The first step of an onboarding flow, telling people how many restaurants they have available

Uber Eats: New user onboarding

Research lets us see how people think and the words they use. When writing for new users, getting in their head is they key.

Getting out there

With Uber Eats, the design team was encouraged to do our own research by placing orders on competitor apps, delivering food ourselves, and going on an annual international research trip.  During my month in Lima, Peru, I worked from the Uber office before the design team joined, then we spent a week studying how people order food in the city.

Of the many incredible things I learned on my own and with the team, I heard one of my favorite quotes:

“When I buy groceries I go through the front door of the store, read what’s in the aisles, then walk down one and find what I want. When I open the app it’s like I’ve been dropped through the roof right into the cereal aisle, and I have to find my way from there.”

This is an amazingly clear description of someone’s mental model.

For people new to ordering online, it can be disorienting to see cereal when you’re not even sure the app has milk. Ordering from a restaurant is similar. There’s the front door, you enter and get a vibe, and you open the menu with sections. We needed to introduce users to the app by bringing them in the front door.

Walking them in

As people get more used to ordering online, and more used to the app, they start expecting to go straight to their most commonly ordered items, or find a very particular thing through searching. The major competitor apps in Latin America were structured more like physical stores, and we started to see why.

Later, when we saw a huge boost in new users during COVID, we realized a good number of them were equally new to ordering online. We couldn’t depend on them knowing how to search or what filter does. Users that don’t find what they’re looking for get frustrated and leave, so onboarding new users, and making them feel comfortable, is very important to keep them coming back.

Meet the features

Here’s an onboarding flow that puts in some dynamic information, like the number of restaurants nearby, to make the experience feel personalized. The messages focus directly on what the action is, and what they can expect to get. In places like the search box, there are friendly prompts to get them thinking about what to type in there.

A collection of screens showing people how to search, filter, and use key features in the Uber Eats app.