UrbanGo: Design Thinking around a mobility app

©Koivo “Vienna Subway”
©Koivo, ” Vienna Subway” (https://dribbble.com/koivo)

How to use Design Thinking to solve a problem encountered by many users? And more precisely, how to improve a transport application by researching users? This is what I will try to answer with this small exercise, the first step of my Ironhack Bootcamp.

The case study

UrbanGo is a public transit and mapping startup based in Silicon Valley. Their goal is to solve the problems of urban mobility, by offering the quickest and cheapest public and private transport routes to their users.

UrbanGo app context

There is one pain point for many users: the different amount of public transport tickets the users have to purchase.

Public transport tickets come in paper or plastic cards. Very often buying different public transport tickets is necessary to go from point A to B. And the process of buying these tickets can be very annoying (queues, vending machines that don’t work, etc.).

Finally, things like pricing or purchasing the correct ticket can become a real pain when you are abroad.

1 · EMPATHIZE

First step: personal introspection to define the problem

  • For this project, my task is to create a specific feature for UrbanGo app, that solves the pain of having to purchase different public transport tickets by different channels.
  • The target audience can be in any age, gender, and situation range, but they should at least have a connected smartphone, live in a city, and use at least one public or private transports.
  • UrbanGo’s competition is the trio Google Map, Waze, and Apple Maps, which are the most used mobility apps. UrbanGo will have to differentiate itself, particularly from City Mapper, because these two applications have the same functionalities.
  • The tone/feeling of the app feature should be very helpful, friendly, and conciliatory. The app must reassure users who may be stressed, frustrated or angry about the transport system.

Second step: the interview process

The French love to complain. I know what I’m talking about because I’m one of them, rumbling after the traffic, the rain, or the expensive life in Paris. But in a way, it’s a good thing to complain because this allows us to identify problems and (sometimes) try to find solutions. So I thought that interviewed French people would be an easy exercise to get information for this “UrbanGo” app project. I just had to listen to their everyday problems, and write them down. But surprisingly, they were quite satisfied with the transports and the traffic system. Finally, the interviews were more difficult than I expected and I had to dig a bit to get some information.

Here are the questions I asked them :

  • How do you usually commute in your city? To go to work, or for your days off? What do you like/dislike about it?
  • Which transport do you mostly take? Why?
  • What is your process for tickets/transportation package purchase? What do you think about it?
  • Which transports app do you use? Why?
  • Which type of itinerary do you usually foster? Speed, walking, simplicity of the road…
  • What do you like or dislike in the transports of your city?
  • Are there things you like/dislike about transport in other cities?

I interviewed 5 persons, both men, and women, and aged 25, 26, 26, 27, and 30. They all have a connected smartphone and live in a city (Paris, Geneva, or Istanbul).

The interview answer board

2 · DEFINE

After this interview session, I discovered a wide range of points of view about public transports. The main pain-points I have collected are:

  • The stress due to the unexpected problems on transports
  • The expensive prices of the tickets/package
  • Hard to find the right ticket abroad. (Language on the machine, don’t know which package is the best, not enough agents on the stations, cultural problems…)

“In metro stations abroad, I’m often lost with ticket machines. As I never find agents to help me, I ask people in a hurry because they seem more confident. If they know where they are going, they probably know the city well!” Lucie

  • Prefer to enjoy the city outdoors, and spend as little time as possible on transport
  • The frustration of wasting time because of disorganized transports

“I always anticipate the end of the month to top-up my pass, because I want to avoid the endless queue at the ticket office.” Vadim

  • Prefer rechargeable pass/tickets
  • The fear of losing the physical tickets

“I always have 3 transport cards on me because I always lose them. Once, I find myself stuck in the station: no money left on my transport card and no cash. I had to walk home.” Sophie

3 · IDEATE

Brainstorming

Ideas are volatile. We have to capture them and put them quickly on paper before they run away. Brainstorming is the perfect technique to gather freely all the ideas and solutions we have in mind.
Here is mine:

Mind map
Universal digital card

The design allows us to dream. One of my first vacant ideas was to imagine a universal digital traveling card, which combines all types of transportation (train, metro, bus, trams, planes…), and which works all over the world. The card could be materialized into an app, with the partnership of all the transport companies. It would allow us to plan the trips we need, without worrying about physical tickets.
After some research, I discovered that other dreamers already had this idea. I wish this dream to come true!

4 · PROTOTYPE

After this brainstorming session, I wanted to focus my work on the organizational functionality of UrbanGo app. I developed a little bit more two ideas, using the hand-sketched screens technique. The purpose of these prototypes is not to make beautiful sketches, but to have a medium to explain ideas quickly and clearly and see if it works.

Feature for overbooked parents

My first intention was to create a customizable feature for users, to help families in particular. Parents can find themselves overbooked when they are traveling with their children, especially the youngest. Tickets can easily be lost, and parents don’t always know which package is best for each of their children. I imagined the app as a wallet, with digital tickets for the whole family members. Before the trip, the parents have to set all the information about their children, (age, journey duration, journey frequency…), and the app will calculate the best ticket package for them, and keep all the tickets safely on a virtual wallet.

Then, I wanted to focus my research on the price aspect, because the main problem of the people I interviewed is that transportations are expensive.

Sometimes, users take a ticket that they don’t use as much as they thought (transport strike issues, last-minute holidays, prefer to walk…) They may feel frustrated paying more than that they really need and wish they had picked a better option before.
To prevent that, I imagined an app that would allow users to travel freely, and only pay at the end of the year for the most appropriate package according to their journeys.
1. The user set all the preferences (personal information and bank details) at the beginning of the year.
2. The user can travel freely with a digital pass, the app records all their trips.
3. The app automatically calculates the most suitable transport package and the user can consult a graph of his transportation activity. The user can also consult all the information about the different tickets and prices.
4. At the end of the year, the app offers the user the most economical package he should pay and debit automatically and safely.

What I learned

Although the Design Thinking method was new to me, I found it very intuitive and efficient. I realized how useful the interview session can be, to start from real issues. At first, I was a little worried about boring people with my exercise, but eventually, I think they were happy to be listened to and to talk about their transportation habits and opinions. I also have to admit that calling old friends living abroad was a great way to keep in touch! I really enjoyed the brainstorming part because it was a great way to stimulate my creativity. About the prototyping stage, I know I need to learn and practice more, and I can’t wait to start a new project like this again.

Thanks a lot for reading my article, hope you liked it!
Feel free to comment, all your ideas or suggestions are very welcomed.
If you are in a good mood, you can also click the applause button ;)

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Eloïse Merian

Eloïse Merian

Product Designer @Foodchéri · Art Director/Graphic Designer background · eloisemerian.myportfolio.com/eloise-merian.myportfolio.com · music & coconut lover