Developing an App like Uber: The PWA Power Unleashed

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What word would you choose to characterize a routine working day of a person in the early third millennium? Hectic, frantic, manic? Any of them will do to describe the urgency that most of us feel to be in a dozen of places within a short span, grudging every minute lost and every opportunity to make money wasted. Driving a car would seem the best response to this time squeeze until you remember all the related headaches of searching for a parking space, taking care of its safety, and forgetting to fill up the gas tank.

An optimal solution to the problem came with the advent of ridesharing ventures that provide their services to the mutual benefit of both passengers and drivers. With their charges being significantly lower than those of conventional taxi companies, car-pooling businesses have disrupted the passenger transportation niche both in terms of revenues earned and innovative know-how employed. The latter is crucial for this high-tech-reliant industry since it can function only on condition the stakeholders have a mobile phone where a respective taxi app is installed. 

What Does Ridesharing Look Like?

To understand the mechanics of enlisting ride-hailing services, let’s consider how Uber goes about it. Why Uber? Because it is a trail-blazer in the realm with over a decade-long history, whose practices have become a canon for proselytes of the industry trying to emulate Uber’s success story.

The core of its operation is a driving app that is a medium to link drivers and passengers, with the admin functioning as a go-between. The company has no carpool of its own. Instead, people with a driver's license owning a vehicle in good condition apply to become Uber drivers. They get an order from a client via the app. To avail themselves of Uber services, passengers should first register in the app, book a ride, and see where the nearest car is located.

The company offers a flexible fare policy that varies depending on the distance traveled, the time of the ride (whether it happens in rush or off-peak hours), and the vehicle type (economy car ride will cost you less than the same distance in a luxury car). The fare is taken off the passenger’s bank account (cash payment is also an option), with a quarter of the sum going to Uber and the rest is a net profit of the driver. How does it all work in real life?

A customer files a trip request where the pick-up and drop-off locations are indicated as well as the mode of payment. Before the request is confirmed, the trip cost calculation is performed and presented to the passenger-to-be. If the client agrees, the app identifies the nearest available driver and in case (s)he accepts the order, the deal is considered to be closed. Then, the driver transports the passenger to their destination where the latter pays for the ride. 

A necessary part of the ridesharing procedure is the rating ritual, where both the driver and the passenger assess each other. The summary rating score is especially important for the driver who can be offered a greater number of trips once their index is high enough. 

This simple but elegant business model turned out to be a financial bonanza for Uber, whose gross bookings topped $18 billion in the last three months of 2020 alone. However, it doesn’t simply harvest the revenues resting on its oars. Trying to enhance the viability of its approach and conquer new markets, the company rebuilt its Uber web app turning it into Uber Progressive Web App that exploits all the boons this technology brings in its wake. 

Uber PWA: Expanding the Reach to the Maximum

A Progressive Web App is a relatively young invention that has nevertheless swiftly outgrown its infancy, turning into a no-nonsense competitor to native apps whose dominance in the market seemed to be absolute just five years ago. Being a website of a kind and thus requiring no installation on a device, PWAs also enjoy all other perks their web nature promises: meager weight, prompt responsiveness, easy discoverability by search engines, ability to function in the offline mode, and high adaptability allowing them to be run on both Android and iOS-powered gadgets.

Such benefits just couldn’t be missed, since the ultimate goal of Uber PWA development was to obtain a universal app with excellent performance and smooth UX, no matter whatever the size and operating system of the device or internet coverage might be. And the company succeeded in providing a native-like functionality of the Uber PWA manifest. 

The app’s developers have used tiny libraries and replaced images with SVGs (where it was possible), which reduced its size to the trifling 50kB gzipped! Moreover, its loading index is under 3 seconds even on low-end devices irrespective of the internet speed. The above-mentioned fortes, together with seamless operationability even on 2G networks, boosted Uber’s sway enabling it to expand into an ever-growing number of markets.

The robust progress of the ridesharing behemoth is a powerful incentive for many entrepreneurs to create an app like Uber and compete for a share in this lucrative niche. 

What You Need to Know to Develop an App like Uber

If you are a novice to this industry, there are some eye-openers for you and it is better you should become aware of a number of pitfalls and fine points before you dive into the process head first and start to build app like Uber.

Geolocation is a sine qua non

If the possibility to locate the whereabouts of a device is a useful feature for social networking, dating, and gaming apps, for a ridesharing application it is a must-have. Without it, making the two parties to the ride-hailing process meet would be next to impossible. There are several technologies employed to implement this feature into an app. 

  • GPS. Location tracking here is effected through a satellite connection. The sputniks orbiting the Earth read radio signals a device emits and accurately pinpoint its position. The advantage of trilateration (as this procedure is called) is that by leveraging it, geolocation is achieved without any internet connection.
  • Cell ID. This is another radio signal-powered geolocation technique, but here the signal is sent by cell towers that enable the mobile connection. The device locates the cell station and informs its owner about it. Yet, this method is less reliable since the quality of the signal is impacted by the number of phones around you and weather conditions.
  • Wi-Fi. In case you can find a Wi-Fi access point, identifying the location of your device becomes a breeze. Moreover, the process isn’t influenced by the high data rate and is more energy-saving in comparison to the previous one.
  • In-building positioning technologies. The three above-mentioned geolocation methods work well in the open, while Eddystone and iBeacon software are called to do the same on-premises. Yet, providing foolproof navigation within the building, they are powerless outside.

Adding the geolocation feature to the app is possible through API integration. Or rather APIs, since you will need two of them. One will deal with drawing the map and placing a user’s locale on it and the second will handle the device localization per se. 

UI and UX are a Priority

Many developers erroneously think that, after they are through with determining technical aspects and allaying business concerns, it is time to code. It is a fallacious approach that may eventually cost them lots of money and wasted time. If you want to make app like Uber rock, it is vital to focus on UI and UX. In apps like these, people like to see attractive visual components and elegant graphics and experience no problems in booking a ride. To ensure your app ticks these boxes, creating a prototype is strongly advisable. 

Be Ready to Splurge on Three Apps

You may be surprised but what is conventionally called a ridesharing app is in fact a system of three separate apps – a rider’s app, a driver’s app, and an admin’s app. So creating an app like Uber presupposes developing three intertwined products and paying for their unique interfaces and sets of functions.

What are the features that the rider’s version must include? It depends on your business plan and the size of your purse, but there are some mandatory functions the rider’s app can’t do without.

  • Registration. Passengers must be given a choice of registering via their email or social media login while phone verification is to become an inalienable part of the procedure.
  • Vehicle booking. This function is enabled by entering the pick-up and drop-off addresses and is accompanied by choosing a vehicle type.
  • Fare calculation. The potential passengers should be aware of the sum they will have to fork out for the ride before confirming the order.
  • Driver tracking. The ability to see the driver moving to the pick-up place has a soothing psychological effect on the customer and makes the waiting time seem shorter than it actually is.
  • Messaging. Utilizing this feature, the passenger can communicate with the driver while waiting to be picked up.
  • Payment mode. Several payment methods must be included (cash, credit card, PayPal, etc.) so that the clients could select the one that suits them best.
  • Push notifications. The passenger should be constantly updated not only on the current ride developments (like booking status or arrival time), but on discounts, exclusive deals, and other related information.
  • Driver rating and review. This feature enables assessing the quality of the received service.
  • Travel history. It displays all usage statistics (history of rides, payments, etc.) with corresponding dates.
  • Customer support. Passengers should be sure that there is always an opportunity to ask for help from the customer service whenever they need it.

In addition to these features, you can implement some advanced functions to enhance UX.

  • Future ride. This function enables booking a ride in advance for the passengers to feel safe their important trip is going to happen on time.
  • Booking for others. Using their own account, clients can book a car for their family or friends and get all related information about the ride.
  • Favorite destinations. If you are a regular commuter choosing a regular route, booking it is simplified so that you can do it with a single tap. Moreover, passengers can save several favorite destinations to be treated in the same way.
  • Split payment. In case you travel in company, every member of it can pay their share of the total charge.

Other advanced features that you can consider including in the app are mobile wallet, panic button, voice recognition, waiting list, referral rewards, ride cancellation, hidden passenger phone number, interactive map, etc.

What are the obligatory functions of the app’s driver’s version?

  • Registration. A similar procedure must be provided not only for passengers but for drivers as well.
  • Profile and status. Here all driver’s data is presented, including vehicle papers, driver’s license, insurance, as well as their availability for the given trip.
  • Trip alert. Once someone selects the driver, the latter must be aware of it and have a choice of accepting or refusing the order if, for instance, the destination doesn’t suit them.
  • Navigation. This feature helps to map the shortest route or the best alternate way if there are traffic jams or some emergency roadblocks on the selected path.
  • Delivery reports. Essential ride statistics (such as completed trips or driving style) are important for assessing the driver’s performance.
  • Earning tracking. Drivers must be able to follow their financial statistics.
  • Cancellation window and waiting time. In case the customer is late for the ride, the driver waits for a couple of minutes before waiting charges are applied to the late-comers.
  • Push notifications, messaging, passenger rating and reviews. These function much like their counterparts in the rider’s version of the app.

The advanced features for the driver’s app can include:

  • Preferred destination. If it is mentioned, drivers can receive more bookings for it while making the trip for their own purposes as well.
  • Forward dispatch. This function allows drivers to accept a new order while the current one is still underway.
  • Rewards. Completing a certain number of trips per definite period or reaching a certain summary rating level results in rewards issued to the driver that can be monetized or celebrated in some other way.
  • Heat maps. These help drivers to stay in the know of the current demand and appear promptly in a place where booking requests are rampant.

To control transactions between the stakeholders, the service admins leverage a specialized panel. They should be enabled to exercise secure login, perform driver, passenger, location, fare, notification, booking, and vehicle management, review drivers’ orders and payoffs, check drivers’ and passengers’ ratings, provide support to both, have access to analytics, etc. More advanced versions augment this list with a dispatcher panel, coupons, discounts, promotion, and refunds management, future ride settings, surge and flat pricing, and other options. 

All the features in any version of the ridesharing app are native, so fledgling entrepreneurs who contemplate launching a business in the niche worry if they can be implemented in a PWA. The practice of Multi-Programming Solutions in working with this technology shows that such worries are only partly justified. 

For Android-powered devices, the implementation of the features can be effected via leveraging specific service workers while with Apple gadgets it is a different story. This vendor’s lukewarm attitude to PWAs (and, in fact, to any innovation coming from third parties) conditions a limited number of functions this app type will support on gadgets of their make. However, as the company is gradually and grudgingly recognizes this state-of-the-art technology, an ever-increasing number of native features will be enabled on iOS-fueled devices as well. 

How to Build an App like Uber: Essential Guidelines

We at Multi-Programming Solutions have developed a road map that our team follows while building PWAs of all kinds and, with a slight fine-tuning, it can be utilized for creating a ridesharing app as well.

Know Thy Ground

Before embarking on app development, it is necessary to get a good look at the lay of the land. You should conduct preliminary research of the industry in your region to determine the expected demand for the service, the current demographics of your potential customers, the available vehicle pool, the existing competition on the market, etc. It will help you to choose what kind of app will gain most traction – a carpooling app, a shuttle service app, a bus booking app, a trucking and logistic solution, a bike-sharing app, an staff transportation app, an on-demand delivery app, a niche taxi app (for women, disabled people, children), or something else.

Identify the Technological Stack to Be Employed

PWAs require a specific set of tools and technologies for their development. Our experts use the following combo. We consider Angular to be the most suitable basic framework for app development since it is honed to produce highly responsive apps where advanced UX matters. TypeScript is the dominant programming language we employ but for UI development we rely on HTML5/CSS3. To transform a website into PWA service worker API is utilized. And there is nothing better than SaSS for creating web styles. 

Come up with the Development Strategy

If you hope that the developing team knows their business so there is no need to put it in the form of a document of a kind, your project is doomed to defeat. Or at least to long blundering about by fits and starts with no certainty what goal they are heading to. Identifying the list of features to be implemented in the app is of utmost importance, too.

Create a Functional Prototype

You may have a perfect concept and viable development strategy but it may turn out that the final product doesn't deliver. To avoid wasting money and time, we strongly recommend building a prototype (MVP would be even better). Thus, you will see what works well and what aspects need correction or improvement.

Front-End and Back-End Development

Armed with the insights the prototype furnished, you get at the project hammer and tongs and code away. All three versions are created and all minute details are taken care of.

Testing

Before the product is launched, you must make sure its smooth functioning lives up to the expectations. Our development team beta-tests the app, processes the results, and introduces necessary changes to the final version. If these corrections are significant, the release date may even be postponed.

Maintenance

The first month after the official release is the most fruitful period for making conclusions as to the app’s operation and popularity. Analyzing the feedback of users given at forums and in reviews, the development team turns it into insights to be acted upon and reacts promptly by fixing bugs and tweaking the product to make UX more satisfying.

Two Crucial Project-Related Questions to Answer

Any serious entrepreneur will invest nothing in a project of this kind until they get an answer to the following questions.

  • How long does it take to build a PWA app like Uber?

The development term estimations can vary considerably depending on the complexity of the product you want to obtain. Naturally, the larger is the roster of features to be implemented, the longer the implementation will take. A simpler project can be completed within 3 months while a more complex one is bound to take up to half a year. 

But in the case of a ridesharing app, this figure must be multiplied by three since the developers have to tackle three apps, in fact. Sounds appalling? Well, a native app of this kind would take even longer, so opting for a PWA carpooling app would curtail the development time tremendously.

  • How much will a PWA app like Uber cost?

Everything said about the correlation of the app complexity and its building time applies to expenditure issues as well. The longer the team works on the project, the more you will have to fork out. On average, something around $10,000 (again, multiplied by three) is a safe bet to be earmarked for a ridesharing app of your dream. 

Yet, there is another circumstance that factors in price calculation – the location of the software developers who will handle the project. If you hire an outsourcer from Ukraine, you are sure to get access to a pool of talented specialists who will deliver a top-notch outcome for a reasonable price.

To Sum It up

As Uber’s success story shows, ridesharing services is a lucrative niche likely to grow in the foreseeable future, promising steady revenues to business people who invest in it. To launch such a company is impossible without a high-end app that will link riders, drivers, and admins. In view of the necessity to produce three app versions, PWA is a preferable option that will provide a maximum customer reach and won’t cost budding entrepreneurs a pretty penny.

PWAMarch 9, 2021
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