Uber’s on-demand car company has just released its 2.0 app.

The focus? Aside from cleaner typography and a love for white space, it’s all about pricing clarity.

Surge (a busy time bonus charges, in particular, was a concern. So now it’s a massive piece of type, with plenty of buttons to explore and calculate its effects.

There’s also a new series of choices to choose/view the type of car you’d like, which appears as a slider at the bottom of the app.

Overall, it creates a more forthright experience that should help avoid the sticker shock of crazy-expensive fares.

Then again …

… there will always be a certain price for convenience.

Co.Design

Uber 2.0: The Quest To Crush Sticker Shock

Uber is a hyper-convenient service to order a car service, but its pricing has blindsided many consumers. So the new 2.0 version aims to fix that flaw.

Uber is one of those landmark ideas for a future that should probably already exist. Open an app on your phone, tap a few buttons, and have a taxi-car service sent to your location, wherever, whenever. So the 1.0 app hit with a ton of buzz, but the startup quickly began to feel like a real company. It had to battle city regulations, and it was sued. But maybe even worse, it had to answer to a customer base with a frequent, overarching complaint: Uber was expensive—sometimes surprisingly expensive.

Uber 2.0 just hit. And like any 2.0 release, it’s the service’s chance to prove its long-term utility, to cement itself, not as a startup but as a vital company in the long term. The app saw a complete makeover, a shift from glossy black screens to cleaner typefaces and white space—what lead designer Shalin Amin openly calls its midcentury modern approach to "maximize enjoyment, minimize interaction, and formulate honesty."

Amin was brought on after the 1.0 release, to prep the company for a 2.0 experience powered in part by a more design-flexible, natively running app.

"When I came on board, I regarded Uber as one of those great services that really didn’t have great design thinking involved," Amin says. "It’s an engineering titan, but one thing missing from the old app was an overall mission of design."

Amin rewrote Dieter Rams’s famous principles of design with an invigorating, Uber-centric scope. And he focused on "pain points" of the Uber experience. Amongst the largest was sticker shock. You see, Uber doesn’t operate with the same flat-rate pricing structure that most of us are accustomed to. At the heart of its model is "surge pricing," a controversial, variable fare multiplier that, during busy times especially, can generate astronomical bills. (Uber’s position is that if you want a car on demand, then surge is simply the price of dispatching cars during high demand.)

The problem with the 1.0 app was that the effects of surge pricing weren’t clear—a by-product of the inflexible web-based app architecture (and no doubt, someone’s personal denial inside the company that triple-digit cabfare would be an uber kick in the pants). In 2.0, thanks to native code and goal-oriented design, estimated fares and surge pricing are impossible to miss. And buttons abound to calculate costs and dive deeper into the pricing structure.

"We’re not trying to hide anything," Amin says. "We want to be super transparent about what a trip costs. At the end of the day, disappointing customers doesn’t really serve us."

Even with the new layout, Amin sees communicating pricing—and explaining this whole surge concept to customers—as one of their greatest ongoing challenges. So for New Year’s Eve, as many people reach for Uber, judgement impaired during some of the year’s highest surge rates, the company will be introducing a brand-new screen for first-time riders, giving them a heads-up about this whole surge multiplier thing. It’s the first of possibly a few failsafes to be built into the clearer 2.0 system.

"Any time we surge above a certain number, we think we have to have another notification saying that this is going to be really expensive," Amin says. "We’re trying everything possible to focus on communication through design."

Download Uber 2.0 here (iOS). Android version not yet released.

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9 Comments

  • rootlesscosmo

    I've been running the Uber app on my Android (Kyocera Rise, 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich) for a couple of weeks and I have yet to see a "Fare Estimate" screen.

    When I order a car it sends me a confirmation text and that's it.

    It's only after my ride is complete that I can look at the app again and see what I was charged (I then receive an email receipt).

    Why can't I see a fare estimate screen; what am I doing wrong?  Thanks.

  • Drea

    Uber is a great service, but as Uber grows and expands into more cities, they really need to get a handle on their car vendors.

    During a recent weekend in SF, 2 of the 3 Uber rides I took had drivers intentionally taking longer routes and wrong turns to hike up fares. Uber reviewed my route info and promised a refund for the detour portion, which never came.

    The new interface looks slick and being upfront about pricing is great, but maybe spend some more time ensuring your in-car customers aren't being ripped off by your vendors?

  • Brady J. Frey

    I love the service, it's been a great option here in San Francisco (and when I travel to Chicago), where cabs are sparse both at peak times and in hot foot traffic areas. Where I used to wait up to 15 minutes, and in some cases over 30, to find a cab in Union Square I can call a car for a little more money right away. I sympathize with folks who don't like the price model, but for those of us who think their time is money, it's worth the expense. 
    There's a couple things I don't dig about the new app though:
    1) loading screen bug me, and that's just the art director in me. Looks like the trendy blueprint designs I did in high school. 
    2) type can be small, even on a high res screen. The compacted text has an upscale feel at the expense of being a bit awkward to read. 
    3) low contrast, flat design is pretty while making it difficult to visually find separation in areas. For instance, I find it harder now to request a car. 

    I like the icons, and the iPhone 5 launch, to each his own... but I do miss the old, high contrast look at times, especially since most of my requests are when the sun goes down. 

  • Revanta

    There's a great service in London called Hailo which essentially provides the same service, except using the local black cabs. This allows them a near infinite resource of cars and works like a charm!

  • Matt Karolian

    Also, they need to axe Surge Pricing. I get why they do it, but it leads to an surprise and disappoint experience. If there is a surge in demand, put more cars on the roads. They have enough data to load balance accordingly. 

  • numbercruncher

    Surges have too small a time constant to vary car availability. The only other variable then available to optimize the demand curve is pricing, hence their decision to use it. 

  • Matt Karolian

    Uber is trying to be The Four Seasons while targeting Gen X who would rather stay at the W. 

    They need to drop the black cars and get cool hybrid vehicles. 

  • Baz

    I completely agree with you.  It appears to me that Uber's service which is positioned as providing a stylish and luxurious ride doesn't match with their current target consumer, the Gen X early adopter.  The Gen X early adopter that is going to spread your message to other consumers doesn't care about having a stylish ride, I would say they care more about having a convenient, clean, and FUN ride.  Kids these days don't give a shit about being Uber stylish as long as they are having fun doing what ever they are doing. (i've yet to see a stylish hipster)   I never really understood how they are marketing at bars and clubs, pushing indie concerts contests on their FB page, and then at the same time are pushing a luxurious ride that no body in that target segment cares about.  

    On top of that, given that one of their services key USP's is transparency on the front end (seeing when the cab will pick you up),  I can't understand how there is such little transparency with back end payments.   Shouldn't a basic algorithm be able to to tell me a general estimate of what my cost will be before i even step in the cab? 

    Seems to me that their main reason for success in SF is taking advantage of simple inefficiencies in the taxi market.  However, I'm curious what they do when competition arrives that has a better understanding of their customers, more empathy for their customers, and better targets and positions to their customers.
     

  • Cfg

    As long as the pricing structure stays the same im not using this service. Ill just wait for yellow cab to make a legit app. Thanks for the idea, no thanks to the pricing.