Generally speaking, design in the holistic sense - when we talk about user interface (UI), user experience (UX), copy writing etc. - is important for the success of any app. But for MaaS apps in particular, I feel it’s really critical. For the user there is a lot of complexity in a mobility app: On the one hand in terms of features, options and information. On the other hand, the way people engage with the product is task-oriented, and tends to be quick for a very specific and targeted interaction - to find a route or purchase a ticket, for example. Engagement time is low, but task completion is critical, and this is where very clear purpose-driven UX and information design become important.
In this sense, MaaS apps are similar to both productivity tools and, maybe more relevantly, Point of Sale (POS) systems like bank machines, where information and UI or UX patterns need to be very self-explanatory and the target user is essentially everyone.
So this is where great design comes in, and why it’s so important. Human-centric design makes the product accessible, the right design makes it user-friendly and understandable instead of complex and technical. Our aspiration at Mobimeo is for design to be relatable.
To start with, it’s a white label design system with a clear focus: What makes it special is its radically simple design that takes a very holistic approach to cover everything from UI and UX to branding, tone of voice, and accessibility.
To make it a bit more tangible, you can think of the design system as sitting in the middle, unifying the core needs: the product and design vision and principles, customer and user needs, and content (routes, modes, etc.), as well as iOS and Android platform requirements.
We have a strong philosophy and a clear design language at Mobimeo that was inspired by the iconic designer Dieter Rams, who has shaped Braun’s iconic design for decades. Our design language balances our principles: clarity and purpose with aesthetics and joy of use, creating a great product experience with a clear focus on content. I feel that this last part is especially important, that our approach to design is to make the unnecessary recede and the relevant step forward. This encompasses different aspects such as putting a strong focus on information hierarchy and design, applying more data-driven methods (UX research, product analytics), and trying to move towards a more contextual and personalised experience.
First of all, we work on the basics: We follow solid UI and UX practices, and build on top of mobile operating system guidelines (iOS & Android), use atomic design principles, and a cascade approach from global to feature-specific components.
Building on that, our design system scales in multiple ways: Components are designed to cover multiple use cases as far as practical, therefore reusability is important. Furthermore, the design team works with the engineers to make sure everything is built and documented correctly. Screens, templates and flows are designed to be modular so we can add and remove elements at all levels, from whole features to a specific piece of content at the more detailed level, without breaking anything. This is important given the complexity of urban mobility and the need to design for lots of dynamic and contextual content.
Another key part of ensuring we can scale is our configuration and localisation concept. This means we can easily adapt to a new public transit authority’s branding and content – such as mode icons, transit line colours or UX copy – and these items can easily be localised for different cities or regions.
In general, there are the usual factors that make any team successful like talent, good organisation, collaboration and so on. But in terms of trying to build a white-label MaaS app, I think there is another aspect that is at least as important as these: You need to have the right mindset. Design teams in mobility start-ups need to be able to handle a lot of complexity and uncertainty, to be flexible, but also patient: there are many external stakeholders and dependencies to deal with. It’s not a product where you have 100 percent control, so that’s where the team’s mindset comes in, to handle all of that and still deliver.
Aaron von Fintel is Head of Design at Mobimeo. Together with his team, he crafts the appearance of Mobimeo’s MaaS platform – and thus of every app based on it.