Making Ticket Purchase Pleasant and Untroubled

If you haven’t traveled abroad and got public transport in a city where you are not used to, you might have no idea what I’m saying when I’m talking about problems with the process of purchasing a public transport ticket.

The systems throughout foreign cities are different. A simple example of this is the ticket gate, that some of them have and others don’t. Sometimes you can use all the options of public transport with the same ticket, sometimes you cannot. The main problem is: How can one get this information? How can one know which ticket to buy to go from point A to point B?

So, here it is my first challenge as a UX Design student at Ironhack. My goal was to apply Design Thinking to come up with a solution to make a ticket purchase pleasant and untroubled. Thus, I have to create a feature for the Citymapper app that solves the pain of having to buy different public transport tickets on different channels.

First of all, let’s understand what the Citymapper app is.

Citymapper is a public transit app which operates by mobile and desktop website. They calculate the best itinerary from walking and cycling to driving, but the main goal is to help people move around the city using public transport. There you may see more than the usual types of transport, sometimes the app even offers an option to travel by catapult or teletransport.

The application already solves some of the main problems of urban mobility but, as I mentioned above, they don’t have a solution to sell tickets.

To create an innovative and valuable solution, I started interviewing 5 people that have used public transport (especially abroad) intending to understand who I’m designing for and what matters to them. Here it’s the step of Design Thinking — Empathize.

I first looked at how people displaced around a foreign city. Then I analyzed how they figure out the options of transport they may use and the process of discovering the different public transport tickets they need to buy. Afterward, I decomposed the entire experience to determine users’ feelings and pain points.

Using public transport in a foreign city where you are not used to implies planning and a bit of preparation. There is an infinite number of passenger profiles, ranging from the less prepared (zero planning) to the most methodic (researches and prepares everything before the trip). Most users are in between these two extremes, furthermore, there are also exterior factors that may affect this amount of planning — the language barrier for example.

Yet, I noticed that throughout passengers in all of the above profiles it’s usual for them to use an app to find the best way to go from point A to point B. Doesn’t matter if they have researched before or not, most of them mentioned using google maps, citymapper, moovit, etc. And almost had a quite difficult experience purchasing tickets. Let’s look at some examples:

  • User 1 had arrived in Paris when he remembered that he’d need a ticket to go from airport to hotel. He already knew which public transport options to get, but he didn’t know which ticket he needed. He went to the ticket machine where he found a man helping people to purchase tickets. He found it a little bit weird, a stranger man helping at the machines. Then he realized that it was a con, the man was exchanging tickets for fake ones.
  • User 2 was traveling to Madri. As soon as she arrived at the airport she bought the tourist ticket that gave her the right to unlimited travel in all the options for public transport in the city. But she didn’t know that it was possible to go on foot to every place she was planning to visit. So individual tickets would be better and cheaper.

Besides these examples, the users mentioned other troubles as:

  • Buying wrong tickets
  • Some ticket machines don’t accept cards.
  • Distinct tickets and processes in different countries.
  • Different information can be found on the internet.

Once I discovered to whom I was creating this feature and their pain points I had to write my findings and define a problem statement. For this reason, the name of this step is Define.

According to the interviews, I could say that purchasing tickets make people insecure even if they have researched everything before. When buying tickets passengers feel a lack of information. They have to follow procedures that may even be wrong. It entices many users to react with a stress response. Even though pleasing situations are quite rare, people traveling might experience some pleasure, especially on holidays. Thus, they don’t care about the process of purchasing tickets.

So the problem statement was: “Passengers using public transport abroad need an informative, easier and convenient purchasing ticket process because they like to explore the city by bus, subway and they don’t want to spend a lot of time looking at the options and different prices.”

To offer a solution, I started the Ideate step. I did a brainstorm with my team — me, myself and my brain. I was working alone, so I wrote the problems down on post-its and I started thinking about how I would solve that and what was the best solution.

Then I came up with the following hypothesis statement. “I believe that suggesting the most suitable ticket and giving an orientation on how to use them in different cities for passengers traveling abroad will achieve the goal of making ticket purchase pleasant and untroubled. We know we are right when the process doesn’t make the user react with stress and feel convenient.”

The user needs to be able to purchase the ticket directly on the application. The feature has to offer different options to the passenger, describing in which situation each one is the best option for him. Then, when the purchase process is finished, they can see the instructions on how to use the ticket in each city that they may select.

With all this information in my mind, I moved to the next called Prototype. At this phase, I wanted to validate my idea of building a prototype. The point here was not to create a high-fidelity prototype, but a low-fidelity one, just to illustrate the idea in a way that I was able to test and see if it worked.

As I mentioned this was my first challenge as a UX/UI Design student at Ironhack. I had to come up with a new feature applying Design Thinking. A methodology for solving complex problems and discovering new opportunities where the main point is maximum creativity, avoiding high production costs. The process is based on 5 steps, Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

Working on this challenge and applying the methodology gave me, practically, an overview of the entire process and made me understand how important it is to know who you are solving for, what their needs are, how you will solve them and why your work matters.

Most texts that I’ve read mentioned that you should avoid creating any idea before knowing who your users are and their needs. As soon as I received the challenge, a lot of ideas came up to my mind, influenced by my experience and feelings. When I started to empathize I realized how interesting it is to listen to other opinions and how they could diverge with mine.

Work in this process was a good experience with many learnings. Ideating, creating and putting in practice the premise of this iterative method — fail fast, gave me a new perspective about the approach of Human-Centered Design.

I am keen on UX/UI Design. 🇧🇷/🇩🇪