Uber Eats in a time of a Pandemic
Product design (UX/UI) practice for research and design of a new in-app feature, addressing the single-use plastic issue during the pandemic. (UX Case Study)
Self-directed UX Design
Research, Visual/Interaction Design
1 week
Why is this project important?
In September 26, 2019, Uber Eats released a new feature, where cutleries are not selected by default, as part of their mission to help reduce plastic waste. It has been 2 years since the feature was released, and it was only Uber Eats' first step in helping the planet.
Now, especially in this time of a pandemic, Uber Eats has started thinking of new ways on providing a more sustainable delivery experience for the users, and the planet.
What do users think?
To get to the root of the problems that hinder the product from achieving its goals, we try to understand the pain points and challenges that communication designers and developers face when setting up RPA, and to identify opportunities for improving the feature.
How should we begin?
Research goals:
  • Understand the current situation of single-use plastic issue, and how food delivery services contribute in this issue
  • Identify the demographics of food delivery services
  • Determine users’ frustrations/motivations/needs/goals
  • Understand users’ experience with UberEats' sustainability efforts
  • UberEats user base has increased since the start of the pandemic
  • Along the increase of UberEats users, single use plastic waste also increased
  • UberEats' target market age ranges from 20 ~ 40
  • UberEats' users are not satisfied with the company's efforts to eliminate single use plastic, or don't care about it
What did we find out?
The Single-use Plastic Issue Situation (Global)
  • Today, we produce about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. That's nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population
  • If current trends continue, one study estimates that by 2050 the plastic waste in the ocean will outweigh the fish
  • Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. About 12% has been incinerated, while the rest — 79% — has accumulated in landfills, dumps or the natural environment
  • The pandemic hit as politicians in many countries promised to wage war on waste from single-use plastics
  • Because of the pandemic, there has been an increased demand for disposable plastics, plastic recyclers have been unable to handle the amount of waste, and the oil and gas industry has focused on producing new plastics
The Single-use Plastic Issue Situation (Japan)
  • Some survey results from an international environmental NGO, Greenpeace: More than 80% of the respondents think that in their current lifestyle, there are many unnecessary single-use plastic products and over-packaging services
  • Japan is the world’s second-largest generator of plastic packaging waste per person behind the United States
  • Japan is focused on collection and waste management, but doesn’t do too much about reduction of production and consumption
Market Trends (Food Delivery Services)
  • Younger people have more experience using food delivery services. The usage rate for people in their 20s and 30s is nearly half that of all food delivery service users
  • As of November 2020, 39.7% have experience using food delivery services, and 5.0% said they used the delivery service for the first time during the pandemic
  • Delivery services are expanding, mainly in central Tokyo, due to quarantine regulations and shortening the business hours of restaurants
  • When asked when users order from food delivery services, the leading reason is "When they are busy/When they do not want to cook"
What do users actually think?
In order to understand the user's experience with Uber Eats and their thoughts on single-use plastic issue, we interviewed five people in their 20s and 30s, and are heavy Uber Eats users (order at least twice a week).
Interview questions were broadly divided into two categories:
→ Uber Eats user experience
→ Correlation between Uber Eats and single-use plastics
  • Get food conveniently, to avoid spending time to cook or going outside, to fit their busy schedule
  • To be able to eat different types of food even when staying at home
  • Rewards, discounts
  • Good customer service
  • High price, hidden fees
  • Availability of delivery partners
Common user behaviors:
  • All participants are "Eats Pass" subscribers
  • Rotating between favorite restaurants
  • Everyone is aware of the issue of single-use plastics, and 4 out of 5 are concerned about it, but feel that there is nothing they can do.
  • Everyone has positive image of stores that offer sustainable food packaging
  • Participants are generally satisfied with the usability of the application (usability score is on average 4.5 out of 5)
Users continue to order when they perceive that the value of the service is bigger than their guilt
  • "Guilt" here is general, and can pertain to feeling guilt towards: spending too much money, using too much plastics, gaining weight, etc.
I was very guilty about spending 4,000 yen alone, for one meal.
One of the biggest features in the app for reducing guilt is the reward system (discounts, coupons, refunds)
  • 4 out of 5 people talk about the customer service, as one super good experience they had, but from all of these experiences, all mentioned "full refund".
  • 4 out of 5 users have tried using other food delivery services because they got coupons/discount.
Clear visual representation of these rewards can transform into motivation for users
  • All participants are "Eats Pass" subscribers, and one of the reasons they continue subscribing is because they can see how much they are saving each month.
During checkout, when I see that a discount is being applied, I feel more confident in continuing with my order.
How might we...
To get started with brainstorming, we created HMW questions based on user needs, goals and insights. Creating HWM questions help limit the direction of brainstorming, for a more user-focused solution.
How might we provide more value for users, helping them reduce their guilt and continue using Uber Eats
How might we continuously reduce the barriers that users face when they feel guilty, by using rewards?
How might we provide an intuitive interface and clear visual information about rewards to increase motivation?
Uber Eats Eco Challenge
  • A rewards system where users can collect points/rewards while addressing the single-use plastic issue.
  • Helps users reduce their guilt by getting rewards, and also helping the environment.
  • Clear and intuitive rewards system visual design
Heuristic Evaluation
  • Took a lot of screenshots of the current design of Uber Eats' app and studied its structure, features, and patterns.
  • Doing this study helped me get familiar with the design decisions behind each component, and also gave me insights on areas for improvement, as well as giving me a base to start with ideation and prototyping.
Visual Identity
  • In creating the campaign and new features regarding the "Eats Eco Challenge", it is important to preserve the existing Uber Eats brand identity while blending new design elements
  • For the icon design, after several iterations, I used green to represent "nature" and gold to represent "rewards"; and the PET bottle is used to represent 1 Eco Point.
  • PET bottles is the main symbol of this campaign and it has two meanings:
    1 Eco points equates to reducing 1 PET bottle from being disposed
    → "Collecting points" can represent "plastic collection" or "virtual cleanup" which especially helps users feel like they can do these activities even during a pandemic
Progress Tracking
  • This feature uses Uber Eats' existing design patterns and places an intuitive progress tracker on screens where users feel the most guilt in the user flow
  • Progress includes:
    → How many more points until next reward
    → How much plastic has been reduced, from gathering Eco Points
Final Prototype
This project/topic is really close to my heart, and creating this kind of research/design has been a great experience, in terms of practicing my design skills, and in learning more about the issue of single-use plastics.
From the research and interviews, I have realized that the term "sustainability" has evolved, and has come to bear different meanings depending on the person/organization that you ask. It has become one of the most used buzzwords, and different businesses and organizations have adopted strategies to contribute to this advocacy. Some might even argue, that it has been used as a marketing term to increase revenue - and I think this is true, but I also think it's not completely negative, especially when it's effective in spreading awareness.
In the end, balance has been an important factor in designing this features. Solving problems that maintains balance between business goals, user goals, and sustainability goals.Going through this challenge, it has made me reflect, and made me feel grateful, that I am in this line of profession, allowing me to participate in contributing for the people, and for the environment.
Next Steps
  • Usability test
  • Cooperation with Finance/Marketing regarding the details/pricing of rewards
  • Development
  • Use of PET bottle as a representation of a point unit (further investigation about the measurement of impact with regards to the amount of plastic that is being reduced is required)
  • Definition of "environmentally friendly container" (type of packing material, recycling, Carbon Footprint, etc.)