UrbanGo_Design Thinking Exercise

Marick Balay
5 min readSep 21, 2019


Personal photo of Alexanderplatz, Berlin

Design thinking. The methodology consists of 5 steps: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. Five actions that help your very first idea to fail fast, in order to find this perfect solution for your user.

For this first challenge part of our pre-work at IronHack, we had to create a feature that solves the pain of having to purchase different public transport tickets by different channels on the fictional UrbanGo app, applying the Design Thinking methodology.

The Company

The goal of the Urban Go app is to facilitate the user’s urban mobility by offering him the quickest and cheapest public and private transport routes.

Using the mobile app, the user select a starting point and a destination, and the app provides different multimodal routes with the estimated time and the cost of them.

Urban Go

The main problems

Our first steps to find a tailor-made solution consisted in thinking about the problem we were trying to solve by asking ourselves crucial questions:

What problem am I solving?

  • A better experience of mobility, helping the traveler to move: Faster, more efficiently, and stress reducing.
  • I’m helping the traveler from abroad, to find the information (the right ticket), he probably could not get if he was alone, not speaking the language in the city, or not understanding the different transport zones.

Who is my audience?

  • Locals who are not used to take public transportation
  • People from the same country who do not live in the city
  • People from another country (speaking the language or not)

Who is my client’s competition?

  • Google Maps — displaying a ticket price but will redirect the user to the official vendor homepage
  • The local transport company and their apps — unknown to the foreigner/difficulty to understand the zones
  • Other applications, such as Rome2Rio

What’s the tone, feeling?

  • Easy
  • Trustworthy
  • Intuitive
  • Sympathetic → simplifying life (it’s already exhausting to evolve in a foreign environment)

To go further in the process, we were advised to conduct interviews and therefore, research deeper on the needs of the user.

I interviewed 4 different persons, who were used to travel and use public transportation. Synthesizing the answers, I could already identify pain points and risks, as well as the benefits of a feature, by creating a mind map.

The recurrent pain points I identified are below:

  • Unknown location of the vending machines
  • Confusion about zones delimitations
  • Confusion about the network
  • Confusion about the different transportation methods (bus, metro, tram…) and the corresponding tickets

Defining a solution

I have to admit it was difficult to focus on solving only one pain point, as the solution I was starting to consider was eradicating the 4 following pain points:

  • Not knowing which provider (transportation company) to deal with
  • Evolving in the zones nightmare
  • Having difficulty to find vending machines
  • Being lost in translation

Also, for this challenge, the sky was the limit in terms of technical constraints, so I defined a solution where the below technical features had come true:

  • For each city network, Urban Go knows to which zone of transportation the destination belongs to;
  • Banking information/method of payment is linked to the user’s account in the Urban Go app
  • For each city UrbanGo covers, the turnstile is equipped with a QR code reader, as well as the ticket inspectors.
  • UrbanGo has an agreement with each transportation company, as a reseller.

The solution

My solution consists in buying a virtual ticket, valid for different methods of transportation, purchasable through Urban Go.

In my paper prototype, I chose to display a first screen of Urban Go where the user has already chosen to use public transportation instead of private and is ready to enter is points of departure and destination.

The user has then different options to choose from, the cheapest/quickest is displayed first with a system of tags: « cheapest », « quickest », « cheapest » AND « quickest », and each option displays a call to action button to buy the corresponding ticket. My prototype is set in rubles, as I once travelled in Saint-Petersburg using public transportation and it can easily become a nightmare if you don’t speak Russian or do not read the Cyrillic alphabet. Also, Saint-Petersburg is one of those cities where you need to buy several transportation tickets to use different transportation methods, unlike Berlin for instance.

The next screen displays a confirmation message about the option and its cost, and the next button to buy a ticket. The user will then be able to see the details of purchase to get a complete overview of his purchase, including the name of the provider and the zones is going to travel in.

If the user is not traveling alone, he has the opportunity to add more tickets or to proceed to payment, and then change the validity of the ticket if he wishes to travel later but already wants to buy his ticket.

He will finalize the payment using his Touch ID and will obtain his official digital ticket(s) from the city transportation company, equipped with a QR code to pass the turnstile and to present during tickets controls.

The paper prototype design

Takeaways from this challenge

I really enjoyed conducting « long » interviews and I found fascinating how people, if you give them the opportunity, are inclined to tell you stories about their experiences. Hence, the importance of asking loose questions that are connected to the subject but not directly about the issue you’re trying to solve. The answers turned out to be super valuable material.

Studying competition is also a great and necessary way to identify points of frustration in a specific field.

Iterating and sketching a lot of ideas are essential to « fail fast » and locate issues early enough before it jeopardizes your whole solution.

To conclude, I’d like to say that I was really surprised to discover how efficient is the Design Thinking method. It undoubtedly offers the best steps to deliver a great User Centered Design.



Marick Balay

UX/UI Designer based in Berlin. I like to come up with fresh ideas to make people’s lives better, easier and more sustainable. https://marickbalay.com/