Design Thinking: imagining Citymapper’s Integrated Tickets feature

As part of the prework for the July session of the UX Design bootcamp at Ironhack Amsterdam, I had to work on finding solutions to make buying and using public transport tickets easier through the app Citymapper.

Citymapper is a public transport and mapping service app that was created in London by Azmat Yusuf, former Google employee, in the year 2011. Citymapper uses “open” data and realtime traffic info, since its creation it has become a must-download if you want to move around London but also now 41 other cities like Paris, New York, Singapore or Milan. Citymapper’s motto is “Making cities usable” and it has been promoting sustainable and hassle-free mobility.

I myself have had to use Citymapper regularly in the past: when I lived in London, the app allowed me to get to Uni on time and move around when I had difficulties navigating the maps, timetables and fares for transportation. But I remember it also helped me tremendously that one time I decided to go and spend two weeks in Tokyo on my own: a town I didn’t know at all in a country where I didn’t even speak the language. Citymapper allowed me to discover and get to know these two very different cities with the same ease. The app helps you optimise your itinerary via public transport, bike, private transport like Uber or even by foot and lets you choose the more suitable option for you by giving you the distance, speed, fares (or calories burnt) of each route. Citymapper offers an array of functions to better suit users’ needs at any given time: the “main road” function will take you on well-lit busier streets instead of creepy dark alleys to help you get home safe at night; the “strike safe” option also helped you navigate the city during Tube strikes; or the “air con only” mode for surviving morning commutes during summer’s heatwaves.

For this exercise, I had to think of a way to implement integrated transport tickets or cards within the app. Having a good understanding of Citymapper is the first step, the next one is understanding the users’ needs.

To understand what people want, I had to direct interviews. I prepared questions that I felt would help me better understand how they travel around town, within the country and abroad, but most importantly what was their relationship with transport tickets: what their habits were, how satisfied they were with it and what their main worries were.

6 out of the 7 people I interviewed prefer to buy their tickets online; one of them told me they would rather have everything on their phone as they often worry about forgetting the physical top up card. But the main reason was they estimate buying at a booking office or ticket vending machine takes too many steps and too much time.

But the interesting thing is that half of those people weren’t very satisfied with buying transport tickets online either: they judged some steps when buying online were repetitive or unnecessary, lamented about too many types of tickets in some cases and lack of information on them.

The main issue for my interviewees seemed to be that buying a ticket physically or online takes too many steps and demands they provide the same info over and over again. This issue, I think, is already solved within the Citymapper app as it offers to add your payment method with your account.

As you can see it’s pretty straightforward

Another issue I faced was that people told me about tickets, others told me about season passes, others about top-up cards. It occurred to me that people use public transports at different frequencies and therefore the choice of tickets must be presented in the app.

So, I thought the best step to implement this choice was when choosing your route. In Citymapper, they show you the total price of the route options you have right next to the total time it will take to get you from point A to point B. I thought this little label would be the most logical place to take you to the fare options if we transform it into a button.

Choose the method for this route

Once you clicked on it, you are taken to the payment option selection screen. This is where you decide if you want to pay for this route with a top up “pay as you go” type card, a seasonal membership or by buying the single ticket directly through the app, using the payment method already added on your account.

Here I imagine that if you have a physical top up card or season ticket, you should be able to add it on your account the exact same way you add a credit card on the app settings. This would allow a person who travels a lot abroad to store and consult transport cards/memberships from different cities inside their “virtual transport ticket wallet”.

Finding your ticket or card during a travel

These transport justifications also have to be quickly accessible in case of an inspection. Which is why I decided to add a ticket button on the map when you are on a route. This little icon takes you to the cards or tickets you are currently using, showing the informations specific to it. This is where you should go when you need to tap in a contactless reader but the layout is supposed to be the same as consulting your stored tickets in the account transport ticket wallet. This system also aim at facilitating topping up or renewing a season pass.

I learned a lot about the challenges of mobility today. I’ve found during my research that Citymapper launched a few products like SmartBus and the GoBot. And interestingly enough, it recently launched the ticketing subscription service Citymapper PASS, only available in London for now, which I think is a first step towards a smarter travelling habit and extremely relevant to this exercise.

In terms of UX Design, I learned that the way you frame your questions in interviews is very important. I realised too late I had a couple of questions that were biased, I decided to still go through with my analysis but next time I’ll know better. Overall I liked going through this process that felt like developing a creative project through a defined method.

UX Designer focused on creating meaningful & lasting bonds through technology. I want to design experiences that bring people together for real! she/her

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