ParkEasy is a startup and app that allows people to reserve parking spots in advance, in shopping malls or crowded streets. The solution was conceived out of the desire to eliminate the excessive time that people spend making rounds at car parks.
Warren Chan, co-founder of ParkEasy, quickly learnt that locating a parking spot goes beyond logistics.
One of the key ideas espoused in empathetic design is to not take people’s word at face value, but to observe the contradictions, tensions, or surprises in relation to behaviours. In Warren’s case, the solution did not lie in responding to the obvious issue of limited parking bays, but in understanding the user’s emotional experience of dealing with it.
Since ParkEasy was already a developed app, the Design Thinking programme taken at Genovasi d.school really helped Warren refine the prototyping and testing of this app.
ParkEasy conducted its BETA testing sessions at shopping malls, observing user behaviours through screen recordings. As tests can involve several hundred users in a day, the company has made it a practice to categorise their test findings into a Feedback Grid – a Design Thinking tool that allows you to organise feedback into four quadrants (what worked, what can be improved, questions from the user, and new ideas).
On top of that, ParkEasy now goes in-depth with their users such that they collect more than data points; they collect stories. Warren notes that Design Thinking skills have helped him to ask more open-ended questions rather than leading questions. This allows him to discover not just the factual or statistical information, but also the reasons behind users’ actions and the motivations.
Since adopting Design Thinking, ParkEasy staffers no longer communicate using technical terms that are often misinterpreted between teams. Instead, they now refer primarily to user stories in the form of User Journey Maps – a Design Thinking tool that maps out a timeline of the user’s activities against their pain points and emotions - for all to get into the shared perspective of the user.
Users can range from first-time users, single parents, busy students, to non-users or late adopters. By walking through the user’s journey together, the teams get a view of how users will experience the app and are better equipped to anticipate potential struggles.
ParkEasy may have started as an app to reserve parking bays in advance. Based on insights gathered through user-centred testing, ParkEasy has now pivoted to also allow users to request for parking bays from shoppers exiting the mall.
This additional function came from empathising with users who resonate more with the “first come, first served” system. For this group of users, seeing empty parking bays that cannot be occupied only frustrates them rather than spark curiosity to then use the app.
Having a clear view of users’ needs and how their emotions drive decision making, has benefited ParkEasy in ensuring that every business decision for their app and company are based on strong and real insights from the end-user.