Taking An App From Good to Great: 6 App Pros Critique Share the Fare

Getting your app into people’s hands is never easy. And when you add a chicken-and-egg problem to the mix, creating the right product and managing to build an audience of loyal customers requires a good strategy. That’s where an app critique is invaluable.

Just like for the Share the Fare team and help with their challenges:

“The challenge on our end is that the service needs a baseline of users scattered around a similar area, activating the service at the same time. this is why we are pitching it to bar goers. Look forward to further correspondence and hearing people’s thoughts on how we can improve Share The Fare.”
Ness, Share the Fare

share-the-fare-logo

Download the Share the Fare app, and join the discussion in the comments or on Hacker News!

Here is what the experts have to say about Share the Fare:

Robin Campbell, Tapstream

Fixing the Leaky Bucket
Your users could be spilling out all over the floor. I had to close the app twice and reopen it before it started working. The How To Use screen never loaded, so I’m still pretty clueless as to how the service works – especially on the payment end, since there is talk of “credits” for $1.19. Do I have to pay anytime I’m matched with someone? How do I pay? Since the instructions never loaded I feel like I’ll never know. Credits aren’t mentioned on the website either.

I had to dig into the terms of use to figure out how the app works (no one will do this):

Solution
Give the How to Use instructions a permanent home in the “Options” tab, alongside your “Tips” and “Terms of Use” docs, for quick reference. And to be much clearer, the “Options” tab should have a different label, perhaps “How it works,” since there aren’t any actual options there. This simple tweak would probably answer all of my questions and help you retain more users.

Marketing

  • Partner with or sponsor events – everyone’s already in the same location and needs to get home.
  • Get in on the promotions the clubs are sending their fans – email blasts, social etc.
  • What advertising options exist inside cabs, are they affordable?
  • Have you tried handing out fliers when the clubs close – experiment, hustle, make it fun.
  • Tweet Adder can help you grow your awareness on Twitter. Automatically follow people who are following popular clubs, events and locals in Melbourne. When someone sees that you’re following them they’re likely to check out what you do. Plus, most Twitter users see their new followers directly on their mobiles – kinda handy.

If I was you, Twitter would be a HUGE part of how I started connecting with people. Being local to start out is a huge advantage, assuming Melbourne wants this app. It’s much easier to grow relationships and get the buzz going.

Other Quick Tweaks

  • The image on your website is actually a video (a useful one). Make that clear!
  • Facebook – the link on your site doesn’t send me to your page, and Facebook’s search can’t find it.
  • The referral email to friends – you haven’t included an explanation of what the app does. Make this clear so people have a reason to redeem the referral code.
Share with mates
The ‘Share with your mates’ idea is good, and could be improved by making it clearer to the customer what he gains from it as well as mentioning what the app is for in the message.
  • Choosing departure and destination points – this recommendation that pops up telling me not to choose my exact location or destination is confusing. Later, I read in the tips this could be for safety and privacy reason. This makes sense, but your copy doesn’t make this clear. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy, and am not as concerned as many ladies may be.

Robin Campbell, Tapstream

★★★★★

Robi Ganguly, Apptentive

Full of Potential, Needs Polish
This is exactly the kind of app that requires smartphones and location-based services to be useful. As such, it’s got huge potential, if you can execute and get to critical mass. However, the app as it stands isn’t ready to hit the mainstream – it needs a lot of polish and work in order to demonstrate value, fail gracefully and get people to come back on a regular basis.

Make the First 5 Minutes Awesome
This app, in particular, really requires that you clearly direct people to a successful experience or help them envision how they could be successful. Given that you have a classic supply problem, it’s very important that you design an experience that gracefully “fails” and gives people a reason to invite those around them to join them. It seems to me that the credits idea is a good start, but if you can take it another step to ensure that once someone who has downloaded you tries to invite their friends to join them in sharing a cab, via this app, you will have a faster path to virality. An example could be some messaging along the lines of, “Oh no, looks like there’s no one available to share a ride with right now, if you’re with friends, invite 2 of them and if you all share a cab home we’ll give you each the credits for another ride next time.”

The “How to Use” section, on its face, seems like it should help with this, however it’s too complicated and actually has multiple paths (when you use “or” you’re telling me, the consumer that I have multiple routes, which is complex). I also found it to be redundant that an app with a location-based premise needs me to specify a meeting point.

Connect with Facebook
The connect with Facebook screen right of the bat might be too soon. It could come when value has been demonstrated, for example when the ‘find a match’ request is sent.

Also, requiring me to connect with Facebook, right away, before you’ve demonstrated any value, makes me close the app. I understand wanting to connect with Facebook, but given your challenge in getting to critical mass, you should really think about if this has to be the first step in the process. Educate them and demonstrate value before putting a huge barrier in front of the consumer’s face. It also didn’t help that I had a lot of authentication issues here and couldn’t login for a while.

The app store description
I would say that the first line, about going home alone, has other connotations than you intend. It made me think you were intending me to meet people for a different kind of adventure. You might swap the messaging around here or change the language, to make it clear that this is about ride sharing.

Also, it’s unclear what the “credits” you talk about in the description are for. Tell us what credits are, why they matter and how worthwhile it is to earn more of them.

Learn from your customers and engage with them
Finally, in going through the app there are no clear methods to ask questions of you, the app developer, or to solicit feedback from the end consumer. You’re early into solving this problem and turning a deaf ear to your earliest potential customers. I would invest in getting customer feedback inside your app and even using in-app surveys to reach out and learn as fast as possible. Importantly, you need to connect with your customers on a deeper level with this kind of app, so that they will get over the early hurdles and help you grow the network. By avoiding the connection, making it difficult to give feedback and failing to reach out and offer assistance, you’re passing up your biggest opportunity to jumpstart the community. Take the time to listen to your customers actively so that they’ll ignore the pain of being first to join and instead feel like they have a direct line to the app makers. Make them feel special.

Robi Ganguly, Apptentive

★★★★★

Tope Abayomi, App Design Vault

Good app store description
Your App store description starts out well. It empathises with the reader. It explains that you understand their pain with the first two questions.

  • Don’t want to go home alone?
  • The cost of getting to the airport too high?

This is a basic requirement of good copywriting so well done. I would add more social proof by including good reviews both from the App store and out of it.

Starting up
When I started the app, I had to connect to Facebook to start using it. I understand you need a login mechanism as a way to get users to engage with the app but it is too early in the process.

People guard their Facebook credentials closely now and may not want to give you access immediately when they don’t understand what your app does yet.

A good place to ask for the Facebook login is after the search for a match. You can then say.. “To get you a match we need some details from you, an easy way to do that is connecting via Facebook”.

Getting critical mass
You have a chicken and egg problem. You need two people to be at around the same location at the same time for the app to have value.

Targeting people at bars and clubs is a very good idea. An even better idea is to get in touch with the bars and clubs and explain your business to them and get them to partner up.

Read this post on How To Target a Two-Sided Market. It kind of applies to you if you see the bars/clubs as your supply side.

Tope Abayomi, App Design Vault

★★★★★

Jason Shah, HeatData

Overall thoughts
The app seems useful in the obvious ways, but it’s no better than existing apps unless there are zero existing apps for the Australian market. I would look for ways to make your app more uniquely useful, so it can actually be 10x better than alternatives. Maybe I can see a map of cabs right away and just tap on one close to me to request them. Maybe I can see which of my friends are nearby, so we can share a cab (probably too complex to build for this purpose). Maybe I can develop a relationship with a cab I have used in the past to help make the app drive a more personal experience with an otherwise impersonal driver and cab company. Think about how to be 10x better.

How to solve your main challenge: virality in a concentrated geographic area
You mentioned your main challenge is getting a critical mass of users in a concentrated geographic area. This can be addressed with virality. But right now, I see very little virality built into the app. You have a ‘Free Credits’ option from the menu. While I like that this may entice some people, I may also want to just tell people about the app but have no easy way to do this. I would test this with either calling that area ‘Share’ or something else that confirms “Free Credits” actually works better. Once I am on that page though, the instructional copy and the share code takes up SO much space, and I have no idea what the “Redeem” area does. This MUST be simplified.

Also…why did I authenticate with Facebook and yet there’s no push to invite my Facebook friends from this screen or elsewhere? If there is, it is buried and would explain low usage. Why not even give me some type of credit for signing up with Facebook in the first place? This would drive brand affinity, make me more likely to use the app (“I have credit I need to use!”), and introduce me to the idea that using Facebook can get me more credits …for when you want me to invite my friends.

When I hit ‘Share with Mates’…I get a text message screen, and I have to pick people to share this app with. While that’s good, why not do it in context? You have a Passengers section in the request view. While you don’t want to slow someone down and have them list out their friends during that step, after the trip is completed, there should be some flow around getting those friends who were passengers to use the app as well. And they may have just had a positive experience with it, so there is already some pull toward the app that you can then harvest and leverage into them downloading the app and becoming their own evangelist.

UX Tips
I don’t like the “Australia’s Cab…” part of the app name. This shows up noticeably during app search. It makes ‘Share the Fare’ less catchy and for better or worse, would discourage everyone outside of Australia from downloading the app. Also, unfortunately with a name like Share the Fare — as catchy as it is — until you have traction, you won’t get much serendipitous discovery from people searching for taxi or cab apps.

You have no ratings yet, so there is little social proof — which tends to be a major red flag.

The main app store screenshot is a boring form. Use the map screenshot or something else that makes your app look more exciting and useful.

I appreciate the value of social signup, but you may lose a lot of people not willing to signup with Facebook. Assuming you’re committed to that, the “Tap here to connect with Facebook” is far too small. It’s basically a line of text. I would make the touch target much larger and attractive than it currently is.

I am not sure how you got the Facebook auth to work without having to briefly switch views. This was slick, but also made me question how legit the app is.

How to use
This how to could be simplified, and also make a couple things clearer (credits, etc.)

The How to Use screen has too many steps. Not 1. Not 3. Not 5. BUT SIX. No one wants to read that much. You will lose people here if you hadn’t already with the Facebook signup requirement or the painfully small call to action. Also, on this screen, the ‘Done’ button is in the worst place: top left. Many cultures are different, but left->right motion for English-speaking countries makes sense. So, I’d expect the done button in the top right, or even in the bottom center of the screen where it is easy for a user to reach without having to use a second hand or otherwise struggle. And actually after all that, the app froze for me on this screen / possibly after I hit the ‘Done’ button — not sure what triggered it. Closing and opening the app “solved the problem”.

Prefilling Departure Points (but maybe not Destination) seems good. The large ‘Find Match’ button is good. While the ‘Passengers’ field seems overkill, it’s good that it’s prefilled so people don’t have to do it. And I’m sure it also helps ensure the best experience for drivers on the other side of the platform.

I made a request, and that worked pretty smoothly but a more delightful confirmation the way Lyft does it. You feel *good* about the request, trust the system, and are less likely to cancel the request if this is done well by the app.

Deleting a request takes you to a different view and then switches back upon success. Ideally you keep the user on the same screen, show a spinner or something, and then change it a checkmark when the deletion is done.

Jason Shah, HeatData

★★★★★

Ian Sefferman, MobileDevHQ

Unfortunately, the How to Use simply spun for a while with a blank screen and the “Done” button was disabled, so onboarding was very tough. The idea is certainly interesting, but you’re right, you need a critical mass of users in a physical area in order to make this work. You’re making a market, and as in any marketplace, the biggest challenge is to ensure the market clears.

Starting small then expanding
Local businesses built around mobile are fascinating and complex. But they can be incredibly valuable as well. My tips for this business are to start small and prove the model every step of the way. The smaller you start, the easier it will be to make it work.

Perhaps you can start with a single bar or club. Team up with the bar and offer a free drink for anyone who downloads, installs, and sets up a shared ride. Make sure it works in that single situation — you could even run it a few times over the course of a couple weeks or a month. While you’re doing so, perhaps you want to focus your app store presence on this bar alone. Be explicit, using the bar name in your app’s title, and in the description be sure to mention the promotion dates and times and how to use it.

After proving it at a single bar, start expanding slowly. While expanding, work on the messaging in the app store. Your description currently lacks any social proof and also does not tell where Share the Fare works (“Australia” in the title, but nothing further in the comments). While forcing Facebook makes it easy to get set up, it’s actually probably more useful from a trust perspective: it’s easier to verify the person you’re sharing with won’t follow you and hurt you. I’d play up this factor.

Screenshots are promotional graphics

Photo Apr 22, 8 05 36 PM
Screenshots (and especially the 1st one) have to be considered like promotional graphics.

Your screenshots also don’t tell much about the app. They are static shots of the app with no context. It might be helpful to think of your screenshots as promotional graphics instead — they are an opportunity to talk about your app in a visual way, so use it!

Ian Sefferman, MobileDevHQ

★★★★★

Sylvain Gauchet, Apptamin

I like the concept of your app, and think I could be a potential user if in Melbourne. You identified getting your baseline of users as your main challenge, but I believe you should also fix several things before getting crazy on marketing. You don’t want only downloads, you want people actually using the app and sharing cab fares.

Improving the app
I like the idea of FB login because it gives “security”, but there probably should be an alternative way of doing it and I see some user reviews mentioning that. Why not twitter, too? I’d suggest email but I suppose you want to avoid people being too anonymous.
I don’t get that “Share the fare” button on your homescreen
It might just complicate the app, but having some kind of social proof displaying who recently took advantage of the app could have some users try it a couple times. Something like “Last cab shared: John and Amy, 11:13PM”.
You don’t say what the credits are for in the app, even if you encourage to refer friends to get credits. That’s how I understood people have to pay at one point (not from the webpage, not from the app store page). You have to assume that your users don’t know anything before they open your app, and make it real easy for them to understand how it works and its value.

Improving your app store page
There’s a lack of social proof on your app store page. It’s a tough one to deal with in the beginning, but you have to show potential users that they won’t be alone using it. Have you had any local press coverage? Any happy users? Add it to the page.
You need to optimize your app for iPhone 5 (before May 1st!), and create new and better screenshots. Try to add explanations on them, because non-users don’t know what a “Match” is.

A more convincing website
Believe it or not, it took me a while to figure out the concept on the website. Granted, English isn’t my first language but I initially thought it was a car-sharing app. Maybe put the word Cab/Taxi here and there?

Share the fare landing page
Make it clear what the benefit of the app is, before getting into a detailed How-to. Change the video thumbnail so it is clear it is not just a picture.

I don’t think the How it works part has to be that high on the website, especially since it’s text only. I feel the process could be simplified in 3 steps (at least on the website, maybe in the How To Use section), at least above the fold. You can still detail things further down.

Here’s an example:
1. Enter your trip info 2. Find a match for your trip 3. Save money on your taxi fare!

Why not throw in a couple of use cases too: sharing the fare for a cab to the airport (I’d definitely use that), going home from a club, etc. Try explaining a bit more of the “why” before getting to the “how”.

After going to your website a couple times, I just realized that the picture of the phone is actually a video. You have to change that thumbnail, which is really easy to do with Vimeo. The video could definitely be improved but still adds value, and maybe you could let people access it from within the app too.

There are a few typos on your website, which never looks good.

Considering other ways to monetize
The Credit thing is hidden in the Terms of Use, and I’m assuming this can (or will) make users kinda angry. If that’s how you decide to do things, you shouldn’t hide the fact that users will have to pay. Better to get less downloads from people that understand the concept fully and are happy to use their 2 free matches than users suddenly realizing that the service is not free.

Now if you want to spread the word, maybe charging per fare is not the best solution. You’re trying to change behaviors here, and will already find some resistance.

Could you find other ways to monetize, like watching ads within the app while waiting the cab or your match? If you get to the point where users are waiting for their match to join them, you have their attention and might be able to use that.
Could you maybe have people pay only on weekend nights ? Or go with a freemium subscription model and have a number of free trips per month?

Solving your marketing challenge
I understand this is your main challenge. Pitching it to bar goers is a good start, but you probably need to find ways to spread the word faster.

Why not work with a few events (sports event, music events), that would let you put posters/online ads encouraging to take a cab and use your app to share the fare. Go all in on one event, and see the results. You could offer to pay for their flyers in exchange for mentioning your app, distribute alcohol testers w/ the info about your app, interact on Twitter with people using the event hashtag, distribute beers with a share the cab label and info on it, etc. These might not be the right ideas, but I’d give those kind of non-scalable things a try.

Try to meet a few club promoters, maybe you can find an agreement with them so they mention your app in their SMS or emails. Again, I’d try to really target a place or two to maximize the chance that people find matches.

Have you tried reaching out to local bloggers and journalists? In my experience, it’s fairly easy to get local press if you have a good story/angle. Don’t just pitch your app, talk about the number of accidents from drunk driving in Melbourne, how being a designated driver is not fun or how people just can’t afford full cab fares.

Sylvain Gauchet, Apptamin

★★★★★

Common themes:

  • Work towards a better (first) user experience
  • Be clear on how the service benefits people, how it works and how much it costs
  • Improve marketing assets on app store and website
  • Partner up with specific venue/event; worry about scaling later

So here is what we believe the Share the Fare team can do to improve the app and get more users. What would you do to make it better? Have you faced similar challenges? Leave us a comment or join the discussion on Hacker News!

Sylvain Gauchet

Hi there, I'm Sylvain and I'm one of the co-founders of Apptamin. Apptamin is a creative agency specialized in app videos (video ads, app store videos, etc.) where we find engaging ways to present mobile apps and games so our clients can either increase their conversion rates or improve their user acquisition.

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  1. Thank you Tapstream for critiquing my app. The insights from the panel are invaluable and I appreciate everyone for taking the time to review Share The Fare. As a new small developer, the expert opinions provide invaluable feedback to improving the users experience and I am busily implementing the changes suggested.


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