Conducting Thorough User Research:



Pasadena Dial-A-Ride is a shared, curb-to-curb shuttle service provided by Pasadena Transit for seniors or disabled residents. Since the system is manually operated, members have to book the trip via phone call services 1-5 days beforehand. 

Our goal of design is to provide a more efficient, caring and accessible transportation solution for seniors and caregivers. In doing so, our project strongly focuses on conducting a solid process of user research.

Time / 

06 - 08/2018 (14 weeks) 


Type / 

Group work

(with Darae, Feng & Sil)


Skills & Tools / 

User interview, User test, Paper Prototype, Wireframe


a macro understanding of the product and the business around it.

is the product?



Initial Research And Hypothesis

Quantitative Data: 


At the beginning of the project, we actively reached out to the Pasadena Transit Office. Lucky enough, we not only obtain the first-hand data we need but also built up the partnership with the office throughout the whole project to get the most realistic insights.

Here are some key data we extracted from 'Pasadena Short Range Transit Plan (Draft)' :

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Area Research

Dial-A-Ride has the heaviest concentration of usage in North/Central Pasadena where has the highest density of seniors and senior facilities.

Travel Purpose

Medical purpose is the highest demand. More than half of all trips are for social, recreational or workshop activities.

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Rider Characteristics

90% of riders are seniors. Among them 1/5 have mobility impairment.

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Group trip promotions

Pasadena Transit office has been devoted into the promotion of group trips. Group riders have some regular trips to different places

Qualitative Data:


Based on the research above, we had a general idea of whom we should interview with and where can we find them. Therefore, we conducted our first round of user interview. This round of interview was casual and open. We were not only focusing on the users' experience of Dial-A-Ride but also try to have a glimpse of their daily life.


Here are some key insights from interviews.

Driver of Dial-A-Ride Service

"Passengers can't contact me directly, vise versa. We have to contact office instead. This caused so many troubles."

Senior in Pasadena Senior Center

Daughter of a 70-year-old lady

Manager of Senior Daycare Center

"I think book a bus 5 days ahead is ridiculous."

"I never know when the bus will arrive, I depend on my instinct"

"I care a lot about my mom's (who suffered from dementia) safety. I always want to know her whereabouts. And I don't trust in Uber drivers."

"I've been working with Dial-A-Ride for 3 years. It's win-win situation for both sides. However, it's hard for them to deal with urgent trip changes."



Problem Statement

With initial research, we are able to establish our problem statement at this point, which will also serve as the base for the following steps.


The problem is:

"Limitations faced by senior citizens, disabled people and their caregivers due to the analog manual operating system of Pasadena Dial-A-Ride."


The solution could be:

"A digital screen-based service for Dial-A-Ride users and their caregivers to enable them to book a ride anytime, anywhere and get real-time feedback."



Lean Canvas

We converted our hypothesis into the 'Lean Canvas'. Lean Canvas is usually used as a tool to bridge the design side to the business side. This step prevents designers from drowning in the micro interactions and neglecting the bigger picture of the product & business.



Mission & Vision Statements


"Improve the ride experience of Dial-A-Ride service for residents in Pasadena, San Marino, Altadena, and the other unincorporated LA areas who are senior citizens or for those who are disabled."


"Create a safe, reliable and seamless service with an efficient and automated experience for citizens with no access to regular transit."


a deep research to better understand our users

are we designing for?



Affinity Diagram

Affinity Diagram is a tool to identify patterns and themes among user behaviors. It's a process to find a path in the ocean of data. Before we went into this step, we conducted another round of user interview to collect as many as possible real user behaviors and insights. Then, we simply wrote down on the post-it-notes, arranged them on the whiteboard. During this process, some themes or patterns clearly showed up.



Need & Want Statements

Although the affinity diagram helps us to find patterns in users behaviors, it doesn't provide many insights into the motivations and drives behind these patterns. Essentially, designers should design for motivations since behaviors can be very dynamic and changeable. Thus, extracting need & want statements is crucial at this point to establish an understanding of users' motivations with depth. Some key statements are:

I need ...

Reach destination on time

Information about my ride

More flexible transit

Special assistance 
when I go out 

I want ...

To attend more 
social meetings

To visit my families whenever I want

Driver can take care of me

To be comfortable when I go out




Continuum is a powerful tool to crossover all data and find cluster among all target users. And it's very simple to execute. We defined the variables (left side) according to Need & Want statements as well as other insights. Follow up, we established the axis for each variable with two ends. All key interviewees we had were positioned on these axes (each letter stands for an interviewee). Then it's clear to see some clusters among them. 

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Define Personas

The 3 main clusters among users we got from last step were: caregivers (for individual or groups) , individual riders (with or without assistance) and group riders. We need to decide who would be our primary, secondary and tertiary persona. This is the time we should look back into previous research in order to give a reasonable hierarchies for different user types. 

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According to lean canvas, individual caregivers are our early adopters. Plus the fact that group trips are promoted by Pasadena Transit Office, we decide caregivers for individual rider and group riders as our primary persona. Individual riders who need assistance occupied a big proportion of the ridership, but they're not as tech-savvy as caregivers, thus they are secondary persona. For those individual riders who don't need any assistance, they have more options about their transit, especially most of them drive for themselves. They become our tertiary persona. Group riders never book for themselves. Group trips are always booked by caregiver. They're not direct users of our digital service. So we put least considerations on them.



Personas & Scenarios

Now we've had a clear hierarchy of who we design for. We are ready to build personas with the strong foundation of all the data we collected. We're mainly concentrating on our primary and  personas, which will be caregivers for individual and caregivers for groups. 

Caregiver For Individual Rider

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5. The next day, Dial-A-Ride bus comes to pick her up and Anthony gets a notification for the same and he can track the bus for his peace of mind.

2. Worried, Jeane calls her son, Anthony, to tell him about it. Anthony will be at work so he cannot take her to the hospital.

3. Anthony immediately opens the app. He adds his mother into the riders list. Then he enters the pick up time, pick up location and drop off location. He gets a confirmation after booking.

1. Jeane calls her doctor to tell him that she is in pain and wants him to see to it. The doctor asks her to come in to his office tomorrow at 3:30pm.

4. Jeane is relaxed when she gets an automated call telling her about the booking information and text message with trip details which she can refer to in the future.

6. Anthony also gets an in-app notification upon his mom’s arrival at the Huntington Hospital and now he can completely focus back on his work without any worries.

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Caregiver For Group Riders

2. She logs in to her account on the Dial-A-Ride Dashboard and creates a new group and sets up the trip schedule for them. Then the system confirms the trip detail of each riders

1. Nancy, the manager of a daycare center, received a new group of members this week for the Tuesday Alzheimer class. She needs to arrange a trip to pick them up from their home based on weekly schedule.  

3. Monday, Nancy gets a phone call from Chan, who is in that class, informing her that he won’t be able to make it. So she removes Chan from tomorrow’s trip.


4. On Tuesday, while she was busy with her work, she gets a notification on her dash board telling her that she can now track the trip status for the “Tuesday Alzheimers Class” group. She views the map and it shows each riders’ status clearly so she feels relieved and goes back to her work.



Requirement List

Requirement list will help define what features we should provide in our product. Until this point, we've developed very solid personas and scenarios. All we need to do is to extract requirements from the existing scenarios. 


Anthony (Caregiver For Individual Rider)


He adds his mother into the riders list before starting to book.

  • manage/edit passages’ list

  • enter text (TAP ID)

  • add passengers

  • scan member card

  • verify membership for the rider

  • choose special requirements (walker, wheelchair,….)

  • choose the method of notification (text, call, app notification, …)

  • apply membership for the rider

Then he enters the pick up time: 2:30PM, pick up location: her home and drop off location: Huntington Hospital. He gets a confirmation of booking.

  • locate relative location

  • select pickup/drop off location

  • choose pickup/drop-off dates 

  • choose the shortcut of the rider’s default home address get confirmation

Jeane is relaxed when she gets an automated call about the booking information and text message with trip details which she can refer to in the future.

  • send a confirmation notification to the rider

  • options provided for user to choose the notification methods

Anthony also gets a notification upon his mom’s arrival at the Huntington Hospital and now he can completely focus back on his work without any worries.

  • get real-time notification of the status of the rider 

  • track DAR bus through the map on the app

  • get notification of bus arrival

Requirements List

Nancy (Caregiver For Group Riders)


She needs a trip to pick seniors up from their home on a weekly schedule. She logs in to her account on the Dial-A-Ride Dashboard and creates a new group and sets up the trip schedule for them. Then the system confirms the trip details of each rider

  • create/log into a business account on a desktop

  • book a group trip for business/event purpose 

  • manage different travel groups 

  • tell the different advantages from desktop to mobile apps

Monday, Nancy gets a phone call from Chan, who is in that class, informing her that he won’t be able to make it. So she removes Chan from tomorrow’s trip.

  • remove members in a group

  • re-edit the trip as a group

On Tuesday, while she was busy with her work, she gets a notification on her dash board that she can track the trip status for the “Tuesday Alzheimers Class” group. She views the map and it shows each riders’ status so she feels relieved and goes back to her work.

  • get a notification at the new ride for caregiver/rider (arrival time, drivers contact)

  • Ability to get real-time notification of passengers’ status for the caregiver.

  • Ability to track DAR bus through the map on the web

Requirements List


a design process integrating multiple user tests and revisions

can we design for them?

It's definitely a long way to go before we really put our hands on the design part. But all the research above supports us to design even the very little detail on the page. When we started to design, the first decision we made naturally was to develop two platforms for different needs: an mobile app for individual riders and caregivers for them, and another web end for caregivers for groups to book group trips.



User Flow & Information Architecture

Based on the scenarios we developed, we constructed the user flow both for the app and web ends.


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Low-Fi Prototype

We chose the paper prototype as our first round low-fi prototype. There are countless advantages of paper prototyping. It's been proved to be very simple to make, test and revise. And with the help of Marvel POP, it's also very easy to make it interactive. (test it out here if you want) However, it does require some imaginations from users when we conduct user test, since it's very sketchy and the interaction won't be that smooth. It turned out to be especially hard for seniors when we do the user test, as they're not that tech-savvy. It's definitely a good lesson to learn.


Then, we convert our paper prototype into digital ones and went through another round of user test.



User Testing & Revision

We went through several rounds of user tests with our paper prototypes and digital prototypes, which covered 5 senior riders, 12 individual caregivers, 7 group caregivers and 3 facilities around Pasadena & Altadena. With feedback we got, we also did several rounds of iterations of prototypes. Here are some of the key points in this process:

APP end:

  • Hard to understand the scan process for tap card. A reference image might be helpful.

  • Users are confused when asked whether they have an account with us. Whether it's a digital or physical account?

  • User was unaware of the service area. A markup on the map is necessary.

  • Sign up process is a little bit complicated for registration.

Web end:

  • User has demands on importing huge amount of riders' information. Uploading spreadsheet would help.

  • In group trip, user had demand on booking a repeated trip based on a fixed schedule.

  • Remove dedicated booking page and add that into the group section.

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Mid-Fi Prototype

After all the iterations, we came up with our final mid-fi prototype. In mid-fi prototype, we tried our best to minimize all the visual elements and focus only on the flow and structure. 

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User Journey & Prototype

User Journey is the key flow that personas interact with our product. It provides the key path to make interactive prototype. Here are the user journey & interactive prototype for Anthony & Nancy.


Anthony (Caregiver for individual rider)

Anthony wants to book a ride for his mom

He adds his mom Jeane in the riders list

He verifies membership for Jeane

He books a trip for his mom

The trip is confirmed

Afterwards, he tracks Jeane on map real-time

Nancy (Caregiver for group rider)

Nancy adds new members into riders list

She created a new group trip for workshop

She set up the pickup and dropoff info

The group trip is confirmed

She's notified that Chan is sick today

She remove Chan from today's trip



Hi-Fi Prototype

This project is very much research emphasis. We spent 9 weeks on user research and 4 weeks on developing our mid-fi prototype. Within the project time frame, we didn't really have time on the hi-fi prototype. After the project finished, I spend some time developing some hi-fi pages. They provide a visual reference of the finished product.

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