In this case study, I am going to ideate a new solution for commuters in Ireland using the Transport For Ireland suite of applications. Transport for Ireland (TFI) was developed by the National Transport Authority (NTA) to promote and coordinate the availability of public transport in Ireland. TFI can be understood a “one stop shop” for public transport information, providing public transport users access to information on aspects of travel by using the following apps: TFI Real Time Passenger Information (Real time arrivals information for train, bus and tram services throughout Ireland) and Leap Card (Contactless smart card for automated fare collection). Additionally, a legacy Dublin Bus app is still in existence (Real time arrivals for Dublin Bus only).
As a Dublin commuter, I am constantly using these apps in my daily life. It is my intention to create a more user-centred product, and eliminate current points of friction.
Tools Used: Adobe Xd, Overflow
Time Elapsed: 2 Days
Below are some screenshots of the current apps available to Irish commuters. Dublin Bus app can display real-time information for the Dublin service service only. Transport for Ireland allows a user to access all public transit systems in Ireland (i.e. Dublin Bus, Go-Ahead Bus, DART, Luas etc.). As certain bus route in Dublin have been outsourced to a private company, a Dublin commuter relying on privatised routes will not be able to see their bus information on Dublin Bus app. In addition, there is the Leap Card top up app. Unlike the previous examples, the leap card top up app is held in a higher regard and users/reviewers are generally satisfied with the app. IOS users have expressed discontent that the leap card top-app is not available for IOS, but it should be noted that is due to Apple’s NFC policies.
My initial assumptions about the current versions of the app(s) are that users may be frustrated and/or confused by the current system of multiple apps.
As this is a personal project, I decided to conduct some user interviews with people who use the TFI app on a daily basis. My aim was to gather user insight, to empathise with users and build a product based around their needs. I’m also aware that I need to validate/invalidate any of my own assumptions.
Users enjoy the geolocation features on the current app (i.e. the app will calibrate where you are and what bus/tram/train stations are nearby.
However, several users noted that the real time estimates provided by the app (especially for bus services) were inadequate, often not reflecting what is happening in ‘the real world’. A bus may be ‘Due’ but not turn up at all.
Several users stated that they felt overwhelmed by all the different apps available and often have to switch between them to avail of one service. One user noted that she had to use the transport for Ireland app for all non Dublin Bus services and the Leap Card app to check her balance/tickets. This has validated one my initial concerns.
Two (2/10) users indicated that it would not occur to them to use an app as it’s too much hassle and there’s no need for it. Most bus stops/all tram/train stations have real time information and a leap card can be topped up in most newsagents.
90% of users were not aware that there are ‘Journey Planning App’ and ‘Travel Reminders’ on the app.
From my research, I created three user personas that identify three key users with three different use-cases.
‘The Tourist’ - A temporary user of Ireland’s public transit systems who will inevitably require guidance throughout the service.
‘Multi-Commuter’ - A commuter who uses several different types of public transport on a daily/weekly basis. For example, a college student who uses Dublin Bus to get to college and Irish rail services to commute home on the weekends.
‘Single Commuter’ - Unlike the multi-commuter, this individual generally only uses one specific form of transportation and rarely has the need to use another.
I mapped out the current user flow for both the Transport For Ireland (TFI) app and the LeapCard App. I did this to understand the exact journey a user will go through when interacting with the app. From mapping out the flow, I noticed that the TFI app had a few points of major friction for a user (i.e. requesting that a user download a new app to access a service listing in the navigation bar.
To build a new user-centred product, I synthesised my research into a series of pain points. Told in voice of the user, these pain points will allow us to ideate.
“Too many different apps, too much hassle” - Users are confused and overwhelmed, having to download several apps to navigate through Ireland’s public transit system. I propose creating a new app that integrates all three applications together; the new Transport For Ireland app. This means commuters will be able to check the status of their bus/train/tram, as well as top up/load a ticket onto their LeapCard.
“What does due even mean?” - Users expressed frustration with the current real time updates. The real-time status doesn’t always reflect what’s happening in the real world or provide enough information.
“The system is so unpredictable” - A public transit system is a delicate eco-system. There are many variables that can cause moments of friction for commuters. Many users feel out of control while navigating through this system and confusing feedback via the app is certainly not helping.
Building on the pain points above, I created a new flow for an all-in-one app. Amalgamating all the current apps together (Dublin Bus, Transport For Ireland and Leap Card Top Up) will not only create a solution for frustrated users having to constantly switch and navigate through three different apps, but it will also enable me to create a simplified and frictionless flow.
The Leap Card Top-Up is now fully amalgamated into the new Transport For Ireland app, on compatible devices (Android w/NFC). As users have previously expressed satisfaction with the feature in its current form, the changes I created with minimal. These minimal changes reflect the latest usability trends. For example, I added a fingerprint confirmation option for payment.
In redesigning the map screen, I hypothesised a real-time solution that gives users back a sense of control. When a user engages with the real-time map, they can see buses/trams/trains in real time. By enabling users to visualise and access these services in true real time, it grants a user a sense of agency and they’ll feel fully ‘in the loop’ of their commute. We can’t always guarantee that there will not be delays/limited seats (or standing space) on a commute, but we can aim to communicate these matters with users so they can plan around these instances. Additionally, when creating a ‘Favourites’ stop/station feature, I added a ‘Recent Places’ feature. The thought behind this is that sometimes a person’s commute can change or they may not remember to ‘save’ a stop/station to favourites. If a commuter was at a stop/station recently, they would be able to quickly access that stop/station without manually searching.
When I was exploring how I can display information to commuters using the app (i.e. their leap card balance, their real-time journey), I designed around the concept of progressive disclosure. This means that instead of placing updates in big blocks of text that is hidden in an arbitrary navigational menu option, information is given to a user when and if needed. So, during the ‘My Journey’ screen (above right), a user can see how their journey is progressing and if any delay is to occur, it will be displayed on screen. A commuter can also share this journey with another user to update them in real-time.
I found it incredibly interesting that when I was conducting my research on this project, many reviewers on the app/google play store complained about design specific features. One user complained about certain “icons not working” whilst another user stated “The search function completely omits many stops with the same name.”. As we become more reliant on technology, these products should aim to be designed for users and deliver a frictionless user-experience. This is not always the case, unfortunately. However, the attitude that mass users do not care about design, so long as the product functions can be detrimental. As I have witnesses from reading through user reviews of the current Transport For Ireland app, users do notice poor design when they encounter it and having a purely functional product does not suffice in today’s technological economy.
People have high expectations from mobile apps today, and it keeps getting higher. Designers need to work smart to meet these expectations and make user journey through the app useful, relevant, and valuable. Improving the user experience isn’t a one-time thing, it’s a continuous journey.