With a recent expansion into Austin, Car.ma, a mobile application that enables people who share a commute route to travel together, holds a lot of promise from a user-base eager to try anything to fix the growing traffic issues in town.
Below we’ll highlight an individual experience with the application and opportunities for improvement. These recommendations are not absolutes, but rather available opportunities to improve the
Discovering Car.ma was rather natural. In a place like Austin, TX there are a lot of Teslas. However, there are not many of the bright orange variety. Despite Austin’s growth and transportation issues, it’s still a relatively small town. Without surprise, between commuting and traveling around town, proximity to the Car.ma Orange Tesla is incredibly likely. This thing shows up all around town. An Austinite can’t miss it.
Not a Tesla car rental service.
Intrigued by the orange Tesla, a quick search leads you to the Car.mawebsite. The app screenshot is informative. As is the tagline, “Get there together”. The description “Shared car seats means a faster, greener and more affordable commute for you and your neighbors.” is a generally effective description, but jumps at the benefits without explaining how the application can be a valuable tool in our life. A web-version of the application is available, which is great. In addition, the application is available on iOS and Android, which makes the experience available to almost anyone interested in this kind of thing.
On-Board without the boredom.
The on-boarding process is simple and straightforward enough to provide enough information, without overwhelming the user. The ability to login via Facebook is great, and for the privacy conscious, traditional username/password signup is available. Signing up is also incentivized with a $5 credit.
Creating my commute & looking for rides
Much of the iOS application runs through the browser, so generally speaking the experience is not as optimal as it could be. Some familiar iOS user interface elements appear, but for the most part, the experience is below par.
The taxonomy within the application is also vague and up for misinterpretation. For example, on the home screen “Tips” appears in the bottom left corner. It wasn’t until the third time I opened the application that I thought “Tips” was a shortcut to pay a driver for a trip. Another point of confusion is uncertainty between trips you are offering as the driver versus trying to find a driver to take you somewhere.
Allowing people who are otherwise strangers to join for your commute requires a lot of trust. Perhaps I have friends, or friends of friends who share a similar route, and I just don’t know. If Car.ma could make it easier to add friends to the network, it would only help increase the number of potential commute matches.
Perhaps the most immediate need is a map view. It’s quite perplexing for a commuting app to not be centered around a map view. Plot commutes, show where people would like to get picked up, and allow people to claim seats in a car. The stronger the visual experience, the greater the adoption. The idea for Car.ma is very encouraging, however it is clear the user experience needs to be improved before regular use of the application can be expected.
While initially frustrated with the application. It is definitely worth visiting a second time to arm wrestle with and get properly set up. To my delight, after I had downloaded and closed out of the application, I was contacted by a Car.ma representative INSIDE the application. This was an incredibly nice touch by the Car.ma. team.
The Car.ma concept is nice and welcomed in a town that is facing serious transportation strain. We’re going to be keeping an eye on the application to see how it improves over future releases and look forward to how the experience will evolve over time.