Contextual inquiry


We chose to design an app for learning traffic signs because of three reasons. First, we all have been learner drivers once and we know that learning traffic signs is quite often a tedious and complicated task. Second, one of our group members works for a company which provides a virtual learning environment for learner drivers, i.e she has access to information about people who usually learn the theory online and the topics they struggle with. Third, the app would be a response to a real-world problem and we have a potential customer, who may actually implement the design if they are satisified with it.

As to our involvement with the field, all of us have some years of driving experience, Nele even as much as ten years. Jaanika has worked for a company which provides online driving theory solution for more than two years. Thus, we also have access to our potential customer and the body of knowledge the company has about it’s users. With some effort, we can also get into contact with subject-matter experts and potential users of the application.


There is a lot of literature about learning driving theory and traffic signs or how traffic signs are misunderstood. We found mostly articles form news media, but there are also some very good academic articles available.

1. Articles in the news media

These articles demonstrate well that the traffic signs are often misunderstood, or that people coming from countryside sometimes even do not know signs in used in a big city. Here are few examples in news portal Pealinn and another in news portal Delfi.

These articles are easy to read and provide quite good hint at what are the possible problem areas and also who could be our target groups.

2. Academic literature

Most articles focus mainly on traffic signs layout, placement in traffic and how it affects users. Some interesting, but not so relevant articles investigated also the role of age, marital status, gender, nationality, educational background and monthly income to drivers’ comprehension of traffic signs. Reading these articles gives a good overview why signs might be misunderstood and therefore, might be useful during the development of the application so that we can focus more on signs that are hard to remember or understand.

We also found some research articles on learning traffic signs that are more relevant and interesting for us. For example, we found an articles by Ng AW and Chan AH (2011) Investigation of the effectiveness of traffic sign training in terms of training methods and sign characteristics . It might be of use for us, as it investigated the effectiveness of traffic sign training in terms of training methods and sign characteristics.

3. Books and teaching materials

The driving schools usually have their own teaching material and usually, the traffic signs are also included into books on the rules of the road. However, in the latter the traffic signs part is quite boring copy-and-paste from the regulation, so an interactive app would make a difference for the learners.

4. User survey

We got a lot of useful material form a user survey that the company (for which one of our group members works for) carried out in 2013. It gave some insight into who might be users of  a traffic signs learning app. They found out that the the largest part of their users were in the age between 24-29 years and working. The main reason why they chose online study was the fact that they did not have the time to attend lessons at the classroom (due to work and family obligations), or that they wanted more flexibility and control over their learning. Another important froup werw men in the age of 30+, who already had a driving license, but used the service for just revising.

Competitive review

Name of the app: Know your traffic signs pro ( for iOS, 1.99€)


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This handy app is a mobile reference, providing comprehensive explanation of traffic signs that you are likely to come across. The app is self-contained and offers essential knowledge for all road users and a complementary study tool to the highway code app for theory test. The app has no hidden costs, no ads.

Similarities: as we have planned for out app, this app is also divided in two parts: learning part and testing part.

Differences: the app has no gamification elements (so the user could be not improved to use the app in long term). It is not visually appealing and not even updated because maintains the structure of the old iOS 6).  The app has no animations which would show the learners what the sign requires them to do.

Name of the app: Liiklusmärgid (for Android, free)

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This app is focusing on learning traffic signs as well as our app. Although it only offers the function to choose the group of traffic signs you want to learn and then see picture of each sign followed by short explanation.  When you click on some traffic sign, it opens longer explanation.  However the explanations are exactly the same as in regulation.

Strengths of this app are simplicity and understandability, however there are more weaknesses visible. Firstly this app is visually not appealing. Secondly it doesn’t offer such functions as testing your knowledge, search engine on the basis of key words and it doesn’t include road markings. Thirdly what makes it different from our app, it doesn’t make the learning process any easier as planned for our app with better explanations of signs and short animations that show how to act when you see the sign.

Name of the app: International traffic signs ( for Android, free)

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This app gives possibility to learn international traffic signs just by answering to test questions. It doesn’t have any other functions than that.

What makes it different from our app in addition to having only the testing function, it focuses only on international signs. It also doesn’t have any gamification elements and it is visually very simple and not very appealing.


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