Chapter 2 Content

User Experience Design Exercise

Design a public transportation app—a digital tool that allows users to interact with public transportation in your town or city.


Design assets for an app where public transport modes, routes, schedules, and fares can be easily viewed, sorted, saved, and purchased. The client might be a local government, municipality, or transportation
authority. It could also be a private company seeking to partner with local government, or it could be a firm just looking to use public data to make a profitable product. Include UX assets for a smartphone-based

Research and Methodology

Search out public transportation information for your city or town. What modes are used? Bus transport is quite common, but see if it extends to rail, trolley, subway, and bike or car share. What kind of features
would potential users value? In order to make a compelling experience, you might have to specify a direction through the app. For instance: commuting vs. exploring. Assessing the general needs of your community will help dictate that direction. Is tourism popular in your area? Is there a large commuting workforce? Are there any colleges or universities nearby? These will have wide-ranging implications on the user experience.


What would motivate a client to create such an experience? What kind of information could be gleaned from users, and how would this impact their bottom line? For example, users who purchase tickets digitally could help free up space at physical ticket machines and kiosks. Identify key performance indicators that are tailored to your client selection.


Your initial research might have yielded some initial insight. Does your product cater to travelers, or mostly locals? Apps supported by municipalities generally tend to have an older demographic, while private companies skew towards a younger one.The “cool factor” is partially at play here:local governments don’t usually advertise their products using any emotional strategies. Their brand aesthetic is likely toned down, while an individual company might tug the heartstrings of their users and seem visually exciting by contrast.


Using routes and timetables for existing public transportation is the easiest way to begin. Creating this kind of content from scratch is time consuming and wouldn’t yield any real advantages. However, don’t import an entire bus system schedule since you just need one or two routes to show asa proof of concept. Bringing in more general content (like text copy) is fine for now, because you can finesse it later.

Project Brief

Starting with the vision statement, begin outlining the problem or opportunity. The specifications are known: this will be an app-based experience. The design strategy will take the shape of what kind of client you’ve chosen. Tone and visual goals might be more accommodating for a public entity, while a private company might opt for a wit-based approach and more defined visual style.

User Research

Dig deeper into the demographic a bit. You might start by asking friends and family if they use public transportation apps. Setting up a poll that you can conduct through a larger network is even more helpful.Conducting real user interviews for a spec project might be overkill, but a thoughtfully written questionnaire that someone can fill out digitally might just do the trick.


After enough research has been gleaned, craft two to three personas based on it. Design a basic template so that each one fits on a single page. Make sure to write a sample bio, noting their tech abilities, the user goals related to this project, sticking points, and wants and needs. A sample bio photo makes everything feel more real.Search for “headshot photo” on royalty-free photo websites such as

User Flow

After you’ve identified some basic end goals, tasks and functionality that create a user flow is the next step. Start with the most basic task (such as login or signup)and continue through to the end of each piece of functionality. Remember, there will be places where actions or decisions split the flow into separate directions. The end result will look like a schematic. Make this look nice and neat visually, but don’t feel the need to overdesign it.

User Journey

With the user flow in place, begin creating the user journey by writing scenarios based on the linear steps. Groups of actions will form a single scenario such signing up for an account. The user journey should show these groups in singular screens or pages.List the scenario at the top, along with goals.The steps from the user flow run horizontally across the middle in a linear fashion.Feedback noting frustrations, opportunities, and surprises goes below this.

Content Inventory and Audit

You’ve likely already brought in general copy with your more detailed transportation route information. Now is the time to rewrite that copy and craft it so that it resonates with both the entity that you’ve chosen and your persona. This will mean that your content will feel either official and formal, or a bit more casual and third-party. This isn’t to say that a government entity can’t be perceived as a bit fun, but consider the demographic and research in taking leaps of faith.

Market Research

This is where you’ll look at any existing apps concerning public transportation. It’s likely that your town or city won’t have one, but try and find municipalities of the same size that might. Download several and compare them to any apps that have been developed by private companies. Think about the branding (or lack of) and how it contributes to the user experience. Compare functionality and take notes about which actions are easier to complete between them. Assess what’s essential, useful, unnecessary, or missing. Is there any part of the experience that’s made to be fun? If so, how? And how could any confusion about a particular action be smoothed out and made easier?

Information Architecture

Creating some site maps will help frame out the experience if you have a grasp on how functionality will connect with content. If you’ve prioritized functions but aren’t sure how they’ll be featured, a mind map might be a good option. Design the information architecture that fits on one page. These should be neatly presented, but don’t spend too much time designing these documents.


Quickly drawing some sketches that bookend the information architecture will give you a chance to “walk through” the functionality before going digital. If there are any dead ends at this point, it’s easier to sort them out at this stage.

UX Copy

The research you’ve done should inform how serious or how casual the UX copy flows. Will it be clear and authoritative, or will it whimsically carry you along? The decisions you’ve made up to this point will determine that. With the paper prototypes in hand, go through each screen and address copy needs. Make sure the tone is consistent before moving on.


You can then use your sketches and copy to create some low-fidelity wireframes that present the screens a bit more clearly.Remember to consider the most important functions per screen, the copy you’ve written, and to leave space for imagery (you can specify notes about this too).

Mood Boards

An informative set of mood boards is the cherry on top of the complete UX package.Refer back to your personas, write a list of adjectives (for example, efficient, friendly, reliable etc.) and use these to search out some images that capture the attitude of the app. The UI designer will thank you forgiving some direction but not overstepping the visual direction. Then again, there’s a chance you might be performing both roles!

Reflection and Revision

Looking back at the research and intent that you framed earlier, has that been expressed through the entire user experience? Does the path through the app feel consistent?What about the tone and UX copy? Does it seem appropriate? Interjecting a bit of wit could work well for a privately backed app, but it could be a faux pas for a public-facing organization or government. Revisit the user flow and user journey, and make sure that there aren’t any snags in the process.Confirm this by testing the wireframes again. In comparing this to your market research, does it hold up well? Or are there places where the flow gets a bit muddy?Are there any moments where this app really shines? Can they be further highlighted as a feature?