A real patriot is a fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices…
that the system works!
Speaking from personal experiences, wrong parking in cities like Bangalore occur due to lack of parking space and it takes almost 20 to 35 minutes to find them, more specifically, in the central business district areas (MG Road, Brigade Road, Kamaraj Road, Commercial Street and Residency Road). Bangalore conforms to the global average time spent looking for a parking spot, which is 20 minutes, according to the then released fourth annual IBM Commuter Pain Survey. This provided a unique look into the interplay between traffic congestion and human emotions.
The endeavour to successfully tailor the experiences was driven by the intention of making people’s emotions like “ease” and “comfort” synonymous with the idea of taking their motorised vehicles out of their garages without any hesitation of loss of time finding a place to park in a safe and secure spot and make hassle-free payments at the toll gates.
- Attracting users from all community levels of the city to benefit from the convenience of parking their vehicles without hassle
- Managing overcrowded situations in parking spaces by deploying streamlined use of technology for users
- Helping users from losing precious time and money
- Facilitating easier modes of payment, using relevant technology, for paying parking toll fees
- To simplify the visual and functional aspect of the app.
Defining Key Pain-Points
- For first time users, unfamiliarity with the convenience of finding and reserving parking spots even before reaching the venue
- No resonance with the experiences and habitual responses which people cognitively have towards using other existing need-based services like hailing a cab (like Uber) or making travel bookings (like Booking.com)
- No control, flexibility and transparency given to the users basis their requirements in real-time. Lack of clarity and constant support would lose the users’ trust and thus its credibility in the users’ eyes
User Research Phase
In order to identify the user behavioural patterns and psychographic profiles — i.e., their needs, pain points and motivations —a few hours were taken to draft some open-ended and direct questions related to the topic and used them as a basis for in-person/telephonic conversations with few of the people I have known/collaborated, while living in Bangalore, and who were also willing to share their experiences during an interview-like session.
Purpose of User Interview:
- Understand the end to end steps of the customer with respect to the platform
- Identifying customer touch points in the journey
- Identifying pain points
- What they expect from the end user
Interview Questions to Users:
- Do you own a car or a bike? If yes, how frequently do you use it as a mode of conveyance?
- Do you prefer driving your vehicle or using public transportation/ride sharing services? Why so (in either case)?
- Do you plan your travel every day before leaving from home? Either way, how does that affect your daily schedule?
- Does your office/places your regularly visit have parking spaces? If not, how do you end up parking your vehicle?
- Do you like having a reserved parking spot for places you regularly visit?
- How much time on an average do you end up spending, finding a parking space?
- How much do you ideally spend on parking vehicles?
- How do you check for tariffs or pricing slabs for the parking time in these parking lots?
- For regular travels and parkings in the same space, would you prefer a subscription to save your spending on parkings?
- How do you manage the parking receipts after making the payment?
*Read the full document on “User Research and Key Insights” here*
Observations from the key insights were noted down on sticky notes and colour coded until it collectively gave out enough data points to articulate what we know about a particular type of user, which would affect the design decisions I took.
By having the four quadrant, namely “Says”, “Thinks”, “Feel” and “Does”, exhibiting the different behavioural and psychographic state of the user when encountered with a given vehicular parking situation, the intentions of this exercise were to:
- Remove bias from my designs and align myself with the true nature of understanding the user/s
- Uncover user needs that the user themselves might not even be well aware of
- Understand what drives users’ behaviours
- Provision of guidance towards meaningful innovation
While elaborating on the types of users accounted for who would be using the platform, two predominant user groups had been identified during my research phase:
- “Young Professionals” — People who are employed in a profession or white-collar occupation at a young, working age. They usually have little familial responsibilities to shoulder and are able to take some time out for themselves; and
- “Family Driven People” — People who are managing personal and professional lives in equal measure, as a large contribution of their time and effort goes into taking care of a small/big family (i.e, with elderly people, children, husband/wife)
Based on the exercises done above, two Personas were crafted. These personas served to inform the design decisions during the initial phase of design & research.
Customer Journey Maps
Taking the key persona (Harshit’s) behaviour, goals, needs and motivations into account, the follow up on the thought process was laid out in stages and against which, every interaction touch points, the user’s emotional and psychological state and product opportunities were plotted.
Next, identifying and brainstorming the key features would eventually help the users in reaching their journey’s goal in the shortest and easiest way possible.
The entry point and the main navigation was accounted for, which starts from the user opening the app, searching for a destination, choosing the right parking spot and paying for it online and lastly, have a countdown timer for the duration for which the booking was made, with an option to extend the time window and make additional payment against the same.
After having gained architectural understanding of the hierarchy of elements that will flow into one another, some solutions which the users could benefit from were fleshed out. A brainstorming activity like sketching out low-fidelity ideas on paper helped me to visualise multiple routes to a single solution and eased in the process of zeroing down on a couple options to execute.
- The interface should have a clean and minimal look. (One of the biggest bone of contentions amongst our users was that they were greeted with a barrage of information whenever they visited the few existing platforms and this was too much to take in)
- The interaction between various elements in the interface should be seamless and quick to uptake
- The platform should be easy to navigate with proper visual cues that make even a first time user feel at ease
“For first time users, unfamiliarity with the convenience of finding and reserving parking spots even before reaching the venue”
Solution: While some of the users may have an idea if they used other online car parking platforms, the goal is to walk them through the first-time process (as seen above), while using easy humanising language to communicate and drive the attention of the audience towards their first step
“No resonance with the experiences and habitual responses which people cognitively have towards using other existing need-based services like hailing a cab (like Uber) or making travel bookings (like Booking.com)”
Solution: Taking a cue from Jakob’s Law (a defining UX law that states users prefer your product to work the same way as all the other sites they already know), I have mimicked a similar search destination interaction, albeit while maintaining the design language created for this app
“No control, flexibility and transparency given to the users basis their requirements in real-time. Lack of clarity and constant support would lose the users’ trust and thus its credibility in the users’ eyes”
Solution 1: Important filters like arriving time, duration of booking and price range were brought to the fore (and not buried inside the filters option) to provide users the control over their search and help them see the availability and exact prices get reflected dynamically
- The abridged look and necessary options of the app (as seen above) lure the user and grant them to handle it more and often the frolic way assuring Aesthetic-Usability
- In accordance to Miller’s Law (i.e., an average person can only keep 7 (plus or minus 2) items in their working memory), chunking of information on a white card proved to be an effective method of presenting groups of content in a manageable way
- Colour stabs deep into the heart. I have given a plain white background and the icons represented in specific colours for each category type of booking
- Lastly, following Fitts’s Law of making elements larger with clear positioning to make them easily selectable, the main CTAs (“Navigate” or “Reserve”) on the info card and the price tag were consciously large with sharper colours.
Solution 2: The descriptive card view captured all the necessary information in a nutshell for the user to quickly scan through the important takeaways. Mirroring the different toll-tariff structure in parking spots on weekdays and weekends, the user is given the flexibility right on the app to view and change the duration for which they’ll have their vehicle parked at the destination, basis the costs.
Solution 3: Mimicking the real-life pattern of how users are familiar reaching the parking space and then finding a right spot to park their vehicle, I have sketched a schematic representation of an actual parking lot with the option for the user to pick and select the desired spot while avoiding the situation to make an on-spot decision after having reached the destination.
Empathy is one of the core elements of the design framework. Spend as much time you could to understand the user’s perspective and context in and out.
Sketch and Stretch Ideas
Instead of speculating possibilities in your head and jumping straight to rendering digitized screens, you have to start putting things down on paper trying and testing the smallest of brainwaves till it takes the shape of something viable and effective
Avoid the Guessing Game
There is always a tendency to get started with the solutions after hearing the design challenges which lead to faulty design outcomes. Try to guess less and focus more on the user, business aspects to better form the actual design challenges.