Nobody likes rush hour. What if we could redistribute some commuters and travelers across other pockets of time? Daresay developers Samuel Wejeus and Dmitry Ryadnenko went to HackZurich and worked with our friends from Länsförsäkringar to build an app that answers just that.
It’s easy to find out how long it will take to get from one place to the next. Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Citymapper all give useful real time information, but it can be hard to get a sense of how busy that journey will be on any given day. What if you could get up-to-date information that helped you get a seat on the subway on pretty much every trip to work?
HackZurich is Europe’s largest hackathon, where 800 people from more than 50 countries gather to build new applications before a 40-hour time limit is up. Daresay developers Samuel Wejeus and Dmitry Ryadnenko went to HackZurich, along with Michaela Zetterström and Liza Hansson from Länsförsäkringar. Together they built an Android native app that delivers travel data about congestion to make every day less stressful — and they became one of 25 HackZurich finalists.
In the 21st century, an increasing number of us don’t actually need to be in the same place at the same time every day, but most of us do it anyway. We crowd onto packed subway cars, shimmy around backpacks, grapple for handholds, and cram ourselves into escalator scrums, just to be at our desks at what we see as ‘on time’. But do we need to be?
The team focused on presenting data about travel volumes, rather than distances, to design around the idea of a mindset change that would help people travel at less busy, less stressful times, or choose different routes.
Meet ZTravel – an app that could help redistribute commuters who can be more flexible. Using the app, you can search for a journey and find a departure time that will keep you punctual without being stuck in a crowd.
As a team, decide together what you need so you can stay loose and feel safe to explore. Sharing individual needs and outlining a common agreement on how you’ll work creates a frame that can also function as a safety net when you’re feeling unsure.
We have an internal tool called Superteams, our method for giving voice to personal needs, setting team expectations, and co-creating our process for any given project. The method we use stays the same even though our day-to-day process might need to change between projects, or even over the course of one. Whether you use something like Superteams, or you’ve got a great Agile coach, having something solid to count on helps us stay comfortably uncomfortable for a while longer.
With ZTravel, users can use QR codes at your transport stations to ‘check in’, which offers users a chance to collect points and redeem them for discounts on future travel. It’s like frequent flyer miles, but for leg-roomier public transport. Plus, helping people spread their commutes across the day can ease the pressure on rush-hour transport and make it more comfortable for people who don’t get to choose when they travel.
“Our thesis was to visualise travel in local traffic in such a way that you choose either new routes or other times to avoid congestion. “But also get a carrot that could trigger a little extra.”
Samuel Wejeus Tech Lead, Daresay
The team included two of Daresay’s developers, along with UX/UI designer Michaela and design lead Liza from Länsförsäkringar. Our two companies work together professionally, but this was just for the fun, adventure, and stretching of creative and technical boundaries. Because the challenge isn’t to build the perfect app, it’s to build a tangible way to test a hypothesis, designed around a big question, within a 40-hour time limit.
The team moved quickly from ideation, persona development, wireframes, and development, to remote and guerilla user testing until they’d completed a working app.
“We worked as a cross-functional team and benefited from more aspects of problem solving since we were a heterogeneous group,” says Mikaela. “Working together with people who had other skills than ourselves made us have clear communication, and it’s also important that we really trust each other’s expertise.”
ZTravel was a fun project for a small group of developers and designers to test themselves. It’s only a working prototype, so you can’t download it from Google Play, but we think it’s brought up a useful question. Transport systems are always evolving to meet the needs of the people who use them, but we believe it’s possible to redesign our own behavior so that those systems can be more useful, more resilient, and give everyone more room to breathe.
There will always be peak times in a day, when people such as service, shift, city, and care workers (and those who rely on these people), need to keep to set travel times. But if everyone who could be flexible about their commutes actually took the chance to be, would rush hour still be rush hour?
Professor Ulla Johansson Sköldberg is a pioneer in researching the relationship between design and profitability.