Ironhack Prework Challenge 1: Design Thinking

I am very excited to be starting my bootcamp UX/UI course at Ironhack. As part of the pre work my first challenge is to design a new feature of an app using the Design Thinking methodology.

The Client

Citymapper is a free public transit app and mapping service which displays transport options with live timing, between any two locations in any supported city. It combines data for all urban modes of transport, including walking, cycling and driving, in addition to public transport. It also provides information about how much a ticket will cost for the different public transport options, as well as the cost of ride-sharing services.

The Problem and challenge

Citymapper can be an extremely handy tool when traveling, especially in a new city. However the process of purchasing different public transport tickets for your journey can be quite difficult and frustrating. The tickets usually come as wasteful plastic or paper cards, which can be easily lost. Also the language barrier can be difficult when purchasing a ticket from a machine or finding the best deal.

The challenge is to create a feature for the app that eliminates the problems of purchasing tickets from several different machines and companies. To be able to plan and pay for your journey all from the same app.

The Design Thinking Process

In order to find a suitable solution I applied the Design Thinking method which ensures that the needs of the users are at the core of the design process.

The process states that, to create good products or services, you need to understand who your users are and what are their needs. What challenges do they face and what are the expectations towards your product.

Design Thinking Process

1. Empathize

The first phase of the Design Thinking Process is to empathise with the user. This can be done using various techniques such as surveys, interviews, and observing how users interact with a product. The idea is to try to understand the user’s experience as clearly as possible in order to identify user needs, frustrations , and opportunities to improve that experience.

For this challenge I interviewed 5 users between the ages of 21 and 60 based in the Netherlands, England, and Spain who regularly travel abroad.

A few examples of the questions I asked:

  • How often do you use public transport in your home city and when travelling abroad?
  • Which transport apps do you use?
  • What is your preferred app and why?
  • How do you normally pay for public transport at home and abroad?
  • What is your experience buying tickets in a foreign country?
  • What is your biggest challenge when navigating around a new city?

My findings were that all the users use transportation apps when travelling at home and aboard. The most used app is Google Maps, which has similar functions and is a direct competitor to CityMapper. However it also lacks the function of being able to pay for your journey directly in the app.

Some of the pain points of I gathered from the users after conducting these interviews were:

  • It is often difficult to know which tickets you need for different zones/areas of a city.
  • Needing multiple tickets for different modes of transportation.
  • Finding the right place to buy a ticket
  • Standing in long lines
  • Losing physical tickets
  • Language barriers when buying tickets in person or confusing foreign vending machines.

2. Define

Taking the information gathered from the user interviews I have defined the problem.

Transportation apps play a crucial part in modern day travel and navigating around a new city. The largest frustration lies in the process of paying for the journey. I intend to resolve these issues by designing a feature for CityMapper which allows its users to purchase and tickets needed in an efficient, and user friendly way.

3. Ideate

After analysing the information collected from the interviews I began brainstorming about possible solutions to the problem.

  • The app should incorporate a wallet similar to Apple pay that is linked to your credit/debit card.
  • With this wallet you will be able to pay for all tickets purchased in the app.
  • Once you pay for the journey the app will create a QR code that can be scanned at the check in and out points at the appropriate stations.
  • It is also possible to load credit into your wallet. With this function you are able to travel freely without planning your journey. Your wallet will have a unique QR code. Simply scan the code while checking in and out and the travel fare will be deducted from your credit. You will be presented with a complete overview of all transactions in the app.

4. Prototype

A simple prototype of the layout and workflow of the proposed function of the app.


This challenge has been a great introduction with the Design Thinking process, and to understand the theory behind it. It has helped me to see the importance of empathising with the user and keeping them at the centre of the design process. I look forward to developing this knowledge further and applying to many future projects.

I am a UX/UI design student at Ironhack Amsterdam. Follow my creative process and journey of becoming a designer.