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Smarter commute for Dubai

Dubai having the busiest airport and one of the busiest tourist destinations in the world sees a big number of commuters in its public transport section.
About 200,075,000 Dubai residents and tourists take Dubai metro every year.
According to Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), around 346 million riders have used public transport in the city in 2020.

Problem space

Dubai's transportation network uses NOL card, throughout its rail network, taxi, buses, water taxis and tram networks. However, the when asked by residents or tourists, the metro or dubai's bus is not their first choice of the preferred mode of transport. And that is due to a couple of reasons that we identify as a problem. Most of these commuters would take Dubai metro or bus, because they have to not because they want to. A lot of which would prefer calling an über, take a privately owned transportation mode, a hire car or shared bus or similar service if they can instead of using the metro network.

  • Details & Scope
  • UX research & design
  • UI design
  • Client: Road & transport authority Dubai
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User interviews

To discover more on this problem and its reasoning I interviewed 2 groups, one of the residents and other of the tourists, of 5 participants each.

Key findings

Limited payment options
A lot of tourists were unable to use their existing cards to make a payment.

Limited top-up options
A customer who wanted to take a Dubai bus from in front of his house, still would have to walk to the metro station to top up their card as that was the only possible option to top up the NOL card.

Busy hours causing customers to miss the train
During busy hours customers were waiting in the queue to top up and missed their train.

Purchase of a new ticket for every ride
Tourists with no NOL card had to purchase a new ticket for every ride and stand in the queue. This also caused tons of wasted paper cards on every trip.

Direction & distance
People who were unfamiliar with new area struggled to find the nearest Stations or finding their desired destination from the station they got off at

Organizing the responses in Affinity diagrams on Miro


User stories

User stories from interviewed audience were used as the reference to clarify and understand the actual problem which would help derive a possible solution. Through user stories I was able to understand not only the challenges faced by an everyday Dubai metro commuter, but also keep a the spotlight on the possible solutions.
From the list of questions asked by each user, I derived a ‘wish statement’ where each user expressed what they wish would be different in their Dubai metro commute experience.


A more modernized approach to using Dubai metro services through a new app.
The app completely replaces paper tickets and plastic cards.
It also helps users save the time of queuing for a ticket.
For tourists, it integrates with user’s desired payment type, including any Visa, MasterCard or American Express card or any other payment methods in Apple wallet to pay for their transit seamlessly
It uses in-mobile NFC technology that issues the user a virtual transit card that can be stored in any e-wallet and can be used on entire RTA network.

Information architecture



Search & commute

Card & Top-up section

Usability testing

I prepared a web based prototype app and conducted usability testing on a small focus group that were regular public transport commuters. The focus group allowed permission to record their usability process. I used the insight and notes from these test to make further adjustments and iterations to the user flow and other adjustments to make sure the final experience was user-friendly and simple to understand.


Taking the learning notes from usability tests run on high-fidelity wireframes, further helped to make the overall flow more user-friendly.
Some of the learnings we gained from the user and stakeholder testing were:

• Removal of PayPal as it is not a very commonly used platform in the UAE hence unnecessary.
• Ability to customize the virtual cards and request a physical copy of it as a souvenir which adds a desirability factor.
• Integration to be able to pay with a cryptocurrency wallet. As Dubai Media City is further developing the possibility of enabling more customers to be able to use cryptocurrencies, it made more sense to integrate it as one of the payment methods.

Taking all feedback notes I made the iterations and ran the final usability testing prior to UI design

User interface (UI) design


Search & commute

Settings menus

Public transport usage & carbon-footprint reduction analytics

Top-up, virtual cards & use of NFC technology

Users are able to get virtual cards without visiting a train station, top-up their cards on the go. Users can add these NOL cards to their Apple wallet and use them just like any other card to enter Dubai metro.