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Making apps for the customer come alive

Making apps for the customer come alive

What does a UX designer actually do? Jens Baumgarten knows: He develops products and services that are conceived from the customer’s perspective.

“Park. Click. Done.” is the slogan of the “We Park” app. With the app, every user can buy parking tickets

“PARK” hangs in large letters above the heads of the employees in the Berlin office of the mobility service provider and app provider “We Park”.  This sums up the service that Jens Baumgarten, user experience designer at Volkswagen and responsible for the app – here with his team of product managers, visual designers, programmers and IT specialists – takes care of on a daily basis: Making life easier for drivers by making it easier for them to buy parking tickets. How? With cashless payments by one click via an App. “Park. Click. Done.”, goes the slogan.

Looking for change? Passé! Looking for parking meters and automatic pay stations? Passé. Paid for too many minutes? Passé! Parking fines? Passé! “Nobody likes to buy parking tickets. Above all, in most cases you have to decide how long you want to park for. But, often I don’t know that beforehand,” says Baumgarten. He has been a Volkswagen employee for eight years and previously studied computer science, majoring in “human-machine interaction and UX”, as well as medicine. 

What does a UX designer at Volkswagen do? Jens Baumgarten from “We Park” knows: As a User-Experience Designer, he takes care of thinking about products and services from the customer’s perspective. A job portrait.

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That's my job - UX designer in software development for fully connected cars

The app "We Park" was launched in Berlin in spring 2017

As the “We Park” service is offered by Volkswagen, the app can also be easily integrated into the vehicle. There it is operated via the central display of the infotainment system

The “We Park” app, which was launched in spring 2017 in Berlin, offers the simple possibility to start the parking ticket with one click, to end it with one click and to calculate the parking time by the minute. Using the reminder function, the user can also specify the period of time after which they would like to be automatically informed about an ongoing parking process. In addition, the app informs the user when a parking session is automatically terminated. This happens as soon as the maximum parking time for the respective parking zone is over or the end of the chargeable time period has been reached.

But “We Park” does not only work as an app via the smartphone. As the service is offered by Volkswagen, the software can also be easily integrated into the vehicle. There it runs on the infotainment system. According to Baumgarten, no other app developer offers this.

Thinking as a UX designer from the customer's perspective

36-year-old Jens Baumgarten has been with Volkswagen for eight years and is responsible for the UX design at “We Park”

Baumgarten’s task as a UX designer (User Experience Designer): To think about the products and services available on the smartphone app, and the in-vehicle version, from the customer’s perspective. What does that mean? The 36-year-old takes a brief look at the countless post-its pinned around his workplace, which explain the individual functions of the app. Then he explains: “The main thing is to make the app experienceable for the customers. So, to evaluate when, where and why the customer uses the product and what the service can offer the customer at certain moments in terms of optimal added value.”

The goal: To provide the customer with a product that is simple, easy to understand and user-friendly and thus satisfies all of the customer’s needs. With “We Park”, this means: “The operating concept with “Start/Stop” and the option of continuing to purchase the ticket time-dependently as an option – in other words, in the same way as with the ticket meter at the roadside – has also been adapted to the vehicle, but the elements are arranged differently.” This is precisely the challenge for a UX designer at Volkswagen whose programs do not only run on the smartphone: “I have to pay attention to completely different things in the vehicle to that on the app. With regard to security, but also from what point of view the customer looks at the software.”

Customer testing accounts for a large part of the work

In test cars like these, Jens Baumgarten and his team test the functionality of the app in vehicles

The work on the app “We Park”, which is currently offered in 135 cities, is of course never finished.  Currently the team consists of six permanent employees and some freelancers. To continuously improve the service, regular customer testing sessions are held. Every second Wednesday, Baumgarten and his colleagues from Volkswagen “We” invite ten test participants between the ages of 20 to 70 to test various prototypes from the idea pool, not just from “We Park”.  

In the process, they conduct individual discussions with the testers to understand the screens and customer needs. “Customer trials make up a large part of my work. I observe which part of the product they look at first, ask them about the next steps, how they would intuitively use the app, and experiment with concepts and screen design. He spends almost 50 percent of his time on the question of how customers react to certain ideas and control elements and how these can be improved. The rest of the time is spent working on front-ends, support requests from users and answering questions about technical implementation.

Products must be intuitively understandable

“We Park” is part of Volkswagen We, which is located on the We Campus in Berlin

The aim is to provide the customer with an app that essentially in the end, with “We Park”, makes the user forget about parking, says Baumgarten. “We Park” is a good example of the challenges of a UX designer. It’s a product that is relevant to many, for only a few minutes a day. As UX designers, we need to give these users the best possible product – in those very few seconds of their full attention.”

And this product must be intuitively understandable for Baumgarten. Baumgarten therefore works very closely with visual designers in the open-plan office in the We Campus building in downtown Berlin. Volkswagen is currently adapting the new location, located close to Alexanderplatz, to the requirements of modern digital development work.  Agile working models play an important role, for which the office space concept covers a total area of around 15,900 square meters.

As a development center, the We Campus will also play an important role for the Volkswagen Group’s new “Car.Software” unit in the future and will serve as a location for other Group brands.

  • More information about the new Car.Software unit

    Volkswagen AG intends to bundle more than 5,000 digital experts in its new “Car.Software” unit with Group responsibility for software in the vehicle by 2025. The company plans to develop significantly more software in the car and for vehicle-related services itself and to increase its own share from less than 10 percent today to at least 60 percent by 2025.
    In the future, there will be a uniform software platform throughout the Group with all basic functions for all vehicles of the Group – consisting of the operating system “vw.os” and the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud. By 2025, all the Group’s new models are to run on this software platform. The first vehicle to be based on this software platform is the ID.31.

Jens Baumgarten also works closely with visual designers as a UX designer

“As a UX designer, I personally see myself more as a conceptual designer. Since I’ve been at home in the automotive world and at Volkswagen for quite some time, I know a lot about parking. When I work together with our visual designer, I communicate my knowledge of how the app would work best from my experience and from the knowledge of customer needs, and then give him a concept. He then looks at it with his ‘design glasses’ and takes it as inspiration to visualize the individual screen elements of the app according to his ideas and in coordination with me."

Comfort is at the forefront in the age of digitalisation

Baumgarten’s wish for the future: that parking tickets on the app and in the car can be bought in the first step not only for parking at the roadside, but also for multi-story car parks. And that the user no longer has to worry about parking in the future. From searching for a parking space and selecting the best parking option to paying for the parking ticket, we will do all this automatically for our customers in the future. Because: “In the age of digitalization, comfort is at the forefront,” says Baumgarten.  

According to Baumgarten, Berlin already has every form of mobility on every corner. While saying this he looks out across the busy intersections surrounding Berlin’s Alexanderplatz

According to Baumgarten, Berlin already has every form of mobility on every street corner. He looks out of his office onto the busy intersections close to Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. One takes the means of transport that offers you the best progress for the way ahead – depending on traffic, time, distance and preferences.

With Volkswagen We, to which “We Park” belongs, the Volkswagen Group offers tailor-made possibilities to use vehicles in a variety of ways: simply, digitally and for every need. The app developed by Jens Baumgarten is precisely one of these services. “It’s always nice when you realize that you’ve helped develop something that someone else simply uses and it functions.”

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