Manuel Soria
7 min readNov 27, 2020

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IRONHACK PREWORK: CHALLENGE 1 — DESIGN THINKING

“How many arguments have you had with a vending machine before? How stressful can queueing to get a ticket be when you are in a rush? How many tickets have you misplaced or lost?” Join me in this first chapter of my journey to become a UX/UI designer, where we will discuss Design Thinking, transportation and tickets… Lots and lots of tickets!

Getting to know our client

CityMapper is a public transit and mapping service which displays transport options, usually with live timing, between any two locations in a supported city” (including London, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, Lisbon, amongst others). “It integrates data for all urban modes of transport, including walking, cycling and driving, in addition to public transport. It is free of charge to users, and is supported by a mobile app on devices such as mobile phones, and by an Internet website”. In this mobile app, the users select a starting point and a destination, and the app provides different multimodal routes with the estimated time and the cost of them.

The issue: too many tickets, so little time

Despite it being one of the most downloaded transit and transportation apps, being able to solve some of the main problems of urban mobility, there is still one pain point for many users: the amount of public transport tickets that need to be purchased in multimodal mobility.

Very often, it is needed to purchase different public transport tickets to get to a certain destination, and this can be a very tedious and challenging process that triggers the passenger’s anxiety. How many arguments have you had with a vending machine before? How stressful can queueing to get a ticket be when you are in a rush? How many tickets have you misplaced or lost? If your answers are similar to mine, they simply denote how inefficient and overwhelming the whole travelling experience can be sometimes. Moreover, all of these challenges keep getting worse when we extrapolate them to a foreign context where things like pricing and purchasing the right ticket can be a nightmare.

The Scope of our challenge

In this Challenge, we are required to create a feature for CityMapper that solves all the problems exposed above following a Design Thinking Process approach based on the following steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test (the latter will not be covered, according to the requirements of the assignment). To do so, we will use User Interviews as our user research technique to get information from existing or potential users. The information we extract from our interviews will be utterly valuable as it will provide us with a better picture of the problem.

1. Empathize

empathy in times of coronavirus — poynter.org

The fact that CityMapper covers public and private transportation (as an alternative) broads the spectrum of our audience quite significantly. Our average users, then, include daily travellers and stressed commuters who use different ways of transport as well as users who travel abroad in supported cities.

It is time to pick our 5 subjects to interview. I selected people from different backgrounds, ages (between 25 to 40) and nationalities, amongst friends in London, Madrid, Barcelona and Berlin. What do they think about this issue? What would their preferences be? The answers will be fundamental in defining the problem statement from the user’s point of view and ideating a solution to it.

The questions went something like this:

How often do you use public transport?

What transport and mapping app do you use to move around your city?

What are your thoughts on the ticketing system?

Do you ever check prices and prebook your tickets in advance?

Do you ever have to combine different ways of transportation to get to your final destination (multimodal shifts)?

What are the inconveniences of having to change ways of transportation, and therefore having to buy different tickets, for one sole journey?

Would you consider using an app that centralized the ticket purchases in one sole payment method?

How do you feel about contactless payments? Are you familiar with the Oyster card system in the UK?

(When abroad)

Do you use public transportation when travelling abroad or do you prefer private alternatives like car rentals or Uber?

In your experience, what are the main problems you have faced when buying tickets for public transport abroad?

On a side note, I’d like to thank all the volunteers for helping me and kindly offering their time to answer these questions. So if you are reading this, Thank you!

2. Define

Several conclusions can be ascertained from our interviews:

  • Even if bikes are becoming a trend, and our increasing environmental conscience is redefining the way we move around, public transport still remains an essential service to get to certain destinations, and most of us use this service on a daily basis.
  • Most of my interviewees use Google Maps as their mapping and transportation app. They are familiar with CityMapper, and they have used it in the past, especially when travelling abroad. They all agree that if CityMapper included a payment method to prebook tickets, there would really be no competition since it would integrate the whole experience.
  • Multimodal shifts are common, and having to purchase different tickets can be a challenge in terms of timing, crowds and ticket purchases. Most of the interviewed subjects combine underground services with train services on a daily basis to get home, since they live in the outskirts of their respective metropolitan areas.
  • All of the subjects defined the overall experience as upsetting, tiring, time consuming and nerve wrecking. That was mostly due to the interaction with vending machines, queues, crowds, purchasing the right tickets and pricing in known and unknown routes. This situation is even worse in multimodal shifts, where the whole process must be repeated to get the different tickets through different channels. All of our interviewees wished they could get all their tickets through a centralized system that fixed all of these inconveniences, and they would be willing to do so through a mobile app. They are aware of the fact that contactless payments are the future, in fact, it comes as no surprise to them that most cities are implementing a contactless payment system in their checks at under and overground services. They also use their phone wallet to make ordinary payments and are familiar with e-tickets for flights and other trips. Physical paper or plastic tickets are unnecessary, outdated, harmful for the environment and redundant.
  • When abroad, they have all had bad experiences with public transportation in the past. They find it very challenging and confusing to use this service and they feel like mastering it would require some previous research before travelling they are not willing to undergo.

3. Ideate

The goal seems clear. We are aiming towards the integration in mapping apps of payment methods to prebook tickets and the centralization of the payment method for multimodal shifts to deliver a complete experience to the users.

Right after typing the conclusions of my interviews, I grabbed a piece of paper and brainstormed some ideas.

Ideally, the best way to approach this issue would be to combine both options and create a feature in the CityMapper app that would allow us to book any ticket in advance, as well as tapping some credit into a card contained in the app to make payments at the checks.

However, for the sake of the feasibility of this challenge, we will stick to option A, incorporating (1) a feature within the app to purchase e-tickets and (2) a “My Trips” section to save all your purchases in QR-code format. By incorporating this feature, we will unify the channels where the users have to get their tickets (centralization) and we will also provide the app with a secure payment method (integration).

We can’t ignore the fact that some stations may not be updated to scan E-tickets. In that case, CityMapper will provide the user with detailed instructions on how to purchase tickets and locate the nearest vending machines.

4. Prototype

Here is the prototype of the new CityMapper feature:

To conclude

This first challenge has been very instructive and formative. We have discovered how useful user interviews can be as a user research technique, allowing us to reach to a problem statement from the user’s point of view. This assignment also invited us to be creative and to come up with solutions for real world problems.

Thank you for your time and interest! Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.

On the flip side,

Manuel

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