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Erin McLaughlin

8 mins

How users come first in Cardata’s new app design

Ariel Matheson discusses the launch of the revamped Cardata Mobile mileage tracking app.


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With the exciting upcoming release of the Cardata Mobile app update, we’re interviewing some of the individuals who helped bring the Cardata Mobile app update to life. First in this series is Ariel Matheson, Cardata’s UX Design Lead. 

In the winter of 2021, Ariel’s work was noticed by one of Cardata’s CEOs, who was quick to get in touch, hoping to bring her on board as the company’s very first UX designer. “I was really excited about the potential for me to build out UX at Cardata from the ground up, and create products that drive delight in our users,” says Ariel. 

Since joining, Ariel has made an immeasurable impact on Cardata Mobile’s user experience program, building a brand-new app that truly gets drivers. She leads a team that has blended research, design, and words to create a stunningly seamless app. 

What is UX design? 

UX design is user experience design. The purpose of UX design is to build products that are user-friendly, easy to navigate, and delightful to use. You put users first, and by nature of doing that, you innovate. I like to think that good user experience design rides shotgun next to innovation—it gives people products they didn’t even know they needed and really makes a difference in their lives. 

What role does UX design play at Cardata? Why does UX matter?

UX design is basically brand new to Cardata. We offered tried and true products that served our clients, but they prioritized the app’s functions over usability. Now we build products that are user-first. Yes, we generally have functions and features that we’d like to create, but keeping the end user at the center of our design work ultimately informs how features and functions get built and designed.

The rebuild was completely based on the perspective of our users. We saw a lot of pain points with our legacy application and realized that there’s a big problem space to be addressed. It involved a lot of driver interviews, surveys, testing, and prototyping, revealing the heart of the product and our users. The new app is launching tomorrow, and we’re all very excited about it.

Why does UX matter? It matters because our drivers matter. They are the root of everything we do. Their experiences get communicated to their admin, to us, through reviews and our support channels. We want to provide drivers with a lot of confidence in our business and confidence that we are there to improve their experience. 

What design philosophy led your process when designing for Cardata?

I approach design with a mindset of eternal improvement and iteration. I generally use the design thinking process, which you can think of as a figure eight because the process never really ends. We’re always revisiting old solutions to reiterate and improve them.

The design thinking process starts with getting to know and empathizing with the user to define the problem space. Then we ideate on the problem space to generate potential solutions based on the users and the space defined.

After ideating, we enter the creation and experimentation phase. A prototype is created, which can be anything from a low-fidelity mockup to a highly realistic app screen. Realistic prototypes let designers create functionally working screens with responsive buttons, without requiring hours and hours of development labor from developers. After the prototyping phase, we test the prototype.

Low-fidelity prototype

Mid-fidelity prototype

During testing, we start to get some really incredible answers on things we didn’t really think about, things we didn’t think would be a problem or a solution. From there we refine our solutions and basically start the process again. We go back to the starting point and ask, “What did we miss? A major part of our user base? Did they behave differently than how we assumed they would? Did they forget about this constraint or is something inaccessible that needs to be accessible?” 

The beauty of agile is that while you can have wins or losses, neither marks the end.

What was the biggest user challenge with the old app? How did you solve it?

I would say the biggest challenge was two-fold.

First, we have a unique KPI. We want users to spend less time on our application—get in, classify, get out. Our users found it difficult to find trips that needed to be classified in our legacy application. We also needed to make the job of classifying trips itself easier. Aside from the lack of responsiveness in our old swipe design, users received no affordance in which direction to swipe, often forgot which way was which, and couldn’t quickly undo an erroneous action. All in all, classifying trips was a massive pain point that led to a lot of time in-app. 

Second, users weren’t sure if their trips were getting tracked. They didn’t have a lot of control, and there wasn’t a lot of transparency. I can’t take responsibility for our brand-new tracking algorithm, but we did design for more user control and more direct user feedback. As soon as a trip starts tracking in our new app, a ‘Trip in Progress’ screen opens, affirming that tracking is working.

We put control back in the users’ hands by making unclassified trips really easy to find. The number of unclassified trips is right on the dashboard. They can access and action those trips directly and get paid for business miles. 

We also wanted to give users more control over privacy. Before, when users wanted to stop tracking, they would toggle tracking on and off or mess around with the scheduling feature when all they wanted to do was take a personal, untracked trip during their lunch break or day off. In response to that, we created a toggle that allows them to turn tracking on and off from the Dashboard.

The two main jobs you need to do in the app, control tracking and classify trips, are now the first thing drivers see when they open the app. We iterated on our solutions to figure out the easiest way to drive delight with these new features and allow drivers to do pretty much anything from a roadside stop. Drivers should never have to go back to their desktop after a day on the road to classify trips and dig through trips that may or may not have been captured. 

How have you used UX to make mileage reimbursement a more joyful and stress-free experience for drivers?

Our legacy app served more or less one purpose, and that was tracking. But our research revealed that drivers didn’t feel there was a lot of transparency in their mileage reimbursement or their programs. These can be quite complicated concepts: it’s all to do with taxes, the type of vehicle you use, IRS compliance, etc. When you’re driving for work, at the end of the day, you just want to get paid and reimbursed for your work. We realized there’s a big gap in transparency, so we introduced completely net new features driven by driver insights on upcoming and past payments, and also insights into the programs.

Drivers can now see what it means to be on a FAVR program or a CPM program, and what it means if they’re non-compliant, which, by the way, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The new app includes information on upcoming payments or lets them know if an upcoming payment is blocked. They don’t have to worry about unexpectedly not receiving the money they were expecting. 

Another example of a pain point that came up in beta testing was unwanted trip segmentation. Drivers wanted to be able to stop for coffee or gas on the way to a client without stopping a trip. While we didn’t have an immediate solution, and a ‘pause’ feature wasn’t currently feasible, a quick consultation with our development team revealed another solution. We had an easy way to put control into the hands of our users. A delay stop time feature would essentially allow drivers to determine how long would pass without movement before a trip automatically ends and captures. Look out for this feature in an upcoming release! 

Why do you think companies should use Cardata?

I think companies should use Cardata because we are thinking about every single user. Every piece of feedback that comes into our UX team is analyzed and synthesized and used to inform future product decisions. Our UX team is a group of empathetic people, motivated by continuous improvement. They were brought onto this team because of these aligning values, which informs our design process and basically guarantees that all of these designs are created from mindsets of deep empathy and continuous improvement. 

Cardata has a really wonderful history of being a stable and reliable company that strives to meet the needs of its clients and deliver beyond expectations. We’re always looking to innovate: Cardata is in a really interesting position where we’re growing faster than ever before, which allows for innovation to happen really quickly and effectively when you have a team that is so passionate about creating innovative products. We’re always looking toward the future. We strive to be on the bleeding edge of innovation and to build meaningful products.

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