San Diego Compass Cloud Mobile App Redesign Exercise

The San Diego Compass Cloud is a mobile ticketing app for San Diego’s public transportation options, Metropolitan Transit System and the North Country Transit District. While the city of San Diego has made strides and continues to have ambitious plans ahead for improving its public transportation and commuting experience, its mobile app has left much to be desired.

The Challenge

In its effort to employ current technologies, reduce paper waste, and utilize the mobile app as a convenience for its users, the Compass Cloud app has resulted in unsatisfactory results. If San Diego wishes to improve transportation options to its commuters and travelers, then I feel that the mobile app should also be improved to suit their goals. As a UX designer with a compassion for helping the community in terms of civic projects, this is a personal project I wanted to pursue.

Research and Analysis

Understanding and outlining the problems into actionable steps are crucial in this design challenge. In order to learn about user pain points and insights, I conducted the following methods of research: heuristic analysis and user reviews analysis.

Heuristic Evaluation

A heuristic evaluation uses a set of generally accepted usability principles to review how usable an interface is. I used this technique to put together a list of potential usability issues and pain points.

Overall Consensus: lack of inconsistency with labels and system, negative user experience from an inflexible payment flow and slow-moving trip planning tools.

Noted Issues

  • Fare and payment options are unclear
  • Clumsy UI. Trip tools is laggy, labels are inconsistent
  • Uninstalling takes work after removing from your phone

User Reviews Analysis

4- and 5-star ratings together account for nearly 30% of all reviews, over a quarter of reviews rated above average experience. Why should that be? Based on my analysis, positive reviews could be attributed to convenience. For these users, their goals to purchase tickets without using cash or the transit card or the kiosk have been met.

Users tend to be more motivated to leave reviews when having a negative user experience with a product. This feedback can be used towards Affinity Diagrams.

Affinity Diagrams — Pain points

Using Affinity Diagrams is a method of gathering large amounts of data and organizing them into categories or themes. With regards to the Compass Cloud user feedback, I looked over them and clustered them into related groups. This method is a way to organize data into themes and problems to look into.

What’s the Problem?

Getting a ticket can be a Bad User Experience

Ticket policy is unclear. Several reviews mention that you must activate your purchased pass before using it. However, when you activate your pass, it only becomes valid for that day it is activated. This has not been made clear enough to the users, resulting in unintentionally used tickets and as consequence, more money needed to buy tickets again.

No ticket discounts available on the app. The kiosk offers discounted options for consecutive multiple-day passes, but that option is not offered in the app.

Clunky UI

The trip planner has a clumsy UI and doesn’t even lead to having the user purchase, often crashes or doesn’t work.

Users can’t transfer purchases to other devices

This would be something to consider for outside scope as this involves sending purchased tickets to other phones, outside hardware such as the Compass Card, the Tap and Ride booths.

Ideation and Solutions

Empathy Maps

Empathy maps are a quick way to get an idea of user goals. These maps are based on customer reviews.

Photo credit: benzoix (left), Pressfoto (right). Freepik
Photo credit: stock-world-on (left). Freepik

Site Flows

I used site flows to get a better idea of pain points and what ways to address that.

Why Redesign?

The app serves as a tool help users achieve the goal of purchasing the correct fare to board San Diego public transit. While the San Diego Compass Cloud is the official mobile app for MTS and NCTD, and all users have a goal of purchasing tickets in some capacity, redesigning the mobile to improve its user experience will encourage continued use. Additionally, continued use can help familiarize more users to the system, allowing a smoother transition for San Diego to explore different ways to expand Compass Cloud across more forms of public transportation, for example: integrating with the Compass Card, Tap n Ride stands.

Considering the empathy maps and user reviews, those users with a continued motivation for using public transportation would be more likely to use the mobile app to purchase and renew their passes. For example, regular commuters like Sally and Paul, who use public transportation for work and school, respectively.

Casual commuters and new users of the app using public transportation for temporary or leisurely purposes, like Mario and Sally, that experience an improved user experience may be encouraged to use the app again to try public transportation more frequently, or at least rely on public transportation for that one particular kind of trip (ex: to a baseball game).

While there is an “obligation” here to use this app as a means to get from Point A to Point B using public transportation, improving the app experience will gain user trust, encourage repeated use, and can be used as a gateway for improved technology (should things head that way!).

UI Design

The proposed UI design would address ticket purchase and ticket planner site flow.

Ticket Purchase for MTS Trolley & Bus

Ticket Purchase for NCTD Coaster

Trip Planner

Transit Schedule

Smartphone mock-up templates designed by Zlatko_Plamenov / Freepik. Mobile UI screen designs are my own.

Ideas outside Scope of this Exercise

  • To integrate the Compass Cloud with the Compass Card. Buy passes on the app so that you can also use the card if need be.
  • Ways to transfer ticket purchases to others.
  • Explore the possibility of having the Compass Cloud replace the Card or be another option: be able to board buses with the app instead of using the Card, purchase 1-way tickets.

Thanks for Reading!