Ironhack’s Prework:Challenge 1_Citymapper

5 min readJan 4, 2021

Public transportations is deeply rooted in most of our daily routines. They can impact our schedule in great way. …and I don’t think I am the only one who has experienced some frustrations while using them.

Today, I attempt to hackle one of critical problems users face while using public transportation system: ticket purchasing.

Well the thing is, Where I grew up, South Korea is a densely populated country and public transportation is a big part of most of us. I never really felt like I needed a car because our public transportation is THAT good.

The issue addressed in this project for Citymapper was that there needs to be a simple way to unify the buying tickets experience for users who take different means of transportations often.

Hm but, South Korea already kinda has a solution for it.

They have integrated an all-in-one pay system in most of their bank cards so that anyone who has either a check card or a credit card can just tap their cards to a digital pad that are located at the entrance of any transportations such as subways, trains, buses, even taxis. It will let you transfer to another transportation (even if it is a different type of transportation or company) for free if you make the transfer within 30 mins after the previous ride.

SO..what kind of additional feature could we offer in Citymapper for a better pay system? What kinds of pain points are there that we are still missing?

Maybe design thinking methodology can help us here :)

First, Let’s Empathize

THE Problem to solve:

Well, before writing the problem statement, I interviewed a couple people to better understand what they have to say about this.

My target audience was non-english speakers who have lived in Korea for more than 3 months.

My pretty generic interview questions for them were:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. What was your first public transportation you used?
  3. Could you tell me a bit about the first experience with that transportation if you remember?
  4. Could you tell me why you used that transportation over others?
  5. Could you tell me about the last time you used public transportation?
  6. Is there anything that stands out about that experience?
  7. Could you tell me how you pay to use public transits?
  8. Was there a time that your need or want was not met while using the service?
  9. When you encounter obstacles like this, how do you go about addressing them?
  10. Could you tell me step by step how you plan your trip using a public transportation of your choice?

In total, I interviewed 6 great people with different backgrounds and many interesting insights!

From the findings I observed during the interviews, I moved on to the next stage of design thinking which was…

DEFINE what the problem is here

My interviewees seem to struggle with:

  • Long and similar English spellings for Korean names.
  • No easy ways to view trip histories or payment history for their previous transportation uses.
  • No easy ways to tell how crowded the overall trip is going to be
  • Having to use the same card from the start to the end of the trip
  • The digital pad does not offer much information then how much is being charged.

My problem statement:

  1. Non-Korean speakers living in Korea with public transportation have hard time with long and unreadable alphabet spellings of destinations, making it difficult to navigate their trip.
  2. In heavily populated cities, the users also find challenging to estimate their trip time as there are risk of wait time and/or traffic.
  3. The payment method is simple but there is space for improvement in understandability, and its thoroughness.

And then now, we IDEATE

The goal was to come up with as many solutions as possible. Then quickly access and pick two to three solutions that would solve the problem in the most efficient ways.

A potential solution for problem statement 1 is an audible service. For the non-korean speakers to navigate the ways easier, offering audible service with a small headphone icon that pops up when you click on any destination names.

For the problem statement 2, I thought what if we add “prediction” feature to the app and let users play with time of the day to plan out their trip as they want. The feature will allow users to roll on a slot machine and instantly compare how long the trip will take depending on when and where they take off. It will provide wider range of traveling and transferring options to optimize their trip to save the most money and time.

Another solution I just thought of while writing the second solution is to add “Suggested by AI” feature. Why do we only consider point A and B? Why not point A1, A2, A3.. and so on? What if the user can have way easier way to travel from A to B if they walk a bit away from the point A? For example, from point A to get to point B, the feature will suggest “if you walk 3 more mins to get to point A1, you will have (1) less transfer, save (1,200 won) and (10 mins) of the overall trip.” AI with the database of map, viral traffic information, and public transportation data will suggest the best trip solution to users that they wouldn’t have been able to know without the service.

Lastly, but not least,

For the buy-a-ticket issue (which is what this project was originally about..oops), I thought of adding a section/menu where users can sync their credit cards or bank accounts to view their past payments on transportation with the time of use, name of stations, and (even) exact number of the vehicle they took. This could go further to add a digital wallet feature in CityMapper interface to offer a total pay system for easier and unified ticket purchasing user experience.


I am an awful drawer but here is what I sketched about the solutions I had.

Low fi prototype for additional features on Citymapper

Final Thoughts..

I think my favorite part in UX research is definitely the interviews because I get to sit down and brain-pick various individuals on this kinds of interesting topics. Everytime I conduct an interview I learn new lessons. This time, I realized:

  • Same service can be totally different experience for different individuals. They can be at the same place and at the same time, and view the experience completely differently.
  • And our design should consider that and find a solution that can satisfy as many users as possible
  • It is great to know how to pull and push while conducting interviews..some interviewee talk more and the others talk less.
  • But most importantly… time management! I again remind myself how important it is to outline a to-do list for a project or a task and tackle them accordingly.

Thank you for reading and happy designing :)




Kayla is a curious and empathetic Product Designer who loves building seamless design that offers users and businesses easier ways of life