UX Diaries: Tackling Ironhack’s Design Thinking Challenge

Muge Hizal Dogaroglu
8 min readSep 14, 2020


Hi there! Welcome to the first article of UX Diaries where I document my learnings, thoughts, and tasks as a student at Ironhack’s UX/UI course.

I plan to write another article about my reasons for getting into UX Design but in a nutshell, I want to become a UX Designer because I believe a better world is possible. And user experience plays a big role in making life a little bit easier and more enjoyable on a daily basis.

And what better way of practicing making something easier and better than tackling Ironhack’s Design Thinking challenge! Our task for this challenge was to add a ticket payment feature to the popular transportation app Citymapper. As a frequent traveler who often gets overwhelmed by using too many apps and services, I appreciated this topic.

My process

Since the goal of this challenge was to apply what I’ve learned about the Design Thinking Process, I went through the four stages of Design Thinking: empathize, define, ideate and prototype.

Stage 1: Empathize

My first step was to get familiar with the Citymapper app, understand the industry they are in through competitor analysis, and most importantly; getting to know their customers.

About Citymapper

Retrieved from Citymapper’s press kit

Citymapper is a highly successful transportation app that aims to uncomplicate the mobility experience in cities. To achieve its mission, Citymapper provides all the information that is needed to get from A to B in a user-friendly manner. Currently, it operates in 58 cities with their mobile app and their website.

Competitor Analysis

My competitor analysis showed me that Citymapper is one of the leaders in their field with a few direct and indirect competitors.

When it comes to providing the best route, their competitors included transportation apps such as Transit App, Moovit, and Google Maps; essentially a mapping service. Despite not directly being a transportation service, Google Maps frequently came up as the biggest competitor both in my online research and user interviews.

In terms of paying for transportation tickets, the main contenders were mostly the apps of the public transportation companies in various cities themselves. The examples included BVG Tickets app in Berlin and SL app in Stockholm.

That being said, initiatives such as Citymapper’s Citymapper Pass and Transit App’s Transit Accounts show that there is a trend among transportation apps to provide a holistic service for public transportation and it is worth keeping an eye on how these services will be perceived and expanded into different cities with different infrastructures.

User interviews

Conducting user interviews was one of the most fun and insightful parts of design thinking for me.

I interviewed five people for this challenge; aged between 23–37 years old, who are tech-savvy and quite mobile both in their home city and abroad. Despite the small scale of my interview stage, I believe this demographic aligned with Citymapper’s customer base.

To understand my interviewee’s experiences in getting from A to B in their home city and abroad, I focused on asking open-ended questions and followed up on their answers when I needed clarification. As you can see below, I separated my questions into two sections; one focusing on their experience when traveling and when they are at home.

Questions about traveling abroad

  1. How often do you travel in a year?
  2. How do you preplan your trip to a new city? Please describe your process.
  3. When you’re abroad, how do you move from point A to point B? Why?
  4. Which tools do you use to get around on a daily basis? For what purpose?
  5. You mentioned X. Are you satisfied with their service so far? How do you think your experience could be improved?
  6. Have you ever had issues when purchasing and/or using a ticket? If so, what kind of problems did you have?
  7. What is your preferred payment method when buying tickets?
  8. Are there any features in particular that you seek in the tool you’re using to purchase a ticket?

Questions about navigating within your city

  1. How do you navigate within your city? Why?
  2. Which tools do you rely on for transportation? And how do you use them?
  3. What is your preferred method for buying tickets? How would you describe the experience?
  4. Have you ever had issues when purchasing and/or using a ticket? If so, what kind of problems did you have?
  5. Can you describe your ideal public transportation experience? From getting from A to B to buying the tickets etc.

Stage 2: Define

After documenting my interviewee’s answers, I looked into data to see common patterns in pain points and preferences to come up with my problem statement.

Interview findings

  • They use Google Maps and Citymapper to find routes.
  • Prefer to pay with credit card(contactless, if they can) and online BUT they may prefer human interaction in case they have questions (when abroad).
  • 1 app/tool for payment and transportation routes.
  • Accurate information about delays, demos, repair work in routes etc.
  • They don’t want to carry physical tickets or extra things.

My interview findings showed that the biggest pain point was to use several tools to get from A to B: figuring out which way to go and buying the appropriate ticket for that. Also, in places where they are not familiar with the system, my users felt the need to ask someone for help. However, almost all of them preferred a solution that does not require human interaction.

Lastly, another pain point was to carry a lot of stuff related to transportation: tickets, passes, change, tokens, etc

Problem statement

It is complicated and cumbersome for users to use several services to get from A to B at home and especially abroad. They want a solution where they can find routes, ask questions, AND pay for the tickets from one centralized app/tool.

Stage 3: Ideate

Taking the cue from my problem statement, I wanted to explore potential solutions that will help users find and do everything they want in one app. I chose to do a mind map to expand possibilities as this was a technique that I was familiar with.

Exploring potential solutions through mind mapping

After writing down the potential solutions, I evaluated them based on my user interviews.

For instance, I chose not to go for a transportation card like the Citymapper Pass, because my interviewees made it clear that they didn’t want to carry more things, even though a transportation card is better than a paper ticket. I also thought it would be difficult to integrate it in cities such as Berlin where there are no turnstiles or fare gates in subway stations.

In the end, I chose to combine several things together for my solution. My idea was to introduce a “Tickets” feature to the app where users can buy and save their transportation tickets. The feature would allow users to buy tickets directly or after they found their preferred route.

To improve convenience and accessibility, I provided several payment options such as paying with a credit card, PayPal and Google Pay, etc. For the tickets themselves, I include a QR code so that the system can be used in places like Berlin where there are no fare gates but controllers can easily scan tickets. QR codes also work for places that do have fare gates, all the users have to do is scan the code when they enter the station or the vehicle.

Last but not least, I made sure to add additional information during the user flow of buying tickets to help people navigate the transportation system easier. I signified the availability of extra information with an “i” icon on the ticket page.

Stage 4: Paper Prototype

As I mentioned before, I decided to provide two ways for buying tickets; buying directly before finding your route or after determining your route. The reasoning behind this decision was to help two kinds of customers; the user who knows what ticket to buy or explore different tickets to get the best deal and the user who wants to buy the cheapest ticket for their preferred route.

During my paper prototypes, I focused on keeping the visual language consistent and made sure to provide the user with the possibility to go back to the previous screen and navigate with ease. I also strived to keep the screens easy on the eyes while providing the necessary information.

Before, getting into the paper prototypes, I also would like to note that for this assignment, we were able to assume that users already have their accounts and we don’t need to consider issues such as security. In this sense, I also assumed that the users have their preferred way of payment already registered in their accounts.

Option 1: Buying ticket directly

User flow for buying the tickets directly

User flow:

  1. The user opens the app.
  2. Taps on the “Tickets” section in the bottom menu.
  3. Selects the “Day Ticket” option from other ticket options.
  4. Customizes the ticket according to zone, rate and validity.
  5. Taps “Buy Ticket”.
  6. Chooses payment method
  7. Confirms the payment.
  8. Receives confirmation message with the option to see the ticket or go to the home screen.

Option 2: Buying ticket specifically for the route

User flow for buying tickets specifically for the route

User flow:

  1. The user opens the app.
  2. Taps on “Get Me Somewhere” and selects the starting point. In addition to the existing information about the route, now the cheapest ticket prices are shown next to the routes. User taps on the preferred route.
  3. User taps on the “Buy Tickets” button that appears at the bottom of the screen.
  4. User checks if the customized ticket information is accurate and taps on “Buy ticket”.
  5. Chooses the payment method.
  6. Confirms the payment.
  7. Receives the confirmation message with the option to see the ticket or go back to their selected route.

Takeaways from Challenge 1

This challenge has been immensely useful for me to practice Design Thinking and apply what I’ve learned so far. I’ve become aware of the areas that I need to work on (ideating) as well as parts where I felt comfortable (empathize — user research).

A surprise outcome of this exercise was how much I enjoyed paper prototyping and how useful it was to figure out things that were not apparent to me until I put it on paper. I also found that giving some time between drafts to look at it with fresh eyes was very helpful to refine the design.

Last but not least, I thoroughly enjoyed this task and looking forward to tackling more challenges like this. Thank you for taking the time to read through my solution. I appreciate and look forward to your comments, questions, and feedback!