[Photo by Adnan Behmen]

Citymapper — Making Istanbul City Usable

“Making Istanbul Usable” is a personal UX design project based on user and competitive research. See my other personal project “Citymapper — Scheduled Trips Feature Design” here, for a location independent design concept.

As a Citymapper London fan who uses the app several times a day, I attempted to use it when I was on holiday in Zurich, only to see the disappointing notification ‘You are outside London, Want more?’. It wasn’t (yet) available in Zurich. Citymapper is one of my favourite apps and I truly feel the absence of it when I’m travelling to cities where it’s not available.

My next stop after Zurich was Istanbul, my hometown and that got me thinking. I left Istanbul 6 years ago to live in London, but I visit it several times a year to see family and friends — and indulge myself in delicious food.


A bus stop in Istanbul with estimated arrival time data

Getting around Istanbul has always been a massive headache as it’s a crowded city with 14 million residents and a lot of transport alternatives.

Although there have been some improvements in the transport system lately (eg. new subway stations, live updates for bus arrival times), public transport isn’t easy to figure out and planning alternative routes is a pain. People still consult others when it comes to figuring out how to get from point A to B.

It’s no big surprise when an average commute takes from 1 to 3 hours, stealing from people’s time with their families after long working hours.

Citymapper can ‘save Istanbullers from Istanbul’.

Istanbul Railway Transport Map


On my last visit, I spoke to people ( friends and family, people waiting at the bus stops and a taxi driver ) to find out how they figure out how to get to places.

3 most common methods people use are:

  1. Ask others
  2. Check IETT (public transport website) for timetables and stops (no journey planner available yet)
  3. Use an app

Below is a quick analysis of the most popular apps that provide navigation / journey planning:

Istanbul Transport Apps — Competitive Research

So even though there are a couple of apps out there, none of them are as solid, comprehensive and friendly as Citymapper.

But there is a challenge.

CityMapper uses open data. What if the available data updates are not sufficient? In cities where the travelled distances are long and road works and accidents are frequent, the open data can be inaccurate or real-time updates may not be available everywhere. This is especially true for the buses.

People I spoke to in Istanbul were saying not all the bus stops have ETA information and the ones that have can sometimes have inaccurate data.

If Citymapper’s long term goal is to spread to cities with less accurate data, the experience can be further improved by filling the data gap. But how?

A typical evening commute with traffic jam in Istanbul


Most common answer I received when I asked people how they figure out ways to get to a new place was “I ask someone else”. Some of the people I spoke to mentioned that they love a competitor’s navigation app for drivers, because they can read other people’s status reports and comments when on the road in order to bypass traffic. They said it’s ‘both entertaining and useful’.

People get confused and frustrated when the information is not sufficient

Maybe a new feature for Citymapper can help fill the data gap for public transport:

  • Allowing users to report incidents and disruptions in real-time
  • Allowing users to read ‘nearby’ incident reports to re-plan journey

Citymapper calls its users that are logged in ‘Citizen’, so I’m going to call the new feature ‘Citizen Reports’.

View Citizen Reports
Submit Citizen Report

Being a social app is not one of the goals of Citymapper, so I kept the shared information restricted and avoided adding interaction between citizens.


Solution proposed above is just an idea that needs to be further tested. Following functions can be designed to make more of the proposed feature:

  • Incorporating data collected from citizen reports into journey planner data
  • Give citizens the ability to comment or rate reports — if users want more interaction
  • Add report activity to the Citizen account