Stony Brook University Transit Redesign
Timeline: September 2019 - December 2019
Team of One
Role: Researcher and Designer
Getting around campus is essential for a timely arrival to class, club meetings, and other activities. My former university, Stony Brook University (SBU) created an app to help students track the location and routes of their campus bus system. After missing the bus a few times due to complications with their app, I realized the SBU Transit app was in need of a design overhaul.
The SBU Transit app confusing interface and limited functionality leaves students unable to accurately track the location of SBU transit services.
I interviewed six current SBU students to get their thoughts on the transit app. Here is what I found:
Frequent routes vary based on dorm and building locations. The most used route is the outer loop mostly likely due to the route covering the entire campus. Although the users frequently use the transit system, their use of the app dwindled since the app would frequently not display the location of the buses, making the app unreliable. The app is not user friendly to new users. For example, the direction of the bus route is unclear on the app. Some of the icons are confusing since they are synonymous with other features on other widely used apps. Users complained about needing to download two more apps to track the location of a SBU operationed shuttle bus and the Suffolk County bus system, both of which have multiple stops and routes on campus. Users felt frustrated and upset when the app failed them, but satisfied when it worked correctly.
From the interview, I created a general profile of SBU college students:
Minimal time on the app, only interested locating the various transit services
Uses transportation to cut travel time
Uses transportation because they don’t want to walk a lot, feeling tired, time of day, weather conditions, too far to walk in a reasonable amount of time, needs to get to class/activity
Ideation: Guiding Questions
Out of the list of problems I had compiled, I prioritize these three (in order of importance):
How can we make the app useful when the location of the bus is not visible?
How can we make the app more user friendly towards current and new users?
How can we incorporate other on campus transportation tracking services into one app so users don’t have to download additional apps?
I prioritize addressing problem one as it would be the most beneficial to the purpose of the app and aid the problem that most users complain about.
Solution #1 : Time Table
Since the visibility of the bus tracking in the app is a technical problem, I played around with the idea of incorporating the bus route time table into the app. When the bus location isn’t visible, users can view a timetable which displays the names of the route stops, the times of the current and upcoming bus loop. When the bus tracking is working, a bus icon will appear next to the bus stop name.
Solution #2 : A More User Friendly App
When users tap on the bus button, they can see which bus routes are in and out of service. This saves time as users previously had to search the map for the bus icon to draw the same conclusion.
Navigation Bar vs. Buttons
I turned the bottom navigation bar into buttons so less of the map would hidden behind it.
Familiar Alert Icon
I changed the alert icon into a bell icon since that icon is more associated with notifications/alerts. I also move its location so it’s more noticeable and doesn’t blend into the map.
Solution #3: More Transit Options in One App
Transit options on SBU campus includes the Suffolk County S60 bus route, the SBU operated Port Jefferson shuttle bus, and bike loaning stations (similar to Citi Bikes). To view the status of all of the bus systems on campus, students must download three different apps. The bike loaning system doesn’t have an app.
I created the interface for bike tracking services. The bike icons are color coded. Green indicates five or more bikes are available, yellow means four or less bikes are available, and red means no bikes are available. This allows users to see where they can retrieve a bike and riders to see where they can return a bike. This information could give insight into which locations need more bike stations. Currently students would have to spend time walking or riding to bike stations to check availability.
Created the interface for the inclusion of the S60 and Port Jefferson bus into the SBU transit app. This includes adding new colors for the bus icons. The new colors introduced are color blind friendly according to Adobe Color.
Redesign vs. Current
Here is a demo of all of the changes I’ve implemented and a video of the current version.
SBU Transit Redesign
Current SBU Transit App (As of December 2019)
Insights from Testing
For testing, I reinterview all six students from the first interview. All participants agree that my design decisions improved their experience using the app and said they would be more likely to use the app with these changes. Two participants questioned the feasibility of the three in one app solution. I am not sure if the SBU administration would allocate time and money to make these solutions a reality. The next course of action would be to present the user friendly and time table solution to the SBU administration and gradually phase in each transit system from the other apps in future iterations.
Key Takeaways from the Project
It’s important to focus on fixing a few key problems at a time. I created a list of problems from my personal interactions with app and user interviews, but I quickly learned that I cannot fix all of them in a four month time frame. I prioritize the big problems and compile the other problems that could be addressed in future iterations.
The importance of user interviews and feedback. Although I’m a frequent user of this app, interviewing users gave me insight into how others use the app differently than me. As a result, I discovered issues that I would have completely missed.
Although some solutions may be feasible, companies may not want to additional money or pursue partnerships for the product. Combining three apps into one and adding a tracking system to the bikes is ambitious and may be a desirable solution for the users, but not to the company due to cost.