Happy Caltrain (app concept)

Filed under: apps, interaction design, user experience / product design, visual / UI design

Happy Caltrain (app concept)

I absolutely love my role in design: mocking up layouts from scratch & working with developers in converting my ideas into workable websites. At work, we abide by basic guidelines of best practices we’ve developed through research, user feedback & testing. I’ve also had a desire to become an expert within my field. Perhaps understanding why our best practices became to be is the first step toward this?

A few months ago, I did some personal research into classes that would get me dabbling in formal user experience design. A few weeks ago, I took an Interaction Design class at San Francisco State University with the knowledgeable David Hogue to help me broaden my view in user experience. In the very short class session, I’ve learned volumes of information in developing a concept app to understand user experience.

The app idea was simple: Caltrain, the Bay Area Peninsula’s rail commute system, has a really inefficient way of submitting & reporting delays on their system. I created a smartphone app with the simple task of dialing in how late the train is at the platform. Other users with the app installed will receive a push notification if trains are reported to be exceptionally tardy, helpful for riders such as myself who have a car, but opt to take the train to work. This way, app users will be informed in advance whether or not to use the trains for the day.

Our projects progressed from building low fidelity sketches, to general wireframes, to a detailedfunctional specifications document:

Quick sketches, wireframes, workflows.

For the final project, we simply had to sell our idea to the class. Why should they use your device/app/idea? Will it be frustrating to the user? My app minimized the amount of clicks/taps required to get the task done, as well as having all the data available from the home screen. At a glance, you can see the health of the trains, & the other essential tasks are only one tap away:

App home screen.

To keep the users coming back, I’ve developed a rewards system in the form of achievements a la Foursquare’s badgesXbox Live Achievements,OpenFeint rewards et al. Users of this app are also likely to be environmentally friendly, so I’ve also invented another real-life award: for every level they increase, a tree will be planted in their name.

The app's reward system.

The class was only for six weeks at three hours each, but it has opened my mind to further education into the field. Totally fascinating stuff that can easily translate to the web.