Most people don't own cars in New York City. After all, public transportation is so good you don't need one. But, younger people want to keep their independence and leave the city on their own schedule and families need to take their kiddos places. Taking care of a car in the city is the easy part; finding parking is the hard part. Cities implement street cleaning and the more populated the area, the more frequently street cleaning occurs. This means having to move your car anywhere between two and five nights a week. For working people, they get home too late to find an available parking spot in the evening and they leave to early to wait for street cleaning to be over. It's easy to find parking in the afternoon or late morning, but if you wait until peak hours, it's nearly impossible. I wanted to find a way to help coordinate car parkers in the neighborhood even when the owners were not there.
User Persona & Scenario
I interviewed several, let's call them "parkers," in the city and found some themes. The following is a mix between a persona and user scenario to help visualize our findings of the parkers day to day.
Sarah is in her mid-twenties, has a partner, and lives in the East Village. She spends her free time trying new restaurants or chatting with fellow dog owners at the park with her dog, Lila. Last fall she bought a car to commute to and from her job in Brooklyn but she has since gotten a new job and moved to Manhattan. Her and her partner decided to keep the car for weekend trips or grocery shopping, etc... but know that it will be a hassle to move it during the week.
It’s Monday and Sarah knows that she needs to park her car in a spot that has no street cleaning on Tuesday. The earlier the better, as it gets more difficult the later it is. She quickly bikes home on her Citi-bike and grabs her car keys and her dog so she can take her on a walk at the same time. She walks to the last place she parked it on Sunday, gets in, and rolls down the window for her pup. She starts driving up and down streets that have free street parking to look for a spot.
Proposed App Flow
I realized early on that there would be two users of this app: the owner (or finder) and the parker. I kept both users in mind while doing some exploration. Below are some whiteboard and paper sketches.
Pros: Visual, Contextual, Familiar Interface, Ability to track mover
Cons: Location does not matter if you are booking ahead, Map popups are too small
Don't assume other product designs are well tested
Utilizing familiar patterns is great, but don't just assume that another design is good. I was inspired by Wag, the dog walking app, but realized that people were confused by the information architecture. Don't be afraid to test other product designs with users - it saves your team from trying to build something similar and realizing the same faults only after you tested your own product.
Documentation is persuasive & keeps you on track
Showing user pain points through scenarios or personas can be influential when talking to stakeholders. It's easy to get caught up in features that don't solve the users problems but documenting their problems makes it difficult to ignore. I should have added real pictures or quotes of the people I talked to in order to make it even more memorable. It also keeps your designs on track. It's easy to get side tracked by a cool idea but bring it back to the basics helps you validate whether or not you are on the right track.