Public transit App redesign

Waterloo region GRT app redesign & an attempt to push forward future-proof creative public transit experience 


The Region of Waterloo has been looking at promoting the local trains through the GRT easyGO app. However, there is a constant voice asking Waterloo GRT to redesign the app. My development team would like to dive deeper into this user request.

At the same time, Rogers is striving to push out 5G technology in KW Region. And they are able to ensure a 5G network running along LRT routes in Waterloo.


Current Usage

Users traditionally used GRT easyGO app to check out the train stop nearby and the estimate waiting time.


But what happens as soon as a passenger has been onboarded? How can we help commuters improve the experience from "ready to get on the train" to "already on the train"? How can we help the Region of Waterloo and Rogers promote ION train and 5G? 

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Design Process

We followed the User Centered Design process to investigate how train riders may want to recreate train riding experiences based on their preferences. Letting user research be our guide, we brainstormed and designed multiple solutions. We then tested our ideas via usability tests and developed a high-fidelity interactive prototype based on our findings.

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The Empathizing Process

Preliminary Research - Talking to Customers and Experts

We followed the user-centered design process by first conducting user research in the understanding phase.


In order to understand the target audience, we went on LRT and talked to the potential customers commuting by the ION trains that varied in size, frequency and type. By doing this, we could also observe and capture how they were experiencing the trains through the existing app. and what value they took from it. 

According to Waterloo GRT experts' suggestions, we interviewed 5 train riders to collect qualitative information about the rider experiences and to gauge whether riders had a need that might be met with an on-train interaction feature.

a. Riders has been struggling with the app navigation because of too many pages. 

                 Current app has too many pages to navigate. When I'm walking while checking the app, I just want to find info real quick instead of continuing to drill down and back for basic info.

- Rider that commutes from home to work
Quotation mark
b. Riders are seeking for a simple and easy-to-use "map" feature that they can precisely plan their trips through the app

                "Map" feature is confusing and hard to use...It won't even show a stop by typing in its location. 

- Rider that is not very familiar with Waterloo region
Quotation mark
Quotation mark
c. Riders like to do some small tasks when they have interaction with their phones on the train.

                I'd like to avoid reading lots of texts on the screen when I'm on the train...probably do some small things, like checking out the new shops, sharing something with my friends, booking something or just listening to a podcast.

Rider that commutes from home to work

Secondary Research

According to the secondary research:

1. People will want or need to go places that they cannot reach by walking, biking, or other non–public transportation devices within their reach.

2. People will want or need to make regular trips, in large enough numbers, to common destinations to which public transportation can efficiently deliver service.

3. People will want or need to leave the security of their home or housing complex to do the things that currently create the greatest travel demand: go to work, go to school, or transport a commercial product.

4. People will live in communities with a density high enough to support public transportation equipment, routes, and facilities.

Target Audience Demographics

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Household size

household income

Household income

Research Synthesis Process

2x2 Matrix

Another tool I utilized was 2x2 matrices. They help designers better understand the relationships between two things on a spectrum. I used it in my research findings to map issues important to train customers versus Waterloo region GRT. It also helped me prioritize which issues to tackle first.

2x2 matrix
Persona of a typical ION train rider
Looking to make these dimensional descriptions a little deeper, we did some information gathering and created personas for further analysis.

Main Objective

Our main objective is to increase on-train interaction and mobile activity from GRT easyGO app. A large portion of our users are found to be using mobile to login to their accounts. We intend on doing this with 5G to communicate the value of the new network to consumers in an immersive experience that they can relate to on a day-to-day basis.

Starting with HMW

We created a list of ‘How Might We…’ questions to help us better align our user’s tasks and goals:

How might we allow users to access their most critical ride information through their mobile devices?

How might we provide passengers an experience that is fun, accessible, popular and 5G educational?


How might we provide a unique experience that attracts more people to choose ION train and download the GRT easyGO app?

The Redesign Process

Card Sorting

Then I ran a card sorting session that can determine which functionalities of the dashboard should stay, be relocated or be eliminated based on the platform’s information architecture and how much value it was adding on the dashboard.

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Internal Feedback

According to the findings and internal feedback, we found most request were about combining the map and trip planner and add a balance feature.

Some of the feedback we got back was:

  • When a passenger wants to check out the balance, he/she has to log in on the website though the browser.  

  • A big feature request was the ability to merge the trip planner, nearby station, favorites into the map.

  • When a passenger wants to check on the local news, they will go to the news app instead of the GRT app.

Current Information Architecture (IA)

Most users were having trouble navigating through the current app. Therefore, in order to redesign the app, I built the information architecture to understand its structure.

Revised IA

The newly designed IA increases the visibility of the app’s key features and improves the overall organization and navigation throughout the app.

Iteration & Paper Prototyping 

I also looked at other transit interaction to further my research on what an informational 5G public transit experience is comprised of. Some takeaways of what made them successful included:

  • Well structured navigation

  • Informative real time map that is efficient and actionable

  • Fare balance presented in the app

  • Reward system introduced at different milestones

I also looked at other transit interaction to further my research on what an informational 5G public transit experience is comprised of. Some takeaways of what made them successful included:

  • Well structured navigation

  • Informative real time map that is efficient and actionable

  • Fare balance presented in the app

  • Reward system introduced at different milestones

Once we better understood our idea and explored our datasets, we narrowed our focus into 4 areas for potential improvement of our original dashboard:

  • Improve the map

  • Improve navigation

  • Improve actionability

  • Improve notification


we began additional ideation for our vision. We quickly settled on the basic components and layout of our visualization through several quick rounds of sketches.




We explored interactions around our map and how we could display states, metro areas, and cities that would allow users to click on different geographic areas and display the home value and rental price data. We also reviewed patterns that expressed different ways users could filter the data and modify the map and associated information.


Redesign decisions

#1: Navigation 

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Validation Testing

#1: Navigation 

Final Design

Reflection & positioning 

Early stage product = more flexibilities but heavier workload

It was the very first time for me working as the only designer in a startup team. I was able to have more space and flexibilities to explore design options and user interactions but I also needed to mock up every single screen for development. Although it was tons of work, I practiced designing flows that are usually ignored in short-term school projects, such as on-boarding, account settings, and profile setup flows. I've gained a holistic view of a mobile application in terms of end-to-end experience and product strategies.

Project Positioning

This solution aligns more with the Fido branding under the Rogers umbrella. We envision that this solution will become an active part of the daily commute for LRT passengers in the Kitchener/Waterloo area.It will enhance the daily commuting experience for an average Canadian consumer with 5G technology.


Our product includes an interactive GRT Map and AR Game that augments the mindless everyday commuting experience into an engaging, fully present experience.The fun, easy-to-play game and interactive navigation map brings our solution in direct competition to mobile navigation/map apps, and mobile games. But its USP is an immersive experience that allows commuters to get the most out of their transit ride. 


This solution meets the criteria of our project brief by being:The first real time demonstration of 5G in public transit. Giving passengers an opportunity to experience 5G in their daily lives and learn about it.And of course, celebrates Canadian culture.This product was created for commuters who want a fun and informative daily commuting experience. The AR Public Transit solution uniquely solves this by providing an interactive GRT map, an AR game, and access to real-time information on the GRT and events/promotions local to the Waterloo region.  


The next steps are to have a business plan made and for us meet with the Region of Waterloo to pitch our solution.