A Reimagined City Cycle Experience.
By Clemente Miller, Senior UX Designer
Cycling is a huge part of the city of Seattle’s culture. We at Smashing Ideas, are fully embedded in the city’s cycling culture. Seattle has a population of 652,405 people and from a Department of Transportation cycling survey report, roughly 158,000 people are cycling around the city. The majority of the Smashing team cycles on a daily basis, so when we noticed a local bike-sharing service, Pronto!, popping up around the city, we instantly became infatuated with the idea of a cycle-sharing service right outside our front doors. What precisely is Pronto! you ask? I like to call Pronto! and their bicycles the “big green”, but formally Pronto! is a cycle sharing service comprised of roughly 500 bikes in downtown Seattle and a few select surrounding neighborhoods that you can rent for a fee.
Smashing Ideas is a UX focused digital product design and development agency and when we took the Pronto! bikes for a spin we couldn’t help ourselves…we had to start capturing notes about our experience with the service, the bikes, and the different touchpoints along the way. We came back to the office with a cycle-sharing high (is that a real thing?) and immediately started discussing the key touchpoints of the service; on-web, at-kiosk, on-bike, and post-cycle experiences.
One of our UX designers led the charge for investigating each touchpoint by utilizing our core research methods to surface pain-points across the customer’s Pronto! journey, in order to identify areas of improvement and opportunities for future engagement. Pronto! has a lot of good things going for it, but as we’re rarely satisfied with what is, we wanted to explore how to make a good experience great. We started with the on-web experience and identified a few key areas for improvement:
- Streamline site-wide IA to be more intuitive and mobile-friendly.
- Apply adaptive design principles to improve usability across all screen sizes.
- Adjust display and functionality of the map view on mobile to maximize usage of screen real estate.
- Add trip-planner functionality for a single destination and multi-stop directions.
- Provide a clearer explanation of what to expect once users install the Spot Cycle app.
After learning more about the brand, the service, and what Pronto! offers via the web, let’s look at the at-kiosk experience. You, the customer, arrive, look at the kiosk, then the bikes, then back to the kiosk, and you decide to approach the kiosk and begin poking some buttons to see which combination will release a bike from the grips of the docking station. Sounds relatively easy, right? Not exactly. Here are some of the key things that we identified that could use some improvement:
- Auto-generate a “basic” account for short-term users to see rental and transaction history — basic account can also provide a promotional avenue towards converting short-term users to members.
- Streamline check-out process for short-term users — ORCA-integration (a smartcard that’s used for all public transit around Seattle) may help to facilitate this.
- Evaluate station placement & orientation —certain stations are very exposed to street traffic. No one needs a close-call with a Metro bus.
- Localize to multiple languages for locals, tourists, and visitors alike.
Ok, so now you’ve pulled the bike from the grips of Gollum as if the tire was his precious. You saddle up, hit the streets, and pedal your way to somewhere fun in the city. During your ride you begin to familiarize yourself with the setup, the features, and might even take it off some sweet jumps. But before you jump it off the pier and into the Puget Sound, let’s talk about some of the things we thought could use some speed:
- Add 15- and 5-min-warning alerts to the ride timer – you have to check in a big green ever 30 minutes at a station, so a time alert could help you avoid any additional late charges.
- Phone mount, or even a small digital timer, attached to handlebars.
- Add proximity alerts to the app so when the rider is near a station, the app provides on-screen wayfinding indicators for the nearest Pronto! kiosk.
- App notifies the rider if their destination station is full and recommends a nearby alternative.
By now you’ve managed to pull big green out of the Puget Sound, you hop back on and cycle down the waterfront to the nearest station to return it. You slide the front tire into the docking slot and look for the indication to signal that you’ve successfully completed your ride. The green light signals and you’re ready to carry on with your next activity. Now what? It was great to complete the trip, but what about some closure to our relationship together as big green and the customer shared a moment riding through the city. No good-bye? No see you later? Here are a few was that could help improve that post-cycle experience:
- The rider receives a SMS text thanking them for using the service, and Pronto! provides some key data points —ride-time, distance, charges incurred, etc.
- The rider receives an invitation to provide feedback directly to Pronto! via SMS.
- A sporadic user could receive SMS text messages with reminders about their “basic account” and a discount code to upgrade to an annual membership.
What does all this mean for Pronto!? By focusing on improving the exiting touchpoints of the users’ experience, you’re making it simpler and easier for the cyclist to get to what matters most…the fun of cycling big green around the city aimlessly or to their next destination in a timely manner. The details of an experience, big and small, are what create enchantment or derail a customer’s affinity for the service. It’s important to strengthen the foundation of the touchpoints before considering how to expand the existing experience into new areas of opportunity.
At Smashing Ideas we enjoy improving an existing product experience, but more importantly, make our interactions with digital more human. When we thought about the Pronto! experience we took into account a few key areas; digital enchantments, bringing the brand to life, and membership privileges. Tapping into existing APIs to surface relevant info like elevation, safety ratings for routes, difficulty, and smartwatch integration gives you the right info at the right time while cycling through the city. Providing this type of information really helps to create moments of digital magic that builds a more thoughtful relationship between Pronto! and the customer…truly bringing the brand to life.
Bringing a brand to life means being more human than human, and I’m not talking about the White Zombie song. Technology doesn’t have to feel like technology, and if it does, then you’re missing the opportunity to connect with someone in a genuine way. As humans we seek connection and relationships, so the devices that connect us to products and services should do the same. We looked at areas of the Pronto! experience and their touchpoints to find relevant ways to introduce personality, natural language, and accessibility for when cyclists need Pronto! the most.
There’s tremendous opportunity for Pronto! to flourish in our great city. We used this as a fun opportunity to explore a service we regularly participate with, but what came of it was an even deeper appreciation for what this service can do for people, the city, and even the environment. We at Smashing Ideas love our city, cycling, the people that call this place home, so it’s of critical importance to always be on the lookout for ways to improve the user experience for all.