xParking App - Part 1
Dorian Bauer Principal UX Software Engineer
Martin Roos Principal UX Designer
25/09/2019 • 5 minutes reading time
An app for organizing parking space sharing
When evaluating Flutter, a small team of our software engineers came up with the idea of testing the framework on a real project: an app to organize parking space sharing at our Saarbrücken site.
“How good actually is Flutter? Is it suitable for our clients’ projects?” This question brought together a small team of Ergosign software engineers during Focus Time. In order to judge whether this promising framework is suitable for client projects, it first has to be tested.
Flutter is a Google framework that lets developers develop apps for mobile devices (iOs and Android), web and desktop only based on code.
Theory alone was not enough for this team. They wanted a real use case where an app would be the right solution.
They quickly found the right project idea: the parking space sharing scheme at our Saarbrücken site. This lets our employees flexibly organize their way to work: with a Jobticket, a Jobrad bike, on foot or by car. When using the latter, they’re allocated a parking space. Some days, it’s very practical for employees that normally arrive by bike, on foot or by train to be able to use a parking space. In order to transparently show whether this is possible, for example because another employee’s allocated parking space is empty, the team was to use Flutter to develop an app. The aim was to reserve “empty” parking spaces or make allocated parking spaces available to other employees.
Limited Resources, Limited Time? “Lean” and “Collaborative” Are the Way Forward!
As well as our software engineers Dorian, Steffen and Lisa, UX designer Martin was impressed by the idea of developing a parking space sharing app. As the team developed the app during Focus Time, which takes place once a month, he suggested lean implementation of the project and using methods from the book “Collaborative UX Design” by Dieter Wallach and Toni Steimle.
In the book “Collaborative UX Design”, Dieter Wallach and Toni Steimle present well-founded basic knowledge of collaborative UX design methods in a compact and easily understandable way.
Approach and Milestones
Hypothesis and Theory
The team took a classic approach to begin with, opting for a project hypothesis. Using “how might we” questions, they came up with the following:
“We believe that Ergosign employees at the Saarbrücken site that don’t have their own car parking space (on foot, by bike or using public transport) have issues finding a free parking space (buffer parking or parking spaces allocated to absent employees) on days where it would be useful to have that guarantee (bad weather, shopping etc.).”
“We can provide a simple and fast-to-access app to help you keep informed about free parking spaces and making binding reservations”.
“We’ll know that we’re right when you are informed of real free parking spaces and can make binding reservations.”
As well as HMW questions and their answers, the hypothesis encompasses another important aspect: the proto personas. The team developed three:
Employees without allocated parking spaces
Employees with allocated parking spaces
Employees already sharing a parking space
Each persona was drawn out with its features, problems and tasks; the team focused on the primary persona first of all - “employees without allocated parking spaces”.
MVP, Visual Design and Pixel Warriors
In order to use the time in the best possible way, an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) was the aim. This offered the most important functions for the employees without parking spaces in the first step:
Being able to reserve a parking space.
Being able to free up a parking space.
The MVP was developed by our intern Sven as part of his bachelor’s degree. He implemented this not just in Flutter, but also the servers and the app’s database - all with support from software engineer Lisa.
Of course, the MVP required a visual design. The team got together with Visual Design Field Leads Nina and Sascha and created a Pixel Warriors challenge.
Testing & Feedback
To validate the MVP, the team used certain criteria to choose ten employees from Saarbrücken. These were allowed to test the first MVP. Their valuable feedback on the first few implemented features is now being worked into the app’s further development.
Find out what new features the app now has after this first test, how they’re being implemented and what other secret ideas the team has in the second part of the article.