How does the optimal mobility app look like? – An investigation of usage expectations, usage barriers and usability aspects

The Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen AG (SSB) has been providing mobility services in public transport in Stuttgart and the surrounding area for over 150 years. The goal of the SSB is to fulfill its tasks as customer-friendly as possible and thus to gain additional passengers – especially with a view to air pollution control. As an important step to increase the attractiveness of public transport in Stuttgart, the so-called polygo app is now to be developed. The polygo app is intended to become a user-friendly information and booking platform which offers access to multi-modal mobility offers in Stuttgart and the region. Mobility services offered by SSB FLEX, as well as bicycle rental, carsharing and e-scooter providers are to be integrated in the app.


Source: SSB AG

In their research, a team of six business psychology students from the Stuttgart University of Applied Science (HFT Stuttgart) identified usage expectations, potential usage barriers and usability improvements in order to support the SSB to achieve their goal of making the polygo app one of the top 3 mobility apps in Stuttgart. For this purpose, the team followed a multi-method approach and conducted three studies: qualitative interviews, a quantitative survey, and a usability test.

Study 1 and Study 2:

In the first study, 18 qualitative interviews were conducted with non-users, occasional users and regular users of public transport that were either students, trainees, or working people between 20 and 54 years. The goal was to find out what users expect from an optimally designed mobility app and what may be potential usage barriers. The next study was a quantitative survey with a 111 participants that lived within the area that is served by the mobility provider. The sample consisted of university students, working people, trainees, and high school students. Overall, 67% identified as female, 31% as male and 2% as non-binary. The aim of the survey was to gain a broader insight into the importance of certain features and exclusion criteria identified in the first study.
Nearly all participants of the qualitative and quantitative study who were either regular or occasional users have already downloaded a mobility app. Surprisingly, this has also been true for most of the non-users of public transport services. A big share of these non-users had downloaded the Deutsche Bahn app with the intention to use it for cross-regional connections.

Usage expectations

The qualitative interviews revealed that quick and simple processes, a good overview, and the possibility of personalization, for example in the form of saving routes as favorites, are important success factors for a mobility app. The most important overview-granting functions were the display of the fastest route as well as of delays and cancellations and the possibility to search for a concrete address instead of having to type in the name of the station.
Further, interview participants stated that they would only exchange their currently used mobility app when the polygo app offered new and more attractive functions. Suggestions for attractive functions made by the interviewees, such as the possibility to rebook and reverse tickets directly in the app and the possibility to use the app without an internet connection were also rated positively in the quantitative survey. The BestPreis function which was developed by SSB was perceived very positively by the participants of both, the qualitative and the quantitative, study. This function enables the users to save money when using public transport: Before each ride, a ticket is booked. With the first booking of a ticket, the period under observation starts. In this period, all booked tickets are gathered and saved. At the end of the period under observation, the cheapest ticket combination is calculated, and the respective sum debited.
For some participants, an innovative mobility app should also consider future development opportunities such as the possibility to book a car via the app which then drives to your home autonomously to pick you up.

Usage barriers

Examples of no-go’s mentioned by a large share of the participants are the display of incorrect connections, costs for downloading the app and dubious payment methods. Apart from that, non-users stated independence and comfort as reasons for not using public transport and associated apps.

Study 3:

In a third step, the usability of the app was tested with a sample of 12 participants who used the comparable competitor app “WienMobil”. This app was chosen for the usability test because the future polygo app is to be designed by the same provider and will offer similar functions and features. The aim was to reveal potential usability problems and to generate suggestions for improvements. The basis of the procedure in this test was the well-established usability test method of „thinking aloud“. The usability test consisted of a briefing, a test task, a post-session interview and a subsequent questionnaire. Five different tasks were set, such as e.g. the planning of a route, enabling the display of CO2 emissions for all suggested routes, or registering for a mobility service.

Usability improvements

Overall, the usability test showed great results. In the use case of planning a route, participants immediately recognized where to type in the start and destination. Moreover, they valued the color-coded display of connections in the app, as well as the auto-complete function when typing in destinations. The app menu is perceived as well-structured and the registration process for mobility partners is clear.
Participants also expressed ideas that could further improve the usability, such as the display of favorite routes on a map or the option to sort mobility service partners by different criteria.
As for improvements, the test revealed some minor, major, and critical issues when using the app. The identification of favorized routes and the issue, that the ticket button did not appear in every view of the app posed minor problems. Moreover, participants were unable to locate the function that sorts the suggested routes by CO2 emissions which represented a major issue. Therefore, participants wished that CO2 emissions for suggested routes are displayed by default. Finally, the usability test revealed two critical issues. In one view, the field for entering the start and destination of the trip were interchanged, making it impossible for participants to complete the task. Besides that, the procedure for favorizing routes was not intuitive.

Conclusion:

The present research investigated usage expectations, usage barriers and usability aspects of a mobility app. The findings show that users expect an optimal mobility app to be simple to use and to offer options for personalization to make the use even more convenient. In order to encourage users of currently available mobility apps to switch to polygo, added value has to be provided to customers. This can be in the form of advanced functions, such as rebooking and reversing purchased tickets automatically within the app. To target non-users of mobility apps, one could consider including cross-regional connections. However, it has to be assessed, whether this function would encourage non-users to use public transport more often, since some stated motives for non-usage to which an app cannot react to, such as independence and comfort. Regarding the usability of the polygo app, the search for mobility partners should be improved through e.g. including filters in order to facilitate more efficient navigation on the app. Summing up, the optimal mobility app should be easy and smooth to navigate, while offering options for customization and advanced functions, to motivate customers to use it and encourage a sustainable way of transportation.

 

What’s your take on this? How would your perfect mobility app look like? We’re happy to hear about your ideas.

Check-in/check-out in public transport: Understanding the users and the acceptance of CICO-BW app

I am sure many of you know this situation: Before using public transportation, you are wondering which ticket you need, how many zones your trip includes or which tariff you must pay (or which ticket is the cheapest alternative). These questions demonstrate that using public transportation in Baden-Württemberg is complicated, which diminishes the attractiveness and, thus, acceptance of public transportation. To support the transition to more sustainable mobility, a change in mobility behaviour is needed. Since facilitating the use of public transport is an important requirement of many people for using it (ADAC e. V., 2017), great attention should be paid to this aspect. Therefore, Baden-Württemberg started a project called CICO-BW. It involves the introduction of app-based e-ticketing with a check-in/check-out system and a daily best price guarantee.

What does this mean?

This means that public transport users can use an app that allows them to check in with a swipe before boarding and check out the same way after getting off. The correct ticket is automatically recognized, the right price is automatically calculated and then charged to the user’s credit card. Users don’t pay more than the price of a one-day ticket. One possible app with this functionality is the FTQ Lab App, which is currently piloted under the name CICO-BW App in the region of Stuttgart. Besides overcoming technical challenges, the success of the app depends on its user acceptance


Source: Fairtiq

What do users want and how do they accept the CICO-BW app?

Examining user acceptance is based on user understanding (Diefenbach & Hassenzahl, 2017). This is achieved through the investigation of user needs, as these are the driving forces behind human behavior (Liebel, 2011). Therefore, we conducted a study in our lab that focused on user needs and their importance for the acceptance of the CICO-BW app. In a multi-method approach, qualitative Interviews (n=11) using a means-end-chain approach (Reynolds & Gutman, 1988) and a quantitative online survey (n=172) should shed light on the general acceptance of CICO-BW app, the relevant user needs and requirements as well as on their fulfilment by the application. By using a well-known acceptance model (UTAUT 2) (Venkatesh, Thong, & Xu, 2011), other relevant factors should be identified as well. Further, possible usage barriers and desired development opportunities were examined.

Key results:

  • The intention to use (4.2/5), the satisfaction (9.1/10) and the willingness to recommend (8.7/10) regarding the CICO-BW app are already quite high, which indicates a high general acceptance. Furthermore, 67% of the respondents think that the CICO-BW app facilitates access to public transport and makes it more attractive.
  • The most important user needs were convenience, security, and hedonism. Convenience was linked to the requirements for a fast, simple, and intuitive ticket purchase, which reduces the effort and stress when using public transport. The need for security should be met by a reliable system, which correctly calculates the price and relieves the user from the concern of getting a wrong ticket. Hedonism should be fulfilled by a gamified app which is fun and entertaining to use and thus increases users’ well-being.
  • Need for convenience is an influencing factor on the intention to use: The greater the fulfilment of the need for convenience, the more people tend to use CICO-BW app. Needs for security and hedonism are influencing factors regarding the satisfaction: The greater the fulfilment of these needs is, the grater the satisfaction with the CICO-BW app. Additionally, people’s interest in the CICO-BW App and their satisfaction also depends on social influence, i.e. whether their social environment wants them to use the app or not (social influence).
  • While the need for security is sufficiently fulfilled by the app and the need for hedonism is met to a very high degree, the need for convenience is currently not fulfilled sufficiently.
  • The greatest usage barriers included forgetting to check out as well as inaccuracies related to location and payment. The frequently desired development opportunities included the integration of more payment options, an existing monthly and annual pass, and saving statistics as well as the option for group rides and the opportunity for a monthly or annual best price.

What do the results imply for practice?

Since convenience is important for user acquisition and shows deficits in terms of fulfilment, this must be the primary focus in practice (e.g., fixing location-related problems). The needs for security and hedonism are important for user retention and their fulfilment should be increased by fixing billing-related problems and using gamification opportunities. Recommendation marketing by users themselves but also by influencers could also be important in terms of increasing user acceptance. Further, implementation of development opportunities such as the integration of an existing monthly/annual pass in the CICO-BW app not only includes occasional users and non-users but also frequent public transport passengers as a target group.

In summary, the identified needs can be used as the basis for developing, evaluating, and promoting the check-in/check-out systems within the CICO project. This ensures a user-centred focus and, consequently, a high level of user acceptance. This is the only way to make public transport in Baden-Württemberg less complicated as well as more attractive. Consequently, it should a positive effect on usage rates.

If you want to understand the results in a practical way and follow the development of the app, you can find more information about the CICO-BW app here.

Source: Fairtiq

References:

ADAC e.V. (2017, 16. Februar). Umfrage: Bereitschaft zum Umstieg auf ÖPNV vorhanden. ADAC. Verfügbar unter: https://presse.adac.de/meldungen/adac-ev/tests/umfrage-bereitschaft-zum-umstieg-auf-oepnv-vorhanden.html

Diefenbach, S., & Hassenzahl, M. (2017). Psychologie in der nutzerzentrierten Produktgestaltung. Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Liebel, F. (2011). Motivforschung. In Qualitative Marktforschung in Theorie und Praxis (pp. 473-490). Gabler.

Reynolds, T. J., & Gutman, J. (1988). Laddering theory, method, analysis, and interpretation. Journal of advertising research28(1), 11-31.

Venkatesh, V., Thong, J. Y., & Xu, X. (2012). Consumer acceptance and use of information technology: extending the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology. MIS Quarterly, 157-178.


How can we make cycling in big cities safer? Here’s the answer

Riding a bike can be an easy, fun, sustainable and healthy way of transportation. Considering these positive aspects of cycling, cities should focus on becoming more bicycle-friendly. While there are cycle enthusiasts that have used their bike for as long as they can remember and use it to go almost everywhere, 40% of cyclists in Germany do not feel safe when riding a bike (BMVBS & ADFC, 2019).

Looking at these suboptimal conditions for a sustainable future with increased bicycle usage, we decided that we wanted to change something. There must be a solution that makes riding a bike safer and is relatively easy and quick to implement. We wanted to make a sustainable impact on the bicycle infrastructure in cities. We found a way to do so.

Let us introduce you to ROUTEMESAFE.

ROUTEMESAFE is an upcoming smartphone app which aims at making cycling safer. With this crowdsourcing app, places perceived as unsafe by individual cyclists can be marked on an interactive map and therefore made visible to all users, offering an overview of especially unsafe spots in the area. So, before heading out with your bike, you can always check the conditions of your route, and see e.g. if there are any construction sites or other obstacles. By using ROUTEMESAFE, you are better prepared for your bike route. It is also a great way to check the route for your kids. Additionally, you can also add dangerous spots while you ride past them. In order to do so, you simply have to tap the screen and describe the hazard after your journey. Thereby, you can help your fellow bikers to stay safe. By using a thumbs-up voting function we ensure with the help of our users, that only valid and up-to-date danger spots are displayed.

You might think that the smartphone app is enough because it already fulfills your own needs and those of your fellow cyclists. But we wanted to cycle the extra mile and include the local authorities. One key feature of our ideal vision of ROUTEMESAFE is the connection to urban planners in the city administration. The responsible department receives all dangerous spots that are marked by users in the app in order to get real-time feedback on the status of the road conditions for cyclists. Authorities are encouraged to use this information as a basis for decision making regarding the future bicycle infrastructure in your city. If a dangerous spot gets marked over and over again by several cyclists and receives lots of traffic, this can pose a trigger for infrastructural measures, e.g. fixing holes in the street or installing a bike lane.

By combining a crowdsourcing app with the power of local authorities we are confident to see a change in bicycle safety through ROUTEMESAFE – and hopefully an increase in cycling activities in the near future.

 

Want to come for a ride?

What do you think about bike safety in metropolitan areas in general and our app in particular? Let us know!

ROUTEMESAFE is currently available as a prototype. Want to become a Beta tester? Contact us!

We conducted several studies during the process to ensure that the users’ needs are met. Click here to read our research on cycling safety and feel free to reach out to get more information on our target group and user experience research. In case you have any feedback, feel free to contact us. We’re more than happy to hear it.

For safer cycling in metropolitan areas.

 

References:

BMVBS; ADFC, 2019, Fahrrad-Monitor Deutschland 2019, Erhebung durch polis+sinus

Veröffentlicht durch BMVBS, https://www.bmvi.de/SharedDocs/DE/Anlage/K/fahrradmonitor-2019-ergebnisse.pdf?__blob=publicationFile

 

How can (electric) Carsharing work in rural areas?

The concept of carsharing is pretty straightforward. Instead of owning a vehicle yourself and being attached to the acquisition costs, insurance, repairs and other running costs, you just pay for a vehicle whenever you need one (c.f. mobility on demand). Depending on the provider, costs are usually calculated as a mix between mileage and time. Carsharing offers you the benefits of using a car without the strings attached to owning a car. According to an analysis by Roland Berger (2014) private cars stay idle for 23 hours every day. Thus, carsharing is an environmentally friendly way to increase the efficiency of car usage.

 

The number of carsharing users is continuously rising. In Germany, over 96% of big cities with more than 100,000 habitants offer carsharing. However, only 5% of municipalities with less than 20.000 habitants provide a carsharing service (Bundesverband Carsharing, 2020). Carsharing in rural areas is facing bigger challenges than in urban areas. For instance, rural areas have a higher level of car ownership and are less densely populated. Additionally, there is a great availability of parking spaces and the public transport system is not as well-developed, making it hard to get to a carsharing vehicle. However, despite these unfavorable conditions, previous research shows that residents in rural areas are just as open towards a carsharing system as their urban counterparts (Wappelhorst et al., 2014).

 But, how exactly can we make carsharing work in rural areas?

This is a target research question in our Smart2Charge project. The goal is to implement an electric carsharing system in Wüstenrot, a municipality with 6,613 habitants in the southwest of Germany. In 2020, we conducted three preceding steps to get detailed insights into the needs as well as the acceptance of the habitants of Wüstenrot: a survey (n=190), qualitative interviews (n=21) and organized a workshop (n=17). In the survey and interviews, we presented to participants a station-based carsharing system with one station in the center of the municipality and two electric vehicles, using a short written paragraph. During the workshop, participants were able to modify the presented carsharing concept or develop a new one.

Here are our preliminary findings:

  • Overall, 15% of the survey sample indicated high interest in the e-carsharing service. Even though this value seems low at first, it is slightly above the German national average (13%) of people being interested in carsharing (IfD Allensbach, 2019).

  • The qualitative interviews revealed that the majority of respondents would like to test the electric carsharing system once it has been implemented. However, 10 out of 13 find it hard to reach and 7 out of 13 perceive it as not flexible enough.

  • In the workshop, the participants created their own preferred carsharing model for Wüstenrot. The favoured carsharing model is a free-floating model that includes carsharing stations in all districts of the municipality, making the carsharing accessible to more residents. If the vehicles are not left at a designated station, a service provider should make sure the vehicles are distributed correctly. Additionally, participants suggested to include a ridesharing feature in the app, making it possible to lower the environmental impact and foster social connections in the community.

These findings are consistent with previous research. It shows that an electric carsharing in rural areas is desirable. Compared to urban carsharing, it is important that it involves a greater sense of community. Successful carsharing systems in rural areas are found in Schleswig Holstein and Spain for example.

The implementation of the carsharing in Wüstenrot will take place in the first half of 2021. Stay tuned to see how it performs.

Click here to receive more information about the Smart2Charge project and contact us in case you have any questions or comments.

 

References:

Bundesverband CarSharing (2020). Aktuelle Zahlen und Fakten zum CarSharing in Deutschland. Bundesverband CarSharing e.V. Available online at https://carsharing.de/alles-ueber-carsharing/carsharing-zahlen/aktuelle-zahlen-fakten-zum-carsharing-deutschland

IfD Allensbach. (2019). Anzahl der Personen in Deutschland, die Carsharing nutzen oder sich dafür interessieren, in den Jahren 2015 bis 2019 (in Millionen) [Graph]. In Statista. Zugriff am 16. Juni 2020, von https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/257867/umfrage/carsharing-interesse-und-nutzung-in-deutschland/

Roland Berger (2014, September 1). Shared Mobility – Wie neue Geschäftsmodelle die Spielregeln für den Personenverkehr ändern, Available online at https://www.presseportal.de/pm/32053/2819936

Wappelhorst, S., Sauer, M., Hinkeldein, D., Bocherding, A., Glaß, T. (2014). Potential of Electric Carsharing in Urban and Rural Areas. In Transportation Research Procedia 4, 374–386. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trpro.2014.11.028/