Design Thinking to improve UX in public transportation — a UX case study


For this challenge the EMT (Madrid’s public transport service) will be presented as our client. Our main goal is to improve the experience of bus users; we will offer a technological solution to increase the users’ satisfaction towards accessibility during the bus trip as well as when waiting for the bus to arrive.

Although the accessibility conditions for people with reduced mobility have been improved by the public transport service by upgrading the buses’ platforms and by offering assigned seats, the number of users has decreased every year.


Firstly, we will focus on the use of the double diamond process, which consists in divergent and convergent thinking, through observation, definition, ideation and prototype. Starting with a general problem, then its specification, and approaching to a final solution at the end.

Double Diamond method.


Our research process begins with an exploration focused on the user, the client and its competitors. Every question we could think of, related to these three topics, we wrote on post-its and sticked them to the wall. This is how we started to lead our investigation. Some of the questions:

  • How is the user experience with the app?
  • Which problems does a disabled person face when travelling?
  • Does the company offer good technological services?
  • Does the competition have specific services for disable people?

Desktop research

By doing a desktop research based on the competition, we collected data of alternatives transportation to the bus, such as VTC, taxis and other kinds of public transport. We also gathered information of mobility apps and disabled people oriented apps.

We concluded that almost every public transport service in the country offers the same solutions for people with reduced mobility, such as assigned seats, reserved platforms and ramps for wheelchairs.

On the other hand, we found many apps committed to disabled people, and none of their functions are contemplated in the EMT Madrid’s app.

VTC, taxis and every car sharing service present direct competition to the EMT due to their capacity of covering the users’ routes extensively.

Qualitative research

Following our investigation, we collected opinions and comments from users in numerous blogs and EMT’s social networks. We found several claims for malfunction of the ramps, and other comments such as ‘buses rarely have their sound system on’.

Safari in the bus.

In order to extend our qualitative investigation, we made a safari to the EMT buses. In a rainy day we studied the user’s experience using the public transport. We witnessed some problematic situations, for example, a senior citizen couldn’t get to the central platform because the bus was highly crowded. Other elderly people weren’t able to reach the reduced mobility assigned seats, and had to travel standing since there was no other option. Furthermore, the information screen set in the front of the bus couldn’t be seen from the back, and in other cases it’s not even turned on.


To better understand the general experience of EMT users, we created a questionnaire through Google Forms. The following graphics represent the experience and interaction of the users with the public buses. First, we can see that a big percentage use this transport occasionally. Secondly, that most of the people get their information through the EMT app. And finally, that people use this form of transportation to get to their working places, schools/universities and for leisure.

Questionnaire graphics.


Once we defined a script for the interviews, we split our team in two and we headed to centers and foundations directly related to people with reduced mobility. When we arrived we faced our first finding, the employees told us about the need of programming the interviews with some anticipation. Due to the insufficient accessibility to move around the city, people with reduced mobility have very strict routines.

Finally, we managed to get an interview with a blind woman in the Fundación Once, previously scheduled to avoid causing any inconveniences. Lucía, Fundación Once’s volunteers coordinator, told us about her daily routine, how she moves around the city, her experience with public transport and the importance of technology in her life.

User Persona

Based on all the information collected in the questionnaires and interviews, we generated two User Personas. We represented senior people through Juana, and disabled people thorugh Laura.

This process helps to achieve a unification of the team when defining the specific problem, as every member can follow the same line to find a solution.

User Personas.

Empathy map

We developed an empathy map for each User Persona, defining their experiences when taking the bus, focusing on what they think, feel, see, hear and say. These maps helped us to empathize and synthesize our observations.

We realized about the need of disabled people to get external help when interacting with the whole service, such as waiting for the bus as a blind person and not knowing which bus it is unless asking someone. Or, when inside the bus, not being aware of reaching their stop if the sound system is not available.

Customer Journey

Based on the previous maps we created the user’s journeys, where we graphically represented their interaction points with the EMT service, and at the same time their pain points. These are the key points where we are going to focus our challenge next.

Customer Journeys.


Before defining the specific problem for which we attempt to find a solution, we marked some key points of our research. From different selected findings, we defined the insights that will take us to a viable fix:

  • Need of an app that unifies different others.
  • Need of self-suffiency of people with reduced mobility.
  • Need of inclusion confronting differentiating systems.
  • Need of information regarding the streets traffic and type of bus.

To proceed to the next step of specification of the problem and definition of the challenge, we decided to use the How Might We questions process, centered in the insights previously defined. After voting the posed questions, which will help us find the adequate solution to fix the pain points marked in the customers’ journeys, we established our challenge:

Creating a tool that unifies the needs of a disabled person travelling by public transport.

Author: Violeta Goldin

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