Transforming an under-utilized website into a multi-feature carpool app
Corsair Connect is Santa Monica College's official carpool website. However, it's heavily underutilized; only 8% of faculty and 4% of students check Corsair Commute regularly.
My team redesigned this website as an app to facilitate productive conversations to match riders with drivers and improve mobile UX.
UX 2, Fall 2018
1. Secondary research
- current website use
- SMC student demographics
2. Primary research
- journey maps
4. Conceptualization & Testing
- paper prototype
- digital prototypes
team manager, screen designer, interviewer
Will Gamez, Inaki Gaztelumendi
“How might we help students commute to SMC more quickly and safely? How might we facilitate productive conversations on Corsair Commute to match drivers with riders?”
HEURISTIC COMPETITIVE EVALUATION
As a group, we discussed the pros, cons, and unique functionalities of sites and apps like Google Maps, Transit, Corsair Commute, and Moovit. This process helped inform our ultimate goals – we wanted to create an app that fulfilled all the criteria listed.
Some things are better shown than explained, especially when it comes to transportation routes and options at Santa Monica College. The maps at http://smc.edu/MapsDirections/Pages/default.aspx proved particularly useful to help us understand the best routes available to students on various forms of transportation (bike, Big Blue Bus, Expo Rail, Metro).
Corsair Commute targets Santa Monica College students that live outside Santa Monica. We sent a survey to 80 students to gain a sense of the student body's identities - their age, gender expression, ethnicity, home, and school-related goals.
After gathering demographic information on SMC's student population, we interviewed 5 students to hear about the painpoints and unprecedented factors that affect the quality of their commutes to school.
What neighborhood do you typically commute from?
Can you walk me through every step of transportation you take to arrive on campus?
Can you think of any painpoints in your daily commute?
How long does your commute take in rush hour, and how long does it take with no traffic?
What times do you normally leave to and from school?
Have issues with transportation ever affected your grades or attendance at SMC?
SMC offers student carpooling at corsaircommute.com, free Big Blue Bus rides, Waze carpool, Zipcars with the first 2 hours free, free bike repair on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and an inter-campus shuttle. Have you ever used any of these resources? Which ones? Why or why not? Were you aware that these existed?
On a scale of 1-6, 6 being perfect and 1 being abysmal, how would you rank the experience of commuting to school?
We summarized the results from our 5 student interviews below. The answers were largely predictable - those who drove reported "LA traffic" as their biggest painpoint, whereas those who took public transportation complained about their wasted time while waiting for the bus, train maintenance delays, and the price of e-scooters. However, both women mentioned safety on public transportation as a primary concern, backing their fears with specific memories of violent passengers. The lowest ranking anyone gave their commute was a 4/6. We believe this reflects the interviewees' tendency to view the world positively than it reflects their actual commute experience.
commute with traffic: 45 min
commute without traffic: 10 min
biggest complaints: traffic, lack of gas, bad radio DJ
hasn’t heard of corsaircommute.com
may try corsair commute since he’s already used to driving strangers (he’s been an Uber driver)
says that mobility has no effect on grades/attendance
rating: 4/6, because it’s “meh”
doesn’t feel safe riding public transportation at night
avoids night classes due to safety
feels limited by cost of parking
12 minute without traffic
familiar with SMC's transportation options, but doesn’t feel that they suit her needs
rating: 4/6 due to undesirable interactions with other riders while using public transport at rush hour
With traffic: 1 hour (Train) / 20 min (Lyft)
Without traffic: About the same, Lyft takes longer
Scooter costs too much for long rides
Wasted time at bus / train stops
Haoran finds SMC shuttles unreliable,
Uses scooter for SMC – CMD route
Mobility has very little to no effect on grades/attendance
Rating: 4, because Lyft is usually cheap and fast (Price range: $3-$15)
For each student we interviewed, we created a journey map based on their response. These journey maps helped us visualize the connection between students' goals, choices, emotions, and steps of their commutes.
We then boiled down everything from the five user journeys above into two archetypal personas: Commuter Connie and Mobile Mark. Connie deals with traffic and closed roads on her drive to school from Hollywood, while Mark decides his mode of transportation (e-scooter) from Venice last second. Connie struggles to stay awake, and Mark would have preferred to ride an Uber, had it not been so expensive. Both personas would benefit from an app that pairs them with fellow student commuters - Connie could use some company to keep her awake (thus eliminating her need for coffee, saving time and money), whereas Mark could catch a ride, save money, and make a new friend.
Next, we drew a rough sketch to portray one way that students could use Corsair Commute - as a last-minute, optimum-route navigator with all public transportation schedules synced. In this circumstance, the student uses Corsair Commute the same way he could have used Transit or Google Maps.
I took the lead on this section of the project. Since my team had been attempting to answer two focus questions from the start - "How might we help students commute to SMC more quickly and safely, and how might we facilitate productive conversations on Corsair Commute to match drivers with riders?", we chose to split the app into two toggle-able main pages: the navigation map and the carpool posts. These initial sketches helped us work out the details of app layout and flow.
Again, I handled this part of the project mainly by myself. I tested this cardstock phone app prototype on four student testers (one was camera shy).
Common strains in feedback:
Students only want travel with students they’re already friends with, not strangers at the same school.
Class calendar seems unnecessary and nosy.
Make profile setup instructions clearer.
Students like our idea and say they’d use it.
As we moved forward creating a clickable prototype, we gave further thought to our goal app aesthetic. We decided to emulate Santa Monica College's brand by highlighting the school's colors and to use Century othic for its clean, modern style.
Check out the entire moodboard at the button below.
DIGITAL SCREEN DESIGN
These screens became the basis for our InVision prototype. We designed the screens so that users would flow between 3 main functions - setting up their preferences, navigating to school using combinations of public transportation, and setting up rides with fellow students. Below are just a sample of the 21 screens which made up the prototype.
DIGITAL PROTOTYPE TESTS
We then created a clickable prototype in InVision and tested the screens on seven SMC students.
You can test it yourself by clicking the button below.
Going back is difficult.
Community board is hard to find.
It isn’t clear that Profile can be edited in Settings.
Students would like to see routes in chronological steps.
Buddy feature is useful.
My Buddies - Updates
removed pull up bar to reach community page; replaced with toggle button
settings button has been replaced with profile icon (same destination)
Mapping Routes Steps - New Features
numbers have been added to clarify route steps order
We redesigned the app's main three screens based on feedback.
Community Board - Updates
removed pull up bar to reach buddies page; replaced with toggle button
settings button has been replaced with profile icon (same destination)
The biggest takeaway for future was narrow the project scope! Rather then choose between public and private navigation, matching riders, and facilitating conversations, we decided to tackle all three. We could have delved deeper and created a more robust experience if we had focused on a single area.
If the project had continued, we would have chosen to focus around SMC's largest demographic - young students on public transportation. What different ways can we explore matching riders in a safe way? We would ride the bus and observe students in that environment. We would test our prototypes in the field. How can we design the screens to be more attractive, concise, and useful?
I hope to come back to this project in the future, because our research showed a serious safety problem and a great opportunity for helpful, local service design.