Ironhack’s Prework Challenge 1 — Design thinking

Have you ever heard of Citymapper? In case you haven’t, Citymapper is a public transit app and mapping service which displays transport options, usually with live timing, between any two locations in a supported city. Based in London, the app was created in 2011 by Amat Yusuf and is active in more than 60 cities in the world.

Well, my challenge today is to create a feature for this app that solves the pain of having to purchase different public transport tickets by different channels.

Citymapper mobile app

Have you ever had trouble buying a ticket on a vending machine? Have you ever been unable to go out of a station because you bought the wrong ticket (even though you spent 20mn at the machine, and were confident it was the right one!)? I HAVE !! Not only when I was traveling in Japan, but also in the city I’ve been living in for 14 years, Paris! Luckily, this issue seems to be universal. So, after blaming my poor orientation skills, I felt confident in solving this issue.

First, a little introspection

We all use navigation apps to define our itinerary: the most popular ones and/or the local public transport companies apps. Citymapper displays all the possible combinations and the price you’ll pay for your tickets. But here comes the most annoying part, the vending machine: “what a queue!” “where to change the language?” “We need several tickets to get there, how can I do that?” “Which zone are we?”. Clearly, the purchasing process is painful! This is the burden of the casual users of public transport and the travelers. Let’s fix that!

Then, users interviews

I interviewed 5 people, a mix of day-to-day and casual users to learn about their experiences using public transports, at home or in another city: how they define their itinerary, if they use a navigation app and how they feel about it, how they buy their tickets, how they compare public and private transports, their habits when traveling, if they ever had any issue because of buying the wrong ticket, and any little stories about transports abroad. To avoid biased answers, I didn’t mention the problem I had to address until the end of the interview. This way I hoped to discover new issues.

These interviews show that the ticket purchasing process is not the first thing that comes up clearly, until I asked them to tell me a story that happened to them while using public transports. It was interesting to see that the travel stories always mentioned a lack of understanding of the zoning of the city, that led to them being unable to commute or leave a station and had to call an agent for help.

Surprisingly, the help of an agent seems to be very important to the 3/5 users. This seems to be an interesting area to dig, as a separate project, how the app could assist the users like an agent would with some kind of chatbot.

“It’s pretty straightforward, I just have to say where I’m going, in seconds I have my return tickets! At the vending machines there are too many steps, it’s not intuitive and I can’t be bothered!”

At the end of the interviews, when I gave more details about my challenge, the ticket purchase then became a brainstorming session! Everyone is convinced that mobile e-ticket would be a game changer!

Finally, design of an e-ticket feature for Citymapper

My mission was then clear! After brainstorming few ideas (like the chatbot) I decides to prototype the e-ticket feature with a payment page inspired by Revolut interface. I thought it would be annoying to enter you credit card details every time you would buy a ticket. So the feature I worked on allows the users to put money in a “wallet” on the app, and the purchases will be paid with that money. Which leads us to 2 ways of buying tickets:

  1. Using the new wallet feature: the newness will be highlighted when the users open the app thanks to a pop-up window. They will be guided to discover their (for now) empty wallet: they can see how they can easily put money in it, and that in the same wallet they will find their purchased tickets. Here, they can buy casual tickets for the central zone of the city: one-trip tickets, book of 10 tickets, day-trip…(tbd).
  2. Using the itinerary interface: after searching an itinerary, when the user selects a route, a button will allow her/him to buy the tickets for the exact route. The user will be led to a new page with the possibility to top-up the wallet or pay for the tickets. The difference with the payment page of the 1st option, is that the route is specified.

When the users need to use the tickets bought, they have to open their Citymapper app and go to their wallet, open the ticket and scan it at the station.

Paper prototype
Paper prototype design


All this is brand new to me! So it’s easy to say that every step is a lesson learned that I can’t wait to practice more. I’m fascinated by the design thinking process that seems pretty obvious and should be the standard thinking in any business. Being-customer/user centric is definitely the key to success. Well, I might not be successful with the feature I designed, but I enjoyed trying!

The interviews were very interesting as they revealed problems that we didn’t think about, and also how personal and universal the experience can be. I never conducted this type of interviews before, and I found difficult to not ask leading questions.

I can’t wait to read your feedbacks, please be fully honest! I’m in a learning process so I have a huge room of improvement!

UX/UI designer, fashion industry expert, eager for inspiration