I came across this application accidentally as I was looking for another one. My curiosity and cooperative phone storage allowed me to download it and have a feel of it. According to the description posted in the Google Play Store, this app basically lets you discuss and rate the service of our matatu industry. They pose a question.
“Which are the best rides in Kenya? The funkiest, loudest, most obnoxious, pleasantest, beautiful graffiti? MyRide Kenya tells you all that”
From this, I gather that this application targets the vibrant Matatu culture that we have in Kenya. We all know it exists. There are people who fuss and fight and scramble to get into the notoriously deafening and most colorful (almost seizure-causing display of lights) matatu that they can find and those who like me, go looking for the abandoned, quiet, and mostly old and breaking down matatu with an aged crew because we treat matatu rides as a moment of reflection and blaring music and weird sounding horns doesn’t allow for that.
But MyRide does more than that. It has a lot of features and cool tools that are meant to make your matatu commute not only easier but also safer. How does it do that? Well I will go on to explain how this app tries to achieve simplicity, effectiveness and safety in our matatu industry. I must say, I cannot stop thinking about Ma3Route as I write this. Do they have the same goal in mind? Are they targeting the same audience? Can they exist in parallel?
There are a couple of things that you meet with when launching the application for the first time, a little tutorial if I may call it that, giving you a basic understanding of what the application does. It describes 3 levels or segments of interaction with the application. There is social whereby your posts are directed to the other users. Social posts are for fun as you get to chat with other users and share media like photos and videos about your experience. The other level is owner whereby you can chat directly with the PSV owner and possibly rate their service. The last one is called critical where they say that you can make your ride safe by being able to report dangerous behavior to the authorities i.e. NTSA (National Transport and Safety Authority).
You are then prompted to give yourself a nick name as this service identifies you anonymously.
Well there isn’t much I can say about the design. I think they can do much better. If a few things didn’t spark my interest as I continued using the app, I would have just uninstalled it. However, I do not mind the layout. I like the news feed design that allows you to see appropriately sized photos, username, time stamp, some title (I’ll explain what I mean later) and a love heart icon that I don’t know what to feel about just yet. I don’t think it works pretty well.
You can almost miss the text box at the bottom of the screen that prompts you to write a post. I say that you can almost miss it because it doesn’t really stand out. It almost blends in with the post you are looking at. With material design, you can design this in such a way that it ‘floats’ by possibly adding a floating button. Material design creates some kind of hierarchy and focus that created an immersive user experience. A little dimension would go a long way in the design of this application, making the user experience a bit less cumbersome.
The colors used are bland to say the least if at all they want to play in the matatu industry which we call all agree is not devoid of color!
Herein lies my problem. Using this app with some expectations, or even without can be rather frustrating. I was just pressing things randomly because I did not exactly understand how I could use it. What bothered me as I used it and especially as I was writing this is that I felt scattered. So many things were poorly executed but others seemed genius! I don’t know if I will be able to bring this out appropriately but I will try.
When writing a post, you can tag it at social, owner or critical. These choices are laid out using radio buttons which I can’t help but remember using as I was studying ‘Introduction to Android Programming’ meaning it is all very rudimental. Hasn’t time moved on or is this still a school project? Anyways getting over that, you are then prompted to add the plate number of the matatu you want to talk about. This is okay however what confused me is that as I was scrolling through other people’s posts, the title (as I mentioned above in design) varied between number plates and the state of the road, as in whether there was traffic or an accident. So clearly the plate number part just doesn’t accept a number plate, it also takes in various forms of text. Should it do this? I don’t think so. If you want to base conversations around matatus while identifying them with number plates, then you shouldn’t be able to add anything else there. Unless you also want to do traffic updates. There has to be a better way to do that.
Plus number plates really? My mother always tells me that it is good behavior to get the number plate of a matatu before boarding it, but come on, if you connect various matatus throughout your journey and most of the time hastily board them because they can’t really come to a full stop to allow you to get in, will you really be able to get the number plate? One thing I do keep track of however, is the Sacco name. That how I identify them and I suppose they should probably focus on that. But that’s just me!
There is a search feature that lets you search for a specific matatu either using a plate number or the Sacco name or whatever name is used to identify it. The results show you any related posts published in reference to it helping you make some kind of decision I guess. This is a how I think they implement rating matatu services but I feel like it isn’t very obvious. It feels like it hasn’t been given the focus and importance that it should have if at all this app is to be a guide of the best or worst matatus in Kenya. They say that this app can tell you about the most obnoxious, funkiest, loudest, pleasantest matatu out there, shouldn’t this feature be brought out in a more obvious way? Isn’t that the point? I think it is hidden and averagely executed.
Maybe its the name. Search doesn’t give it justice.
I can go on and on about the little (or big) things that confuse me when using it but I shall not dwell.
Reading that word, what does that make you think of. I personally think of a long scenic car ride, so when I saw it on the menu drawer I was curious. Well I was bummed out for a moment because I didn’t get what I expected but that was quickly overtaken by an ‘aaahhhh’ moment. Apparently, the Safiri feature is basically a speedometer. You are again prompted to type in the number plate of the vehicle and start the speedometer. What it will do is track your speed in the vehicle you are in and alert you once the vehicle exceeds the regulation speed. With that alert then you can either send a message directly to the owner of the vehicle or to the appropriate authorities.
I think this is a nifty tool. I can see some good use for this. Many a times you’re cruising down the highway at 90 km/h in your car when all over sudden a Kenya Mpya bus comes flying past. That should not be possible. Don’t they have speed governors or rather working speed governors?
Like I said, I find this handy and it works. It isn’t as responsive as other speedometer apps available but it is working. However the name bothers me. Safiri doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t really explain much and you can overlook it if you are not in the mood for a road trip!
Here is another mislabeled feature. Well of course there is a map but it’s more than just a map and that sentiment should be felt in the name. First impressions matter. You do get a map and if your location is on, it will pinpoint where you are. What made me look a little deeper was the banner at the bottom that read ‘How To Use Matatu Map’. ‘I think I know how to use a map’ was my first thought. Reading through it basically showed some tricks on how to get more out of the map when navigating Nairobi by matatu. Once it has pinpointed your location, tapping that area or any area you are interested in puts location pins and names of all the nearest matatu stages. Holding the screen for 3 seconds allows you to preview routes and other options. Public transport navigation is not new. Our very own Ma3Route tried it and Google Maps Navigation added our public transport system in navigation. MyRide Kenya implementing it in their own different way is exciting and I went on just tapping randomly for no apparent reason just to see how it responds.
A little thing to note. As you can direct your posts or complaints to the owner, not all of them are on the platform but MyRide say that they themselves can contact the owners and pass along the complaint or comment. This all looks clumsy but in time, with more users on board, this should change.
One other problem I have about the application is the name. It is called MyRide Kenya. I understand that getting a unique name can be hard, therefore adding Kenya is okay. What I didn’t understand however is Kenya is that right at the top of the menu drawer and it is clickable, meaning that in the future you can change country. Do we want to do that? Is there any evidence that other countries fuss about their matatus like Kenya? I don’t know, someone tell me. What should be there instead is a county, whereby you can get information based on the county you stay at be it Nairobi, Machakos or Mombasa. Whichever that may be. I think that makes more sense.
So should you download and use this app? Why not. You could send in feedback and watch it grow and develop into a pretty fabulous application. One of the reviewers in the Play Store termed it as a waste of time, but I don’t think it is. There is some value they can deliver to users if they really work on the application by reviewing their approach and key focus areas. I believe there is something there, you cannot help but feel it. There is a lot to be done to make this app useful. It will just be a shame if it stays the way it is. Something has to be done.
What about Ma3Route, can they exist in parallel? I do not see why not. Ma3Route clearly went a different way as the name suggested and I explained it here and here. This I believe is something different, something more focused on the Matatu sector. It still feels like an infant where you aren’t completely sure what direction they will take but you do see some hints here and there.