Ventra Chicago App

How Might We help everyday commuters effectively manage their travel passes and reduce their handoff to 3rd-party apps?

Adobe XD




Users are abandoning the Ventra app in favor of 3rd-party apps for transit information and navigation. They only use Ventra for managing their Ventra cards and passes. However, the intricate architecture and inefficient workflow of this app hinder users from efficiently doing so.


Find pain-points and understand the needs of everyday commuters by utilizing various user research methods, then create an overhauled app experience by following iterative user-centered design approach.


A mobile and a wearable application design that leverages the best heuristics and usability standards to improve the workflow and remove roadblocks to help users manage their Ventra Cards and Metra Passes conveniently.

About the CTA Ventra app

CTA helps 1.7 million daily weekday commuters in reaching their destination. Ventra is the companion app built for passengers to manage their Ventra Cards and purchase Ventra and Metra Passes. In addition to that, the Ventra app also provides the most accurate and up-to-date information about the trains and buses because the Chicago Transit Authority itself maintains it. However, our research says that most of these features are poorly designed and barely serve the purpose on top of randomly crashing at crucial times. It needed a significant overhaul in user experience.

My Role

  • Competitive Review

  • Contextual Inquiry

  • Persona Design

  • Journey Map Design

  • Hi-Fi Prototyping

  • Mockups

  • Design System

  • Usability Testing Moderation






Months of Duration


Since this app has been around for a few years, a growing number of 3rd-party apps have caught up in many places where this app is lacking. Due to this, usage of the Ventra app is now only limited to managing the Ventra and Metra cards. That is why we decided to do some exploratory research.

Competitive Review

In our competitive review, we investigated several popular transit applications: Google Maps, Transit, Ventra, CityMapper, and Transit Stop. These applications had features that Ventra did not have, such as a map view, map and text view of routing, step by step commute information (e.g., est time to arrive, to walk, and disruptions). We noted down what each app does best, even the best features of Ventra itself.

Contextual Inquiry

We wanted to know the experiences of everyday commuters with CTA trains and buses. Being commuters ourselves, we used our knowledge to create the questionnaire. We asked participants about the applications they use for navigation if they have ever missed important announcements while riding CTA, how do they navigate to their destinations, and other experiences around them. The interviews helped us gather vital information about their commute problems and the reasons why people prefer 3rd-party apps over the Ventra app for transit information.

Key takeaways from the interviews:

  • The primary reason participants used the Ventra application was for fare management. Only 2 out of 6 participants were either aware of, or have tried using Transit Information section in the app, but abandoned using the feature due to poor usability.

  • 5 out of 6 participants prefer using 3rd-party apps such as Google Maps and CityMapper as their primary source of transit information.

  • 3 out of 6 participants reported that they missed important announcements such as train becoming Express, halts, and warnings while riding CTA.


After learning about commuters' past experiences and future expectations, we decided to create a survey to get specific information from participants. We asked them about the app they regularly use to aid their commuting experience, for what purpose do they use that application if they ever missed essential announcements and other commute related questions. We gathered statistical evidence of the information we found through analysis, competitive review, and interview sessions.

Key takeaways from the Survey:

  • Google Maps is the preferable 3rd-party application for commuting and public transit navigation.

  • Users mainly use Google Maps and other 3rd-party applications to plan their navigation, find information about a place or real-time transit information.


Based on the collected information, we created two personas based on two distinct profiles of users that we generated from our exploratory research.

Journey Mapping

We also mapped their journey to getting a Ventra card and using it to accomplish their daily tasks such as commuting to the office or college. The users’ journeys helped us in finding the problem areas and opportunities for the Ventra application to provide a better service.

Prototypes and Usability Studies

We conducted four rounds of usability studies during this project, starting from the Ventra app itself to the Hi-Fi Prototype. We compared the scores on the System Usability Scale (SUS). We had a goal to achieve a SUS score of 70.

Ventra App Usability Test

To begin with, we tested the usability of the Ventra app to find out exactly where the app is lacking in usability standards. We treated this as our baseline test.

Testing Metrics:
  • Ease of use

  • Satisfaction Level

  • Findability

  • Usability

The Positives:
  • All participants were successful in reloading their Ventra Cards with additional amount.

  • All participants found the current functionality to be adequate to their needs, but also wished for a more convenient way to operating the app.

  • No usability issues were found in the Metra section of the app.

The Negatives:
  • Participants disliked that adding a new card was buried under their account.

  • During our transit tasks, none of the participants were able to effectively plan a trip.

  • The SUS score for the baseline usability at 58.7 is lower than average and lower than our desired objective of 70.

Paper Prototype Usability Test

Then we created a paper prototype with numerous improvements and tested it with users. Then we compared the SUS score with our baseline score.

The Positives:
  • Mapping features allowed participants to plan their trip, which is a novelty over an existing application.

  • All participants liked the new, more visual card management system and would prefer using it over Ventra application’s card management system.

  • The average SUS score for this test was slightly better than the actual app, reaching 62.

The Negatives:
  • Inconsistent terminologies sparked confusion among participants as they were not able to interpret the meanings without using that feature.

  • The absence of task flow created issues with information flow, making all screens disconnected from each other.

  • Participants felt as though there were too many confirmation messages and felt that this contributed to the confusion.

Mid-Fi Prototype Usability Test

Based on our paper prototype and the feedback from the previous usability test, we created a digital and improved version of the prototype to test it with another set of users. Then we compared the SUS score with the baseline and paper prototype test score.

The Positives:
  • All participants preferred using the call-to-action buttons from the home screen to be able to retrieve needed information quickly.

  • All participants found the new card system helpful in managing their Ventra cards and payment cards.

The Negatives:
  • Issues with the visibility of the map made participants abandon the task or use 3rd-party apps.

  • Imprecise navbar terminologies still confused participants leading to higher task completion times.

  • Due to confusing terminologies and the inability to complete specific tasks, the SUS score for this round dropped to about 55.

Hi-Fi Prototype Usability Test

Based on all the collected feedback, we iterated the design with more improvements and made it more realistic. Then we tested it again and compared the score with baseline and previous test SUS scores.

Key takeaways from the Hi-Fi Prototype:

  • Streamlining the card management experience to the stock payment experiences on phones such as Apple Pay and Android Pay allows the user to bring-on their existing knowledge and manage their cards with ease.

  • Combining mapping functionality with CTA's most accurate, real-time transit updates would help in increasing the app retention rates, as found in the post-test questionnaire.

  • Providing users with timely and informative alerts will help them stay updated on their commute, Ventra Cards, and any disruptions.

Final Product

To improve upon the feedback from the Hi-Fi prototype, we decided to enhance the design further and create a final design that can achieve a high level of visual fidelity and more improved usability. We used Adobe XD to create the final prototype based on the Design system components we created.


  • Creating a Design system is essential for a mid to large scale product and doing it early on saves a ton of time in creating the design.

  • When in conflict over two variations from two designers, test them. It is the easiest and quickest way to resolve conflicts. We are not the end-users.

Have a problem to solve or an innovative idea to collaborate?

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