In many big cities like New York, parking is a nightmare. On average, New York drivers spend 107 hours a year finding parking spots. Nearly 42% of U.S. respondents said they missed an appointment due to the difficulties of finding parking spots. *source: usatoday.com
More than 200 parking apps are on the market, but finding parking spaces is still a struggle for many drivers in major cities.
How might we help drivers in major cities find parking spaces quickly and easy?
How do drivers park?
It was critical for us to have a better understanding of drivers' frustrations during the whole process of searching for parking spaces. We conducted user interviews, competitor analysis, and workshops to figure out how drivers park and learn their core pain points.
Step 1: Data collection
We conducted 5 interviews with who were living and driving in major cities and summarized reviews of the six most popular parking apps as well.
Step 2: Analysis & synthesis
After collecting the raw data, we used affinity diagrams and a journey map to synthesize research findings and insights.
Step 3: Insights from research
• Need multiple apps
Drivers need to switch between parking and navigation apps. Some drivers have more than one app to meet various parking needs.
• Consider street parking first, then off-street parking
In many cases, drivers consider street parking first because of its low price. They will change to looking for off-street parking when they think there is a small chance of finding street parking.
• Consider different factors in different situations
Drivers need to consider different factors for street parking and off-street parking. We summarized six major factors and sorted them by importance.
From insights to design
Money vs. Time
We took the insights from research and ideation as the design foundation. Then, we developed two personas to help us to design more specifically and efficiently.
Drivers' Limited Attention
Before jumping into design, we did some research about drivers' attention while driving as well. For drivers, attention is a limited resource and mobile devices should not be used while driving. Therefore, the app needs to be appropriate to use while waiting for red lights or for a short stay at curbs.
Based on the insights from user interviews and the primary scenarios, we came up with three design goals:
We iterated the user flow three times from the design phase to the user testing phase. We tried to make the user flow as simple as possible.
Prototype, test, and iterate
Users will use the product both during day time and night time, so the product will automatically change its color theme when you use it according to the local time. I tested a clickable prototype of the night mode with 3 people because the dark theme has more limitation of colors. Here are the 3 main takeaways.
Iteration 1: Switching two maps
Most parking apps on the market are either for street parking or off-street parking. But we found users often consider both options when they drive and sometimes they have to open more than one parking app to find a good space.
Therefore, providing information about both street and off-street parking is an essential feature of the product. Here are some explorations of how users can switch between these two types of maps.
Solution 1 required users to decide the parking type before seeing the live map. Solution 2 was to let users easily switch between two maps without going back to the home page. However, none of the users noticed the tab bar at first glance in the tests.
I iterated the design as solution 3 because of three reasons:
• The floating action button for switching to the off-street parking map is more noticeable.
• Users did not check between the two maps back and forth. They often see street parking first, then look for off-street parking. Solution 3 works better with this user flow.
• Primary action button is within the thumb zone.
Iteration 2: Street parking map
Because the street parking has much more uncertainty of occupancy, all the users said they will check the street parking when they are there. So, I zoomed in the map view and simplified the information: green for OK to park and red for no parking.
Two users said they sometimes will adapt their parking duration to the rules of street parking. So, for the iterated version, I added the parking duration button for users quickly changing the time to see if they can park here starting now.
Iteration 3: Suggestions & Navigation
One of the users did not know to swipe the app's cards, so I iterated the interaction of selecting different suggestions. Putting the "Best Price" and "Closest" cards on the same screen is more intuitive and simpler.
All of the users tapped the card for details, but they said they would like to directly navigate to the parking garage sometimes.
What I Learned
The biggest struggle we had was to balance the drivers' limited attention and the variety of parking options. In the beginning, we designed for every choice a user may have. But by conducting the user testing and iterating, I have learned how to simplify the product to just provide what users most need at that moment.