There is no doubt that mobility has gone mobile. All of the major parts of a mobility journey are being completed on our devices. Mode choice, scheduling, ticketing, access and routing are all delivered through a range of mobility apps. In younger urban city dwellers, you are more likely to overhear a passionate debate of whether CityMapper or GoogleMaps is a better navigation app, than whether the new Audi or BMW is the better vehicle.
One leading indication of the advance is the amount of Venture Capital funding going into this space. McKinsey reports that, since 2010, there has been over $220bn of VC investment spread across 1,100 mobility companies, with e-hailing, connectivity, AV software and mapping (all areas that are heavily mobile dependent) making up roughly 40% of the total investment.
Another factor driving this trend is the fragmentation of the technology landscape within vehicles. If a mobility provider wants to quickly gain access to customers, a mobile-first strategy over an in-vehicle strategy is likely to give much quicker results.
With the increase in interest and funding, there is, unsurprisingly, a lot of competition. Travel apps make up 3.9% of the roughly 2m applications in the Apple App Store, or roughly 80,000 apps.
So how do you make your mobility application rise above the rest?
When we are presented with this question, our response is always a relentless focus on the specific needs of users within their mobility context. For example, we recently created an application to help drivers search and navigate to different parking options. Now parking may sound like a small step in any journey; but it’s a massively important one.
British Parking Association research has found that the average motorist in the UK spends nearly four days every year looking for parking, and that four in ten motorists say finding somewhere to park is a stressful experience. In addition to the impact this has on drivers and passengers, there is an economic effect as well, with potential journey makers staying at home rather than making trips to work, or to shop.
Here are the principles and approach we used to uncover and meet drivers’ parking needs.
Discovery of the actual users’ pain points
In partnership with our client’s product team, we looked at drivers’ user journeys before, during and after parking, and singled out the most frustrating roadblocks on their way to a successful parking experience:
- Overall stress level during driving and its influence on the driver’s ability to concentrate on something else (i.e. searching/filtering/viewing directions/switching between apps).
- Uncertainty (i.e. going to an unfamiliar location, worrying about safety, not knowing whether there will be parking available, inability to predict the definite time of arrival due to the absence of parking, or the budget and payment options).
Always having our specific users in mind, we focused on building a solution that would help to overcome the earlier mentioned pain-points.
We managed to help drivers save time by showing app value straight away, by building an easy and fast solution, and by providing a super-easy first-time experience. Some specific examples here would be:
- Avoiding login/registration/onboarding for the basic use cases,
- Providing parking options straight away after opening the app, and enabling the user to easily narrow them down,
- Making sure that the app is fast, even though it’s built on a large amount of real-time data.
Provide added value and comfort
- The design was built so that actual curbside parking options were visualized as realistically as possible, making it much easier to find the exact spot,
- We utilized our customer’s data about real-time availability parking options and combined them with the “follow me” mode, which allows to view these options while driving, in order to provide a non-disruptive, continuous experience for the drivers who are on the go.
Keep the focus on what’s important
Discovering end-users’ needs and concerns allowed us to come up with and prioritize the most crucial features at the core of the app user experience, and keep it beautiful and useful in its simplicity. We specifically focused on:
- An immediate parking search,
- Providing the best options right after launching the app with all the minimum data needed for a mindful choice,
- The ability to quickly scan the data,
- Being able to substitute navigation apps in order to provide our users with a smooth driving experience with minimal distractions.
This, hand in hand with some specific design decisions (different views for different zoom levels, clusterization, filtering), helped us to avoid on-screen clutter and better visualize the abundance of parking data.
Iterations, iterations, iterations
We have continuously applied a “review and refine” approach to every developed feature, without waiting for the full MVP to be built. We conducted multiple user testing sessions throughout the process and managed to avoid the “assumptions based” approach to design and development: the end solution was specifically built solely around and for the end-users.
Design system development
Creating and building on a design system helped us to shape simple, consistent designs and behaviors, which, in the end, both saved development efforts and simplified user experience from the get-go.
Design for scalability
From the very start, we were building a solution, which, in the future, would be easily:
Whatever app in mobility you’re building, it’s always great to keep these three elements in mind to avoid any turmoil when the time comes to show it to the rest of the world.
We’re proud of this work; however, it goes without saying, that in mobility, nothing stands still. Perhaps the most important consideration in creating a successful mobility app is the focus on continual learning. Learning to unearth new pain points and the approaches necessary to solve them. So what have we missed? What other approaches, techniques or tricks have you used to make successful mobility applications?