A public transit application providing both location-based and contextual guidance to help autistic adults through their transit journey.
October - December, 2019 (3 Months)
Xue (Miki) Bin, Mehul Shah
Pen & Paper, Photoshop, Illustrator, Figma
Learning the different mental models of our users, my team and I developed a specific solution through our design process.
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"Hey, Cheyenne, autistic adults have limited resources in regards to public transportation, and those resources leave autistic people without the confidence to ride on their own. How might we help autistic adults to achieve independence when riding public transit?"
Autism Spectrum Disorder impairs an individual's ability to communicate and interact, leaving them with heightened social anxieties in many contexts. Being that public transportation not only requires the knowledge of bussing routes and times but also transportation etiquettes, inexperienced riders have little to no confidence in riding. Our goal is to successfully guide autistic adults that are inexperienced riders from their location to their desired destination.
With our research, we began to sympathize with our user's mental models. From academic writings, statistics, surveys, and interviews, we gathered key insights into why it's important to build a product for the autistic user group and why transportation is an important problem to address.
3.5 Million Americans have Autism Spectrum Disorder
½ Million will enter adulthood in the next year
Autistic people are impaired by heightened social anxieties
*Majority of survey participants shared an anxiety related to riding public transit
Autistic people have the same travel demands
Autistic people have limited transportation resources, such as:
Paratransit is a transportation system for people with disabilities, both physical and mental, but these systems have restricted scheduled times and locations, so it's not as reliable.
Transportation Training is a K-12 program, much like “Nest” in New York, where children can learn the ettiquetes of riding a bus. Unfortunately, autistic adults have very few resources thereafter.
The only other option autistic adults have is their relatives providing transportation.
Having collected our data, we focused on identifying our primary stakeholder. Understanding the vast number of attributes and pain points our users obtain, we decided to narrow down our scope.
John, Autistic Adult and Inexperienced Rider
Attributes Fascinated by technology,
Easily nervous and disoriented in public settings,
Has only ridden the bus 5 times to get home
Goals Wants to reach his new destination,
Wants to learn how to ride the bus throughout the city,
Wants to independently ride public transit
Needs Needs explicit instruction to understand vague concepts
Pain Points Held back by various obstacles within the journey
Doesn't know what to expect on his public transit ride
Doesn't know how to ask other passengers for help
Panicked, and doesn't know how to get off of his ride
After understanding our user groups main pain points, we began ideating different solutions to our problem scope.
With the need for explicit instructions, users would be able to reference contextual guides before their commute.
With gaming, users can complete tasks through their commute to learn and build memory on what to expect during their transit journey.
Engaging with the community, users can like, comment, and share posts on and about contextual transit guides.
After developing these three concepts, we wanted to see how each idea would be visually represented. Thus, we developed three separate wireframes for testing.
Testing our prototype with participants, we quickly gained more insight into our user group's mental model and reassessed our design response.
All participants expressed their dislike for the cartooned visuals, being both childlike and vague in context.
Gamifying the experience was fun for some, but participants expressed worry about it being a distraction.
Majority of participants, who engage with their community, strongly favor sharing opinions and ideas with others.
Now knowing more, we implemented our insights into one unified design. Comprising the three concepts, we developed the first pass of our location-based guide that allows for community engagement and growth.
While developing our rough prototype, we simplified the user journey into a flow chart. Now focusing on three main actions, the user can use the app to learn about their commute, track their journey with a guide, and contribute back to their community.
Then we created our visual identity, constraining to specific layouts, color schemes, and components to adhere to our design principles.
By providing autistic adults reassurance before and during their transit ride through the use of location-based and contextual guides, this user group will have the confidence to ride independently to their destination.
Users can reference contextual guides before and during
their transit journey.
Users can easily request help from other community members on the ride.
Users can share their experience, improve guides and level up as a contributer.
This project began with a broad scope of how technology can aid mental wellbeing. The goal soon narrowed to providing the accessibility of travel for autistic adults, and in learning about the user's mental models and resource constraints, my passion for accessibility compelled me to respond to this critical problem.
Reflecting on our product, one component I believe could be better optimized is the request for help. Without the time to conduct proper usability testing on this specific feature, we continued our design based on our assumptions.
For the next steps, we are looking into connecting our user group with allies of the community while also thinking about inclusivity. Since it’s unrealistic to expect two autistic people riding the same bus in the same direction at the same time, we need to think of other stakeholders to be a resource when in need of help. Allies of the community are one group we would like to test with.
As well, we believe achieving inclusive design means that we arch our scope to anyone who easily makes errors on bus rides and how we can help them, including anyone with disabilities, non-native speakers and first-time riders. For the following projects, I plan to take more time in analyzing different stakeholders to see how they can not only be a contributor but also be a user of the product.