User-centred Design Research

Cobalt Design was invited into cyclists’ homes to observe and learn about how people prepared for their ride. By taking a deep dive we were able to better understand the motivations – and hurdles – felt by Victorian cyclists. The valuable insights we gathered will underpin future initiatives to get more people riding, more often.

On yer bike

It’s Bicycle Network’s business to know about cyclists. There has been a lot of research into people’s riding experiences, and almost as much again about their experiences once they arrive at their destination. But Bicycle Network realised that they knew little about their experiences at the start of the journey and how people’s home environment might be a factor in a cyclist’s decision to ride.

Specifically Bicycle Network wanted to know more about what motivated (or deterred) cyclists from riding their bikes so that they could tailor their support services and encourage more Victorians to ride. To help them better understand Victorian cyclists, Cobalt conducted a tailored, user-centred design research assignment that uncovered a variety of riders’ unarticulated needs at the start of their journey.

“Quite simply, we’d love to see how you would normally spend your morning before you ride?”

The heart of our research process was an observational deep dive where we went and watched cyclists in their own home as they prepared to ride in the morning.

What Cobalt found was that cyclists who viewed their commute as an opportunity to ride, were most likely to overcome hurdles that deterred people who treated the bike as just another tool to get from A to B.


  • Understand what motivates or deters riders at the ‘start of trip’
  • Uncover ‘unmet’ needs of Melbourne Cyclists
  • Deliver informed recommendations for future service offerings


  • Journey Map
  • Insight driven recommendations
  • Empathy with cyclists
  • Informed Interventions
  • Defined problem space


  • Design Strategy
  • User Experience Design
  • Design Research
  • Journey Mapping
  • Data analysis
  • Graphic Design
  • Insights
  • Carla Zampaglione
  • Kate Bednarz
  • Thao Nguyen
  • Alicia Monsone
  • Warwick Brown
  • Steve Martinuzzo
  • Alex Graham

Taking a deep dive

It’s all about deep user empathy. We aim to know our client’s users better than our clients know them and even better than the users know themselves, to drive responsive design and effectively address otherwise unmet needs.

For this Bicycle Network assignment, Cobalt conducted research in three phases:

Plan > Review existing Bicycle Network data to better understand and identify and define the three categories of cyclists we should study.

Observe > For each visit, we observed cyclists in their own home, and tailored relevant questions in relation to their environment and situation. This human-centred and personal approach revealed far more about the cyclists than could ever be gleamed from survey responses. Seeing cyclists get ready to ride, and how they responded was imperative to gaining a clear understanding of the cyclists unmet needs.

Observing one cyclist get ready for work, we found that they would carry a weeks’ worth of pre-prepared lunches and spare clothing to the office every Monday. When we asked why, the cyclist responded that by preparing for the week ahead, every other morning they could just get on their bike and enjoy the ride. This reinforced our conclusion that people that saw cycling as an end in itself would work around situations that others’ would use as a justification to not ride.

Digest > Finally Cobalt analysed the observational data, pictures, and notes generated during our research by distilling these into insights and actionable recommendations. The Digest phase is crucial in interrogating the meaning behind simple observations. Converting raw observations of what we saw and heard into deeper insights is an outcome of our extensive experience in human-centred design.

Cobalt delivered a comprehensive report that described our research process and detailed the insights behind our recommendations. To make the results accessible to all Bicycle Network staff, Cobalt’s designers distilled the report into a Journey Map poster that now hangs in Bicycle Network’s office.

Cobalt’s efforts revealed interesting insight into motivators and deterrents affecting Melbourne cyclists. The recommendations provided to Bicycle Network will help to direct future interventions and help to see more Victorians riding their bikes.

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