Improving the customer experience of the city bike service

The Helsinki region public transit’s (HSL) city bike program’s iconical yellow bikes were put under the microscope after the pilot season was over in autumn 2016. Frantic stepped into the picture as HSL’s digital service design lead in January 2017 and took on the challenge of improving and including new features into the popular service during the next two bikeshare seasons. 

HSL’s Citybike program is one of HSL’s success stories. The pilot program launched in 2016, gaining much attention and quickly becoming one of the top 5 most visited sections of the digital service. Frantic’s designers were tasked to set their sights on incremental improvements for the 2017 city bike season while planning bigger changes for the 2018 season.

The 2018 season was praised for the improvements made to the registration process helping improve the customer rating of the service. Here are a couple of the more memorable tweets we gathered:

“Just renewed citybike season. Best purchase process in any Finnish online store. Ever. #kaupunkipyörä. Jolly good job.”

"I renewed my city bike season. It took about 10 seconds. Your service designers deserve a medal."

The front page of HSL Citybikes.
The registration process of the citybikes.
Frontpage view for a logged-in user. Shows how many kilometers you've cycled and the hours you've used the citybike.

Change starts with learning and planning

As the service had already received positive user ratings and reviews, it was important to base any proposed modifications on information gathered from customers on how the service could be improved.

In order to gain as much knowledge about the different types of users, our service design team performed extensive heuristic analyses and formed hypotheses about how to improve the service for the 2018 season. With hypotheses in hand, the designers recruited existing service users, as well as first-time users and observed the different usage scenarios, pinpointing where pain points in the online and onsite service lay. 

This research to improve the service was conducted during the spring and summer of 2017 when customers were actively using the service and data could be gathered about the way people were using the bike share service in context.

Improvements based on research

After analyzing the research results, HSL, Frantic, and the multi-vendor development team prioritized the list of user needs, balancing them against business-critical improvements such as optimization.

The following areas were set to be improved incrementally in 2017, culminating in the final changes being implemented in 2018:

  1. Improving communication with customers throughout the registration, purchase, and renewal process steps, including all email communication as well as user interface microcopy;

  2. Commodifying the various bike share pass types and redesigning how they were presented to the public;

  3. Creating a dedicated area within the online service, where all bike share usage data and personal information could be viewed and handled by the customer.

hsl desktop 01 copy 2 1x (1)

Improving the digital experience with a 360° approach

Investigating the end-to-end customer experience and how customers interacted with the digital service in different contexts, the designers did not stop at the digital service’s edges. They delved into all customer communications that were being sent to the service’s subscribers and coupled that with exploring the communication style at the actual physical bike stops. 

As the service had its own brand under HSL, Frantic lobbied to treat it as a startup within HSL and rethink how to communicate the different subscription models (day pass, weekly pass, and season pass) as well as other necessary information shared with customers. Solutions ranged from:

  • redesigning the visual look and feel of the bike share online site to reflect the 360° approach taken to improve the service,

  • giving user interface microcopy a facelift to be in line with other channels,

  • scrutinizing and rewriting the content of all emails to be more approachable and consistent with the registration and purchase flows, 

  • prototyping how users could track their own usage of the service in a new dashboard view allowing them to be more engaged with the service.

As a result, the bike share program matured over the 2017-2018 period. Frantic helped create a solid foundation upon which the service could be developed for years to come.

The Citybike program is a joint effort between HSL, Citybike Finland Ltd, and both the city of Helsinki and Espoo.

Comment from the client

Our collaboration went well. The designers of the customer UI layout engaged in an active dialogue not only with us, the client, but also with the makers of the technical implementation, which is essential for a functional end result. Frantic's experts had the enthusiasm and desire to make the service easy and inviting, which was also reflected in the good ratings of the customer satisfaction survey.

–Tarja Jääskeläinen, Specialist, Accounts and sales, HSL


  • Digital service design
  • Visual design
  • User interface design
  • User experience design
  • Content design


  • Heuristic analysis
  • User testing
  • Prototyping
  • Workshop facilitation

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