Ironhack’s Prework Challenge 1: Design Thinking

My name is Mireya Fernández and I am participating in Ironhack’s UX/UI bootcamp. In order to start the bootcamp it is necessary to complete a prework, where we learn about UX/UI basic concepts. My first challenge during this prework is a case study about Design Thinking.

Citymapper background

Citymapper is a public transit and mapping startup based in Silicon Valley. Their goal is to solve the problems of urban mobility by offering the quickest and cheapest public and private transport routes to their users.

The client already has a mobile application, with the following features:

  • It finds the best route according to time, traffic and cost.
  • It includes different means of transport.
  • It calculates the cost of that route.
  • It integrates mapping service.
  • It also includes private transit options.

The problem comes when a user needs to use different means of transport. In order to complete the route it is necessary to purchase the tickets for each mean of transport, for instance, train and metro. The main goal of this project is to create a new feature for the app that solves this problem, allowing the user to buy a single ticket for the whole route.

To solve this problem I will be using the Design Thinking process.


Empathize is the first step of Design Thinking, where you get a better understanding of the problem. In order to do so, I interviewed 6 users of public transport (both locally and abroad) to get a better view of the main pain points of public transportation.

The mains questions asked during the interviews were:

1. Do you use public transport? What type of public transportation do you use more? Do you use any app to find the route you have to take? Do you use more than one?

2. How do you purchase the tickets? Have you ever had any problem buying tickets? Does your app allow you to buy tickets?

3. If it was possible, would you buy tickets through the app? Would you feel confortable using a digital ticket instead of an analog one?

4. Are you familiar to digital paying through apps?

5. Have you ever used any of those app while you were traveling in another city?


The second stage of Design Thinking is Define. This step is designed for collecting the information gathered during the empathize stage, analyzing that date and detecting the main problem we want to solve.

Most of the interviewees use different means of transport (subway, train or bus), but usually they have a monthly travel pass that makes it easier to change from one to another without having to purchase a new ticket.

Taking that into account, the main problems, when talking about their local public transportation, are:

  • Buying that monthly ticket through old and badly designed machines. Sometimes they don’t even accept credit cards.
  • Where to buy tickets. In some train stations there aren’t any machines to purchase them.
  • The ones who don’t have a monthly pass, have trouble finding out what ticket they have to buy.
  • Combining different means of transport can be tricky, specially when it comes to train due to delays.
  • Some stations are not accessible to handicap people.
  • Some stations don’t have mobile coverage.
  • In Madrid, the monthly ticket doesn’t include “BiciMad” (bikes).
  • Tickets, even the monthly ones, aren’t very “eco-friendly”, and having to buy them through a machine isn’t very “corona-friendly”.
  • Most of them would use the feature of purchasing the tickets through the app and are familiar to online paying.

And, when it comes to travel in another city:

  • It is easy to get lost.
  • They find it hard to know what ticket to purchase.
  • Language can be a problem.
  • Some prefer to buy a tourist ticket, even if it is more expensive, so they don’t have to buy different types of tickets depending on the mean of transport.
  • Some would rather use private transport abroad so they avoid getting lost.

Finally, most of the interviewees use apps to move around the city using public transport, but they mainly use Google Maps (one of them used Citymapper).

To sum up, buying tickets can be tricky, due to problems with the machines or trouble distinguishing what ticket to buy. These problems get worse when traveling abroad, as language and not knowing the city are added to the previous problems. Most of the interviewees would find it helpful to buy tickets through a route app and would use that feature is it was offered. Some believe that this feature would be more ecological and helpful during the coronavirus pandemic times that we live in.


The next step in Design Thinking is called Ideate. The goal of this stage is generate logical ideas after analyzing the data gathered in the previous stages. Using brainstorm techniques we can find multiple different solutions for the problems we found.

In my case, I brainstormed different aspects the new feature should include and I picked three which I believed are the most relevant ones:

  • Purchase the ticket through the app and pay with a QR code: it is an essential aspect nowadays, with the “new normal” lifestyle we have to deal with, due to Coronavirus pandemic. Make it possible to pay with Apple Pay.
  • Offline access: there are many stations (at least in Madrid) where there is no access to internet, so it would be necessary to have the option to buy the ticket when you have internet and use it offline later if you need it.
  • A list of different tickets you can purchase: to make it easier to know the one you need. It can also include a list of stations and see if they are accessible and at what hours they are more crowded, so you can avoid them (if possible) to maintain social distancing (like Google Maps does with shops or traffic).

To make these possible, it would have to be discussed and authorized by the Transport Consortium.

I will maintain the original design of the app to make it easier for user to add this feature to their routine.


The last stage is called Prototype. In this stage I developed a low fidelity design of the new feature the app will have, choosing one of the ideas from the previous stage.

One of the important aspects that this prototype takes into account is the offline mode. Once you pay there is a summary page where you decide if you want to use the ticket right now or later. If you select later, you can access to that ticket at anytime, without having to have access to internet.

Another interesting feature is the route selection, where you can choose, nor only between the quickest, but also between the cheapest route to take.


Thanks to this exercise I have notice all the different elements an app has, and how they solve users problems.

This challenge made me realise how important it is to follow each step of the Design Thinking process to achieve the best results, not taking for granted what the user wants or needs. For that reason, one of the most helpful parts of the process was the interviews. Coming out with the correct questions (and listening carefully to the answers) is the best way to find the best solutions to problems you may not even think you have.

Former Architect turned to UX/UI Designer