Transport app Citymapper is not the flashiest app out there. It’s not as well-known as Uber, or as widely-used as Google Maps. However, it’s certainly one that has served me well throughout 2018, and has cemented its long-term position on my home screen.

The main thing I love about Citymapper is its UX, which includes a combination of useful (and highly functional) features and small and understated design details. Here’s a quick run-down of the best Citymapper features to appreciate.

Intuitive homescreen

The app’s homescreen is designed to be entirely intuitive, making it easy for users to find out exactly what they want to know in as few clicks as possible. One thing I like is that it breaks down travelling options by modes of transport, like bus, tube, or cycle.

Some people prefer to compare various transportation options at one time, however, a lot of people are also loyal to one particular type. Personally, I tend to base whether I’m taking the bus or tube on contextual factors like the weather or what else I am doing in the day, rather than how long it takes.

Regardless, the design of the homescreen effectively offers a choice. Unlike Google Maps, for example, which requires you to enter a journey before you can select the mode of transport you want to take, Citymapper gives the option for you to choose this first (as well as a lot of other additional information).

Info at a glance

One great thing about Citymapper is that you can check what transport options are around you at any given time, as well as when the next bus or train will come along.

I find this particularly useful when deciding which tube station to go from. As is the case with London, it can be quicker to walk part way or to a station nearer your final destination rather than go from one nearer to your current location (and then end up having to change tube lines). In this case, Citymapper makes it easy to see how far away everything is at a single glance.

citymapper homescreen

Saved places

Another simple but highly valuable feature is Citymapper’s ‘saved places’. This allows users to save commonly visited destinations like home, work, or the gym, meaning users can then bring up directions in a single click.

This is particularly useful, for example, if you’re going on a night out in an unfamiliar area and want the reassurance that you will be able to easily find out how to get home. 

citymapper saved places

Though it’s unlikely that you will always need actual directions to places you visit every day, another reason the feature is hugely helpful is because it tells you exactly how long your journey will take (drawing on real-time data to do so).

Streamlining your journey

While Google Maps arguably does the same job in terms of providing directions, Citymapper goes the extra mile and offers additional information that makes travelling – and the everyday commute in particular – much easier. This comes in the form of tips about what entrance into stations will be the most convenient for your tube line, as well as which carriages of the tube are less crowded.

These small snippets of advice, included in-between directions, are what elevate Citymapper. Instead of merely getting you from A to B, its aim is getting you there as fast and as fuss-free as possible.

citymapper info

Sharing and Siri shortcut

While travelling is largely a solo activity, the consequences are often for social purposes – i.e. meeting friends and family. Citymapper cleverly recognises this with its ‘share your ETA’ feature, which again makes use of data to let others know exactly when you’ll arrive. Even better, you can share your exact movements with them via networks like WhatsApp or Facebook, allowing them to see you move on a map in real-time.

citymapper sharing

Earlier this year, Citymapper also launched a Siri shortcut to enable Apple users to activate and check journeys via voice. Again, this is another way the app streamlines UX, and reduces the steps users have to take.

Journey stats

Travel apps tend to be purely functional, with users abandoning them immediately (or even before) they’ve completed their journey. Citymapper gives users a reason to come back, however, with its travel-related statistics.

With each ‘Go’ trip, Citymapper will let you know how many calories you burned, how many trees you saved (by taking public transport rather than driving) as well as how much money you saved. You can also collate this data to gain an overview of your habits over time, and compare them to other travellers in your city. 

citymapper travel stats

These features add a gamification element which increases enjoyment of using the app, and nudges you to continue doing so. The feature’s design, which includes cute little icons, also makes it all the more eye-catching and engaging.

Seamless Smartride payment

Earlier this year, Citymapper launched SmartRide in London – a bus/taxi hybrid that takes users around a fixed travel network. Essentially, it is a shared travel option with the wider aim of reducing congestion and pollution. The feature fits seamlessly in with the rest of the app, making it (unsurprisingly) easy to book and pay for.

Like Uber, you can add your card details or use Apple Pay, making payment a seamless experience. The only slight negative of the feature is that you have to navigate your way to the nearest pick-up point (meaning it’s not as frictionless as Uber). However, Citymapper again makes this as easy as possible, listing each step in a clear and easy-to-follow manner, and detailing how long it will take.

citymapper apple pay

With other features like offline maps and notification alerts, CityMapper’s UX is both highly functional and innovative. I’m pretty sure I’ll carry on choosing it over Google Maps as a result.

User Experience and Interaction Design for Mobile and Web Best Practice Guide