Redesigning the Uber Surge Pricing Screen
Uber is awesome. My wife and I have been happy customers for almost 2 years. It’s been a joy to use.
Last night, however, we experienced our first really negative experience with Uber when we got a ride home from a friend’s house. We could have walked, as it’s only about a mile, but it was late and we were tired. Normally the price would have been $15. Last night, for our 2 minute and 16 second ride, we paid $75. We were shocked.
It was New Years Eve, so Uber had variable pricing in effect (which they unfortunately call “Surge” pricing). Historically on these nights, Ubers cost about 2x more than normal. Last night, however, they tried something new. They used full variable pricing, where throughout the night, prices fluctuated freely. There wasn’t a cap.
When variable pricing is in effect, this screen pops up after you request a car explaining that prices will be higher. (source: Uber)
We weren’t the only ones shocked at the price of our ride. There are tons of people reporting surprise on Twitter. Here are some:
While I’m glad I’m home safely, the $107 charge for my @Uber to drive 1.5 miles last night seems insanely excessive. :(— Aubrey Sabala (@Aubs) January 1, 2012
Wow… $135 to go 12 blocks on @uber last night.3.75x surge pricing alert needs to have flashing red light on it!Really guys? @uber_sf— Dan Whaley (@dwhly) January 1, 2012
@Uber @traviskactually you didn’t explain pricing in your post. I got into an @uber cab last night and paid $125 to go 2 miles unknowingly— Aaron Bird (@BirdsTweets) January 1, 2012
Don’t ever use @uber America. They’ll charge you whatever rate they fucking want after your ride & without warning.— Marc Love (@marcslove) January 1, 2012
So what happened? Is Uber really evil? No. Are all these people crazy? No. Is Uber to blame. Partially.
When you read into a lot of the comments, people aren’t actually pissed that Uber is charging more. Most understand the need for variable pricing. They are pissed that it wasn’t clear how much the ride would cost.
This actually is good for Uber. It means that if they improve their messaging, this problem should go away.
In my opinion, the root of the problem is 100% the screen that attempts to explain the pricing. Although technically it does show the rate, it’s not clear enough to the user about what’s really happening. Here are the two biggest issues:
- The most crucial piece of information, the rate increase, is buried in a sentence, making screen requires more than a glance to get the important information. It’s hard to expect this from your users when most are probably tired and/or drunk.
- The rate isn’t relatable to most users. “6.25x” is kind of arbitrary without some kind of data point about what that might mean in actual pricing.
I decided that instead of bitching about my insanely expensive ride, I’d try to be productive and show an example of how I’d redesign the screen. The main goals are:
- Hit the user over the head with the higher rate by making it big and bold.
- Relate to them about what the rate really means by putting an actual dollar amount on the screen. Since Uber has a minimum ride price, I used that. This way, the user knows that they’re going to have to pay at least that much.
- Make the user click a button that reconfirms the rate.
Here’s the very rough mockup:
Will moving the design this direction completely erase all confusion. No. That’s impossible. But I think this makes things a LOT clearer and I guarantee that Uber would see significantly less complaints.
UPDATE: Someone pointed out that we should have known our $15 ride would cost $75 when we saw the 5x. What happened was, we called an Uber at 2.5x and there was an issue. Minutes later, we called another, but because we had just called one, we didn’t read the paragraph again, assuming it was still 2.5x. But it had jumped to 5x. That was our fault, but if the screen was designed to make the rate stand out, we would have seen the change.