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CMU Shuttle Service App Redesign

The shuttle and escort service is a transportation service offered by CMU for students, faculty, and staff as.  Ride System is an App that allows riders to track the location of CMU buses and also receive important notifications. 

In this project, we conducted user research to understand the student's current experience in using CMU shuttle and escort service, which includes both the riding experience and the use of the Ride System. Based on the results from the user study, our team came up with a redesign of the Ride System, which improves the visibility of the university transportation service and better incorporate it into the use of other public transportation.

Project Time:  2 months

Team:  Anyi Diao, Conlon Novak, Sean Park, Xinran Yuan, Yang Zhang 

My Role:  Designed and conducted research methods. Main designer of the final design artifact. 

Process - Understanding the current Experience

1. Experience with CMU shuttle and escort service

Research Goal:  Understand students' experience of using CMU shuttle and escort service. Learn about the tools that students use to track CMU shuttles and make related transportation decisions.

Process: Contextual Inquiry

We conducted contextual Inquiry with five students who use CMU shuttle/escort on a weekly basis. We observed and interviewed them during the journey of taking CMU shuttle/escort. Notes were taken and interpreted later with the other team members. An affinity diagram was created later to organize the notes in the category and generate high-level insights. 

Phase 1 - Research
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Affinity Diagram (notes from CI)


  • Users find CMU Shuttle and Escort Service helpful since it is safe and cheap (free).

  • Users have several other alternatives such as PAT bus, uber & lyft. They make decisions based on the context. 

  • Users all have experience using Ride System but most of them (4/5) found it hard to use and don't use it anymore. Some of them rely on the official schedule published on the CMU website and find the bus is usually very punctual. 


Process: Think-Aloud

We watched the videos of the think-aloud conducted by the Teaching Assistants* and wrote UARs (Usability Assesment Report). In the UARs, we summarized the problems that exist in the current user interaction with Ride System and looked for design opportunities. 

*This is a project from the course User-Centered Research and Evaluation. The Think-Aloud of the current App was conducted by the Teaching Assistant as an example in the learning process. We later designed and conducted Think-Aloud to assess our design of the application. 

Main Problems found

Some important information is not available in the app.
e.g. Estimated Travel Time
No way for users to be informed about shuttle delay & cancellation
No end-to-end timeline of the journey
Multiple small usability problems 

2. Experience with other transportation services

The user experience of a student’s commute is not bounded to the shuttle service. The

Port Authority buses offer a service with more flexibility (but higher complexity) to

students at an identical price point, filling a similar need; Uber and Lyft are popular peer-to-peer ridesharing services that offer a more affordable option than the traditional taxis. ​

Research Goal:  Understand students' experience of using other transportation services. Find out about the difference 

Contextual Inquiry

In this study, we observed students’ behavior when their transportation choice was not limited to CMU shuttle & escort. They were allowed to use their own sources of information such as PA Bus Stop signage, Google Maps, and Transit. 

Directed Storytelling

We asked students to share a past experience of using public transportation to go to a familiar & unfamiliar place.  

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Based on the research result, we summarized the transit process into 4 steps.


Over 70% of users switched between multiple apps to handle different phases of transportation journey

“I use Google to learn what bus to take. After that, I will switch to Busgazer since it has more accurate real-time data“

“I have tried ride system before but I couldn't really figure out how to use it. In addition, it's annoying to have multiple transportation apps on my phone ...“

“Google is helpful if you are new to the place. I don't actually trust the schedule on Google. Buses are never punctual.“

Comparison between different transit apps

Customer Journey Map



Developing design solutions

Step 1 Walking the Wall

We looked at all the insights we got from the previous studies and brainstormed design opportunities. Overall, we found that our ideas diverged into three separate phases of the user experience: decision-making, information gathering, and in-transit validation. 

Phase 2 - Solutions
Step 2 Storyboards

We created storyboards to illustrate our ideas to solve the issues above and speed dated the storyboards with the users. 

Need #2: Unknown variance in time to get home on escort shuttles while in-transit (contemporaneous), especially during peak times


Speed Dating Results

The visibility of the campus shuttle service is low

Users who don't use shuttles say that the reason is that the campus shuttle is not offered as an option in the transportation apps that they usually use (e.g. Googe Map, Transit). They expect to use shuttle more if they can see it is included as an option. 

Real-time updates on shuttle status are very important in both decision-making and pre-boarding.

E.g. 90% of the users say that they usually wait inside buildings and go to the stop five minutes ahead of the suggested time. 

The user’s activity on the bus is fragmental and thus highly interruptible.

85% of users often use their phones for checking emails, browsing twitters, instagrams, etc. They think a reminder to remind them to get off the bus would be helpful (e.g. verbal announcement on the shuttlle)

We voted inside the group to finalize the concept to focus on:



Improve the visibility of CMU Shuttle and Escort Service so that users could find out about the services offered within their currently preferred methods of comparing modes of transportation. 


Integrate existing popular mobile applications to bring shuttle and escort service information into the existing routines without affecting the user experience. 



Design Artifacts and Final Solution

We prototyped a phone app with the “paper” prototype method. The goal of this app is to better help users make decisions on which transportation method to take when they are around the campus.

The artifact went through three design iterations. Five-second tests and think-aloud were used to evaluate the artifact and feedback were incorporated. 

Phase 3 - Artifacts & Eval

Evaluative Research

Five-Second Test

“How clearly is our design communicating a complex information hierarchy at a glance?”

Our design artifact centers around a single screen with information that needs to be clearly distinguished from neighboring data within a distinct hierarchy. The proximity of these very different data types creates the opportunity for visual clutter and confusion, which we’re hoping our design artifact mitigates well.


  • Many users mentioned that the interface was kind of complicated with too much information. Only the most important information should be kept on the list to reduce users' cognitive load. 



“Does our revised design artifact satisfy users’ transportation information needs and successfully consolidate the most relevant information?”



  • The app largely satisfies the users' general transportation information needs, with the most problems related to small design decisions (e.g. color choice). 

  • However, one thing that uses brought up is that they have been very familiar with the Pittsburgh bus system and knew which bus to take to get home and some regularly visited places. They wish there could be a shortcut to check the bus's status.

A shortcut to quickly access the bus information

We talked to a few people and found out that Busgazer and Transit are the two main apps people used to get quick updates for PAT buses. Both of the apps display information based on bus stops. 


We decided to add another page for the stop-based information. Users can navigate through different pages using the bottom navigation menu. 



Since the app is targeting the CMU users, we applied the CMU Brand to the design. 


Final Design

Ride System 2.0 brings together existing tools that students use in their transportation decision-making processes while integrating CMU shuttle and escort information as a viable transit option.


“One App To Rule Them All“

A combination of the most useful features of multiple transit apps from different phases of the decision-making process into a single workflow

Option Comparison

Easier comparison and decision-making with all trip info broken down into end-to-end timelines and links to specific map directions

Pre-boarding Experience

Get the user to the start of their preferred journey efficiently with live-tracking, walking directions, etc. Offer shortcuts for the experienced users to quickly check bus information

Reminder and Notification

Send updates on the bus's status and arrival time. Remind users to be prepared to get off the bus when they are close to the destination. 

All trip info broken down into end-to-end timelines and instructions





Shortcut to access bus information at nearby stops


Quick access to nearby stops

Realtime information update

Details and notification settings

Help users manage the trip using reminder and notifications





Quick access to saved locations and stops


Saved locations

User dashboard

Saved stops

Fina Design
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