The UX Urban Design approach aims to consider the urban experience from a user-centred, multi-site and relational perspective. It thus considers the experience of the territory as a continuum of quality of life, it is not so much related to the use of technology but rather and above all to the implementation of sustainable processes and projects. This means working together and in particular with those involved.
UX urban design in a few words
“Cities have the capacity to offer something to everyone, only because, and only when, they are created by everyone.” – Jane Jacobs.
UX urban design (city planning based on the experience of its users) is a vision of the urban factory based on a reversal of values to move from a space-centred approach to urban planning to an approach centred on its users and listening to their perceptions.
The concept of UX urban design is the idea of building the city by and for (a better) user experience. Users are then placed at the heart of the UX urban design process, starting from the environmental analysis, at the time of project implementation and even during the project management phase, to improve their quality of life.
City maps: the example of the London Underground map
In 1908, the map of the London Underground, shown in the picture, included the names of the streets, making it difficult to interpret. The function of any map is to help lost users find their way around. As you can see, the 1908 map did not serve this purpose. This situation led to a request for an amendment to this plan.
In order to clarify the itinerary for the user, new models are offered in various formats. The first map of the metro without geographical details was drawn in 1920, but, being always to scale, it remains confusing.
In 1931, Harry Beck, a trained industrial draughtsman, proposed a standardised map of the London Underground. He was inspired by the electrical circuits he was in charge of designing.
His idea is revolutionary: to show the spatial relationships between two stations rather than the distance between them. This representation is very easy to read.
The user’s need to find his way is at the centre of the designer’s thinking: clarity of information is paramount. The actual position of the metro stations is a secondary issue.
This plan has become essential when travelling on the London Underground and is a model for all modes of transport around the world.
Madrid: improvement of a city bus network
In Madrid, the aim of the EMT (Madrid Municipal Transport Company) is to offer high quality services to all citizens and to create value for society as a whole. In this context, a group of students from a UX/UI design school has set itself the following challenge: To improve the experience of users travelling by bus through the city.
Through various documentary research, observations and interviews, they found that the most important points of friction were in accessibility (getting on and off the bus, getting to the stop, occupying reserved seats, etc.). The public transport network was particularly poorly adapted for the elderly and people with reduced mobility.
Their solution was to develop intelligent bus stops with tactile information panels and an automatic payment system inside the bus. The panel would make it possible to consult in two gestures the waiting time and the number of passengers on the next bus, but also to request the desired stop in advance. The payment system would use GPS and DSRC (Data Short Range Communications) technology to validate the ticket without taking it out of your pocket.
This work allows us to see that many solutions could be found to improve the public transport experience and thus optimise mobility on public transport. Here, the focus has been on improving accessibility for elderly or disabled users, from the moment they arrive at their bus stop until they are seated inside.
Netherlands: new pedestrian traffic lights
Smartphones can be our best friends as well as our worst distractions when it comes to mobility in the city. They help us find our next bus schedule, the fastest route from one point to another, but they’re also a distraction on our urban journeys. Especially when it’s time to cross the street.
Traffic lights have been installed at a pedestrian crossing in a city in the Netherlands to help smartphone users cross the road safely. The light strips are designed to attract the attention of people looking at their devices and change colour to match the traffic lights.
The appeal of games and social media has come at the expense of attention to traffic. For this reason, new pedestrian traffic lights were developed and installed on a trial basis at a level crossing at almost three schools in Bodegraven.
Nantes: dynamic luminous floor
In the same spirit as the pedestrian traffic lights installed in the Netherlands, a new type of sign is being tested on the island of Nantes, at a dangerous crossroads. Nantes métropole has unveiled a new process: dynamic luminous road markings. At each priority bus crossing, the white line at the foot of the flashing red lights comes on and sparkles. Chevrons affixed to the public transport lane do the same, this time in yellow.
Objective: to increase the visibility of priorities and thus reduce the risk of collisions.
The device, called Flowell, is an invention of the Colas company. It works by gluing thin slabs equipped with LEDs. Connected to a radio wave system, it detects the arrival of the bus and is triggered and then switched off autonomously. This is the second time it has been tested in France. The first experiment was launched in March 2019 in Mandelieu (Alpes-Maritimes) for a luminous pedestrian crossing.
Video games to plan projects: Cities Skylines
People love cities, they have ideas, the Cities Skylines game encourages them to use their creativity and self-expression to rethink the cities of tomorrow.
Designer Karoliina Korppoo takes us on a tour of extraordinary places that users have created, from futuristic fantasy cities to remarkably realistic landscapes. The player must understand what the expectations and needs of people living in the city are. For example, it’s not enough to have a hospital within the city, but it has to be accessible by the inhabitants.
A competition, organised by the Finnish town of Hämeenlinna, provided a map of the existing town with a virgin area they wanted to develop. Players could download it, play and build the area and then submit it to the city council. By playing, these people find solutions to the problems of our cities and participate in their changes.
So if something works in the game why wouldn’t it work in the real world?