Home > Articles

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Step 3: How?

Now that we know who our users are and what they need to do, we’ll start addressing how they can do it. We’ll use Balsamiq to make some quick mockups based on our initial research, show them to users, and get feedback. We won’t spend any time at all making them pretty. As I’ve said throughout this book, the key point at this stage is to iterate quickly. Polishing the cannonball is counterproductive.

The operation that users do most often is to check schedules, both promised and actual. Four or five times per day is not unusual. The more the users perceive that the schedule is likely to change, the more frequently they’ll check it. So the more critical this piece is, the more critical it becomes. It’s important to get it right.

The next most common thing users do is to display a ticket to the conductor. Buying is less common. Claire sets it up once in her life and the pass continues forever. Charlie does it on days he takes the train in, usually buying a round-trip, which means he does this just once per day.

We want to minimize the number of touches that the user has to make. The original MBTA app does not do that, and it never seems to have occurred to its developers that they should try. Let’s take the app’s knowledge of the repetitive patterns of most commuter rail users and leverage it to the max.

I made my best initial guesses based on what my live users had told me, and on what Claire and Charlie said when they disturbed my dreams at night. Figure 8.9 shows my first mockups.

Figure 8.9

Figure 8.9 Two ideas for our first iteration of the MBTA mobile app.

I started by trying to fit everything onto just one page. In direct contrast to the MBTA app where the home page does nothing at all, this home page does everything. We don’t need any navigation because we never have to go anywhere else for schedules or alerts or ticket display. Purchasing a ticket or pass requires another screen, for which we provide a button, but as I said before, this is much less common.

The first thing we see at the top is a line of three radio buttons. Users check schedules at three main times during the day: in the morning before they head out from home to the station, in the afternoon before they head out from work to the station, and in the evening at home, to see what’s up for the next day. So perhaps two times out of three they want to see the current day’s schedule, but in the evening they want to see the next day’s schedule. The app automatically figures out which one to show, based on the time of day and the user’s cell-level location. (That’s precise enough for our needs and draws no extra power.) The selected radio button displays the current choice. If the user sees yesterday and needs today, or vice versa, she just taps the radio button that she wants. If she needs to see another day, perhaps on the weekend to go into town for a show, picking “Another Day” brings up a date picker to specify that date.

Next, we see the inbound and outbound trains. Here’s the key improvement over the original app: because the app knows the ticket that the user bought, it knows which trains and which times to show. Claire bought a pass originating in Salem. Charlie’s tickets originated in Ipswich. Both specified North Station as their destination. The app uses this knowledge to populate the labels above the list boxes and the train times within them, with the next available train at the top. Each station has a link to change it if needed. That feature likely will not get used much, but telemetry (next section) will tell us if we’re wrong.

I tried two different approaches to displaying the train times. Figure 8.9a uses list boxes, displaying the train times in a vertical arrangement that the user is probably familiar with. In Figure 8.9b, I saved space by putting train times in a horizontal line. The app automatically places the next available train as the first in the list. Either scroll bars or horizontal arrows indicate to the user that she can scroll them if she needs to see more trains than fit in that space.

The app doesn’t show the trains’ arrival times. I figured most commuters probably wouldn’t care. They know approximately how long their train ride takes and can therefore easily extrapolate. Plus, arrival time is often affected by factors beyond the rider’s control, so it doesn’t much matter what the schedule says. If needed, we could make train arrival information accessible with a tap on a particular train. I wonder how many users would say they need that.

Below the train displays is a text box. This carries a countdown clock, showing the time to the next train inbound (if the user is in the suburbs) or outbound (if the user is in the city). The users won’t have to do mental subtraction to see if they can make that train. This text box also shows any alerts pertaining to this line or their station. Users won’t have to tap down three levels to find out if there’s anything they care about.

Below all this is the monthly pass or ticket display. Claire’s automatically updates every day to show the correct color for validity. Charlie will have to explicitly activate one, using a button (not shown).

The main drawback with this layout is that it’s a little bit cramped. Ideally it won’t bother our user population much. In a reader app that they’d use for half an hour or more at a time, that would be a deal breaker, but they’ll look at this app for no more than ten or 20 seconds at a pop. The main criterion was for users to be able to pick out immediately the data that they need. I carefully selected everything users needed (or so I thought), and nothing that they didn’t (ditto).

The point is not that this layout is perfect, or even very good. This is my first draft. The point is that it didn’t take long to dummy up these layouts and try them on actual users, to see what they liked and what they didn’t like. To that trial we now turn our attention.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020