we conducted field research at JFK and LaGuardia airports where the team interviewed a number of Uber drivers and passengers leaving the airports. Our findings aligned well with our hypotheses: In most cases drivers relied on communication methods such as texting and phone calls outside the Uber app to locate a passenger because the current app did not provide the tools and information needed to ensure a seamless pick-up in the chaotic environment of an airport. 

On the passenger side, we uncovered several information gaps that existed within the context of an airport pick-up. Passengers were uncertain of when to request a car and did not know where to wait, as airport usually have poor signage. The reliability of GPS and the in-app locator pin caused confusion for both the driver and the passenger. If drivers didn't know where the passenger was how could they connect?



Based on the analysis of user insights from the field, the research the team identified several features that would enhance the user experience and address user pain points. 

Uber Passenger App Features  

  • Add contextual modals to provide more information pertaining to the airport (e.g., "Welcome to JFK", "Expect longer wait times" or "Request cars only after baggage has been retrieved").
  • Enhance the location input field by adding a picker for Terminal and or Passenger Pick-up area. 
  • Show pre-determined pick-up locations on the map and default the pin to one of those locations.

Uber Driver App Features

  • Add pre-set text messages providing status updates to allow drivers to quickly communicate with passengers with minimal distraction.
  • Include Terminal and Passenger Pick-up area information upon passenger request.