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I'm building a taxi booking service. It's a chicken-egg problem that I am trying to break. Unless I have taxis in the system, customers won't use the system (a 0 search results is an instant turn off, but a 10 search results with 0 space is acceptable right?). Unless I have customers, taxis won't sign up. So I have to offer taxi's a particular kind of incentive to stay on, until I can build the customer base. Customers too should not shy away from the service, so I need them to know that the service in their city has / has not reached critical mass for them to have expectations from the search results. So they can kind of balance their expectations while using the system.

Per city, I am thinking of creating a phase-wise graph that builds and crosses phases indicating its readiness for a reliable system. For example, a smaller city (Pune, Provo) about 2000 cabs should be enough. But a bigger city (Mumbai, New York), about 5000 cabs should be enough. When I say enough I mean reliable enough to get a cab booking when requested for.

Phases I am thinking of are

  • Just Started (0 - 10% of estimated high)
  • Picking up (10-30%)
  • Maturing (30%-70%)
  • Stable (70%-90%)
  • Critical Mass (>90%)

Now, I don't like the choice of words (Just Started, Picking up, Maturing and Stable). I do like Critical Mass though. I need help to choose a better set of phases.

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Could you describe what it is about the first four phrases you do not like? – kontur Dec 10 '12 at 7:27
The choice of words, terminology. The words need to be more simple to understand, remember and connect to. It should be kinda relevant to the industry. Either travel, cabs. – Siddharth Dec 10 '12 at 7:31
up vote 4 down vote accepted

How about using the concept of availability, with something like wireless signal strengh in mind. That metaphor communicates the possibility to connect to the service offering even on the low end, but also doesn't over emphazise the other end. If you have full signal, you still don't promise anything lightning-fast or unrealistic. Actual terms you could use are, in order to reflect your list:

  • low availability
  • better availability
  • available
  • good coverage
  • excellent coverage
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Your status is:

  • Stationary
  • Moving off
  • Accelerating
  • Cruising along
  • Enjoying the ride
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Also consider if it's necessary to have words at all. If you can't come up with a set of phrases that are immediately clear, your users won't inherently understand what you're talking about anyway. If they have to learn what the phrases mean, something like a color scale (where a brighter hue shows more coverage) might be more effective. Or, perhaps a series of icons?

I've also seen apps give some kind of banner-type indication that says "Please be patient, we're just getting setup in this area" for a while upon entering a new area. I thought that Urbanspoon does or at least used to do this, but I can't find any evidence of it. Then it's up to you to decide what "critical mass" means for each area.

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Thats a neat advice. People can relate to colors easier. – Siddharth Dec 11 '12 at 5:11

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