BusyBus

BusyBus is an app concept to improve the current DC Metro and Bus app.

BusyBus screenshots

Roles

Research
Design
Testing

Deliverables

Wireframes
Hi-fi mockups

Tools

Pen and paper
Figma

The Problem

While many transit systems have their own apps to help people plan their trips, DC Metro and Bus leaves something to be desired. It doesn’t tell you the rates or the cost of your trip, and users are constantly bombarded with in-app ads.

The Solution

BusyBus can help users plan the best way to commute using DC’s metro and bus system. It shows live estimates for any stop or station, the fastest route to take to get from point A to point B, and lets you reload your SmarTrip card on the go, so you won’t get held up at the fare vending machines.

The Process

Research and Discovery

I crafted a survey to discover the motivations and frustrations of my potential users. I needed to find out how often people use public transportation, what kind they used (bus, metro, ridesharing apps), the main annoyances, and what they would primarily use a mobile app for.

Key Takeaways:
  • Respondents were most frustrated with unreliability, overcrowding, how long it took, and how expensive it was
  • 67% used a mobile app to plan their trips
  • Travelers used mobile apps for trip planning (going from Point A to Point B), real-time status updates, and being able to estimate when they should depart/arrive

Competitive Analysis

Although the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) already has a mobile app for its commuters, it is very basic and could be vastly improved upon. Google Maps is much more sleek and robust, but is not tailored for the DC metro system and can’t show alerts or fare estimates. The best way for BusyBus to enter this market would be to alert the user to upcoming and current outages and delays, show fare estimates (since DC’s metro operates on a distance-based fare system), and also be able to reload one’s SmarTrip card via the app, along with basic functionality like accessing routes, stops, and trip planning.

DC Metro and Bus Dropbox

User Stories

User stories help clarify the scope of the app and what the most important functions of the app are. These were from three different perspectives: a new user, a returning user, and all users, and ranked in importance of high, medium, or low.

Role Task Importance
New user Create an account High
All users Access bus/train schedules High
All users Access bus/train map High
All users See which buses are coming to a stop near me High
All users See each bus's ETA at the stop near me High

High importance user stories

Wireframes

I focused on one particular scenario where a user is trying to find the closest stop to their current location and all the routes that service that stop. These hand-drawn wireframes show the workflow for that process.

Preliminary workflow sketches

Preliminary workflow sketches

Prototype sketches

Prototype sketches

User Testing

The user testing was split into three different tasks: finding out how long it would take to walk to the Washington & State stop, when the M3 would arrive at that stop, and searching for another route. All three participants were able to complete 100% of the tasks, and I received positive feedback about differentiating favorited bus routes with a different color.

Hi-Fi Mockups

Using Figma, I mocked up a prototype of what the screen would look like when a user is trying to determine when their bus was coming to a particular stop. Since this was envisioned to be an Android app, I followed Google’s Material Design guidelines. Using that ubiquitous design language allows new users to be instantly familiar with visual cues and speed up the onboarding process.

Hi-fi mockup

Mobile screenshot for Android

Conclusion

Although this was a small project with one very specific use case, it was important to approach it with a holistic view. I needed to make sure that based on my user survey results, I was including all the pertinent information, not just the information to fulfill the brief. I learned to put myself in the shoes of a commuter using this app, and determined all the information I would need or want to complete a trip, like how far away a stop is from me and a subsequent walking estimate. Those small touches, while not necessary, sets a product apart from the competition.

I also enjoyed working with Google’s Material Design principles and creating the app within their guidelines. It can be tempting to break out of the box and create something brand new, but for a utilitarian app like this, often to be used in time-sensitive cases, it makes more sense to work with a visual language that would likely be familiar to a lot of people. Working on this taught me that the best designs are not necessarily the flashiest, and that consistency is key to creating a good user experience.