The Ma3Route Conundrum: Part 2

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I have to admit. It is much easier to write about problems than it is to actually provide a solution to the problem. Very many of us love complaining but only a small percentage try to do something about it. Today I will try to be among the small percentage and offer my own solution to what Ma3Route should be. Like I stated earlier, I am not a developer, nor a strategist. I am a consumer and I shall give my opinion as such. For those lost, this is the second article on the conundrum that is Ma3Route that I presented in an earlier article last week.

In Part 1 of this set of articles, I went on a rant. I wanted to understand what Ma3Route is. Why did I go through the trouble of doing this? Well because I believe that Ma3Route can be key tool to a commuter, regardless of the means of transport. Ma3Route and its kind (Waze) should be a pretty good companion in your commute, but I feel like it is failing. If you haven’t read the first article, please do, I’ll still be here.

When I think of Ma3Route, I think of nothing but a one-stop-shop for all you commuting needs, regardless of your form of transport. Are they currently achieving this? No. Can they achieve this? Absolutely. They have tapped into a space that we probably wouldn’t have discovered. They have brought Kenyans together and in some way given them a collective voice for their transport woes. Kenyans love to talk, specifically complain, and Ma3Route gives them the platform to do so.

For Ma3Route to be a one-stop-shop and really live up to its potential, I believe there are a few things that it needs to fix and add on. Why don’t we start with a basic first step? Ma3Route, you need an app. Not that noisy, confused, ‘third-party-lookalike’ app that exists but an actual valuable informative tool.  The user experience of the existing Android application is very wanting. Not only is it poorly designed according to today’s design standards, it is also crowded with features that are unnecessary and devoid of features that should be present. It needs to be streamlined and thoroughly worked on. I will list down some key areas that I think should be the focus of a Ma3Route app and hopefully give a guide to what I expect from it.

How About Actually Showing Me Matatu Routes?

If the key aim for Ma3Route was to give you a guide of the matatu network in the various cities, then I think they should actually deliver on this. Well that job has already been done by Digital Matatus so the information exists and has been meticulously mapped out by Google Maps. Google Maps API is open and developers can tap into their extremely well documented map application. There is no excuse for the narrative now. You cannot just tell me ‘go here, pick matatu number this and alight here’ No, I shouldn’t accept this. Show me the routes. Show me where I am and what I can do to get to where I need to be. Disclaimer, I am not saying that Ma3Route should just direct me to Google Maps. No! Don’t take me outside the application, nor do I need experience the exact same skin available on Google Maps. Be creative, customize it to your own app. Look at Uber and Waze, they both use Google Maps but they are not copy-cats. Create something unique for Ma3Route and its users.

What About Some Intelligence In Traffic Information?

One thing that I like about Waze and I have documented severally, is how accurate and informative it is in times of traffic. Not only does it give me a visual of how much traffic is on a specific road, it also gives me an Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) in lieu of the traffic and also shows me alternative routes to follow with less traffic. Doesn’t this sound appealing and highly effective? That’s because it is. Imagine if Ma3Route could provide this for its users. Ma3Route, map out my route and show me the traffic (humans are visual beings). Do more than just showing me, give me an alternate route to follow. All this information exists from the reports users give, all you have to do is organize that in a way that I can comprehend and make decisions out of. Sure I am basically asking you to copy, but no one expects you to reinvent the wheel here.

Sample Waze estimate

This should be effective in giving me specific road traffic updates than having to scroll through a long list of tweets before I get to one that actually matters to me.

Keep And Grow The Social Aspect.

In the previous article, I talked about Ma3Route being something of a society or following and I explained why I thought so. If you have interacted with Ma3Route, you know what I mean. This is what gives Ma3Route the upper hand, hands down. The users are Ma3Route, no question about it.  The users of Ma3Route are the be all and end all of it. That is just a fact. Without them, then what do you have really?

There is a wealth of information reported, accident reports, pictures, some jokes here and there and the ever sympathetic rants. This is something Ma3Route has established quite beautifully but (there is always a but) it is on another platform, not exactly on their application, where we should all be.

Why not make the application more social and bring the conversation there. I imagine that once I am in Ma3route and have set my route and accepted the traffic I can chill and go to the social part of the app. I may go there to read other people’s woes, have a little laugh at the jokes made and swipe through a couple of pictures uploaded. This is basic and pretty satisfactory, but let your mind wander a bit shall you. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see a live feed captured by people on the road? I say this because I have seen a trend rising on Ma3Route on Twitter of people sending in short videos of a situation other than just a series of pictures. Videos offer a better picture. Let’s call this the Periscope of traffic. Doesn’t the thought of that just excite you! They do not have to be long (saving data and all that), but short little clips that people can watch live, or replay them.

There you have it, that’s my own view of what this giant should be, if at all it wants to be a giant. Now I haven’t given a guide on how they should achieve the above things as I am not an expert in that field, but one thing I know for sure is that it is no easy task to make something that is functional ad offers user a good user experience and value. A lot of work, research and resources must be put in. That is just a fact, but the rewards are worthwhile I believe.

Two things also caught my attention as I spoke to a few people about Ma3Route. One, do you think they should change their name to something else? Imagining that they rebrand and redo Ma3Route in a better way, should the name change as well. I don’t know if it should, I feel attached to the name already and have accepted that it doesn’t really do what the name means but I’m okay with that and I think they should keep it. But that’s just me. The other thing is the logo or icon. That one has to go. In fact it should have gone like yesterday! I just don’t get it. Do you?

I am really done now. If you have never used the application, why not try it out see if my suggestions make any sense. I would love to hear your own thoughts.

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