Behind the Project: A Transit App For Seasoned Commuters

In this series, we’ll look deeper into some of the projects on that were especially admired in our community. Martin Oberhäuser is a Hamburg, Germany based information and interface designer. After working with various large agencies and freelancing, Oberhäuser founded the design studio in 2011.  Oberhäuser’s passion for data visualization is apparent in projects that range from encyclopedia infographics to an app that monitors and tracks online mentions.  We spoke with him about his recent project, nextr, an iPhone app that helps users navigate German public transit by providing intuitive, essential information and directions.

What was your inspiration for this project?
My inspiration was initially personally motivated. I use public transportation services in Germany pretty frequently and I was never satisfied with the available transportation guidance apps. I felt like there was a lot of room for improvement, especially for heavy transit users like myself. Most people I know that use these apps are familiar with the public transportation systems in their cities. They only need quick access to some important use cases, for example “when does the next train depart from the station closest to my home?” So I focused on this user group and provided this easy access combined with the ability to drill deeper for more information if necessary.

Can you describe your process in creating this project?
I decided to play around with some initial ideas and concepts for a more intuitive app. After a while I came up with a structure based around the current user position on a map and easy access to nearby stations.

I approached my iOS developer Marcus Wermuth with this concept and some initial layouts and asked if he’d be interested in and capable of developing the app. Fortunately, he was excited to work with me on making this concept a reality. Of course, we had other running client projects and had to earn some money, so it took us a while to reach a working prototype, and then a fully functional app.
This project continues to be pretty challenging because we are working with real time data and geolocation. The real challenge, however, was to initially achieve the right amount of simplification—asking “what information is really relevant for the user and what is our main target audience?”

Did anything interesting happen as a result of the success of this project?  (fans contacting you, job opportunities, blogs picking it up, etc).

We used Behance as the main tool to advertise the launch of our app and the reactions have been phenomenal. A few hours after we published the project many blogs were writing about it and it soon became the second best selling app on the German App Store. We are also getting many interview requests from blogs and tech magazines. I can’t say exactly how big the impact of Behance was, but it definitely played a big role.

Did you expect it to be as popular as it’s been on The Behance Network?
To be honest, I had a good feeling. I have a good standing on the network and this project fits in to my portfolio quite nicely. The only difference with this project is that I’m both the designer and the client myself. Therefore, I could make design decisions without the restrictions and compromises involve d when working with bigger clients. I think that the design is more representative of my skills and me than many of my other projects. I was positive that my followers would appreciate this approach.

Do you feel that this project is “done,” or is there anything you’d like to improve on or change in the future?
It’s far from done. After launching, I know that it’s even further away then I thought.

Unfortunately we have to deal with some technical issues and bugs. The performance and stability aren’t where they need to be yet. We are a small team, but we’re working day and night to improve the performance and optimize the functionality of the app. Of course, there also many features on our list we haven’t yet implemented.
Once we fix the most obvious bugs we’ll start to add more features and design optimizations. We’re also planning to bring the app to other platforms and to expand it to other countries. The latter obviously depends on data availability for various countries, but I’m sure we’ll find satisfying solutions.



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