Design Thinking: How to improve the user experience in the municipal swimming pools of Madrid, Spain

Because of the dry summer and hot in Spain is very common have municipal swimmin pools , where the people can refresh them selves a little. The swimming pools are open leisure spaces all summer from June to September.

Althought, the swimming pool of community of Madrid has increased 468% of users during the entire heat season (Dates of June, 2019).

Some swimming pools usually have excellent ratings, however like all public space there are many things that we improve.

Once more weekend begun in Neoland School and we received this challenge:


Before start the project we received a Briefing with following information:

Client: Municipal swimming pool of Madrid

Target Public: Young people between the ages of 14 and 21, parents with children between the ages of 0 and 13, as well as retired elderly people who have plenty of time to use and enjoy these facilities.


-To understand why users go to the pool, what needs they have, what do they expect to find and what is needed? What changes are possible to improve your experience?

-Make public swimming pools in a safe, clean environment, detect new user needs. Imposing a real digital transformation. To make the pool a place of
reference and indispensable space of obligatory visit to the city.

-Find out what value you have acquired should have a public/municipal swimming pool

-Propose a real improvement to the user service experience.

Deadline: 10 working days (2 weeks)

Budget: 40.000 €

First step to start the project

To solve the problem we use Design Thinking.

An approach that seeks the solution of problems in a collective and collaborative way, in a perspective of maximum empathy with its stakeholders, people are placed at the center of product development not only the end consumer, but all those involved in the idea (work in multidisciplinary teams are common in this concept).
We use the Double Diamont method composed of 4 steps that we will see as we move forward in the explanation of the process.


The first section of the Double Diamond model covers the beginning of the project. The designers try to look at the world in a fresh way, notice new things and collect ideas.

Desk Research

We start this fase with the Desk research, it’s a kind of research based in material published in reports and documents available in public libraries, websites, data from surveys already carried out, etc.

We researched about the principal topics like security, acessibility, access to information and cleaning.

  1. Security: According to our researches the security in the surroundings of the swimming pools is not the best, in some pools there is usually only one vigilant, acts of vandalism, violence and theft happen.
  2. Mobility: Swimming pools in Madrid are generally not prepared for people with disabilities, do not meet the minimum requirement for mobility, but in recent years many have already adapted to the new laws for greater access for people with reduced mobility.
  3. Information: We discovered that information about swimming pools in the community of Madrid is not very well disseminated, it is difficult to find main information such as price and location on the website of the City Hall of Madrid.
  4. Cleanliness: The community of Madrid has a decree that establishes technical-sanitary criteria in municipal swimming pools.
    As a general criterion it is established to inspect 100% of the facilities of public use and 10% of the swimming pools of private use, that is to say, of communities of proprietors. In these inspections, the hygienic-sanitary conditions of the installations, the quality of the water in their glasses, the quality of the air in air-conditioned installations, the suitability of lifeguards and health personnel as well as the information provided to the user are checked, among other issues.


To complement our research we also use netnography which is a market research technique that allows consumer analysis in groups and social networks. As a method, it is faster, simpler and less expensive than ethnography and more natural and less invasive than focus group or interview.

We found many comments in Google’s assessments complaining about the delay in entering these spaces:


We did a Benchmarking comparing Municipal/Public Swimming Pools, private swimming pools of sports clubs,
swimming pools of hotels, Madrid Río, a river located in Madrid, known as the “Beach of Madrid”and Natural urban beaches.

We compare the main topics between each of these places: Accessibility, Public Service, space, information on the Internet, waiting time to enter the place, security, lifesaving service, affordable price, cleanliness, diversity of activities and restaurant area.

Benchmarking Conclusions:

People go more to the municipal pool because:

  1. Some swimming pools have better accessibility for people with reduced mobility
  2. Has a diversity of activities
  3. Availability in several neighborhoods (Location)
  4. And because it is a municipal service, the city hall is responsible for the works and maintenance of the pool.

Research Questions

From this stage on, we started to empathize with the user. Something unpredictable is to try to know the user and paste ourselves in his place, know how to recognize what are their real needs and discover their main problems.

“The research question begins with a research problem, an issue someone would like to know more about or a situation that needs to be changed or addressed, such as: Areas of concern; Conditions that could be improved; Difficulties that need to be eliminated; Questions seeking answers”.(

We divide the issues into user, product and service.
The questions were as follows:

  • How is the swimming pool accessible?
  • Is there enough space for all users?
  • The users have access a relevant service through the web?
  • What is the best way to wait for users to enter the swimming pool?
  • Why do users bring their food from home?
  • What about swimming pool safety?
  • Are they satisfied with the purchase method?
  • What users think about cleaning the pool environment?

Quantitative Research

After this phase we did qualitative research, to get to know the people who usually go to the pool.
Unlike the qualitative, the objective of the quantitative research is to obtain as a result numerical indices that point out preferences, behaviors and other actions of individuals who belong to a particular group or society.

We obtained 79 responses and the conclusions were as follows:

  1. Most of the people interviewed usually go to the weekend pool.
  2. . They don’t usually find information about the pool in an easy way, they usually find information in Google’s comments or on the page of the Madrid City Hall.
  3. When asked about an easier way to buy tickets, they answered that they would need this option and buy on the internet, through an app, or at the entrance itself if it was possible.
  4. When entering the space, they usually go to the locker room first.
  5. They usually take food to eat inside the space.

Qualitative Research and Safari

Qualitative surveys are usually face-to-face and have more open questions so that the person under investigation can give deeper answers about the problem being analyzed. The answers are not objective, and the purpose is not to count quantities as a result, but rather to understand the behavior of a certain target audience.

The safari, on the other hand, consists of a deep analysis of the problem, through observation.

To conclude these phases of the work, we visited one of the municipal swimming pools.
We chose the Casa de Campo swimming pool because it is one of the best rated municipal swimming pools in Madrid and most famous for its size of pool area and the location near the subway. Because of this, this pool is usually crowded in the afternoon and especially on weekends.

Safari results

When we arrived at the Casa de Campo pool, we did the Safari investigation. We discovered some relevant aspects about this pool:

1. We noticed that in the morning the pool is usually emptier, there is not so much line to enter the space, it took us approximately 10 minutes to buy the entrances.

2. The tickets are charged according to age, the values are: Children from 0 to 4 years old do not pay, children from 6 to 14 years old pay the value of 2.70 euros, young people from 15 to 26 years old, 3.60 euros, adults from 27 years old 4.50 euros and seniors from 65 years old pay the value of 1.35 euros.

3. In the morning still, we observe that the locker room are cleaner. We also find in locker room a place to store valuables, which adds positive points for security.

4. In the area around the pool we saw the places where people used to lie down to rest and sunbathe, however, the areas with shade were few, people complained about this issue.

5. There was also a space with a fake lawn, which as it beat too much sun burned the feet, which was also cause for complaints.

6. Already in the afternoon, we observed how the pool was gradually filling up and how the space became more dangerous and less reliable, because the guards no longer passed so much and the first responders talked to each other.

Qualitative Research

Within the space we also do qualitative research, we talked with 9 people.

We talked with 4 ladies from 50 to 80 years old, a couple of approximately 30 years old, two foreign women of 30 years old also, two men who had about 28 years and two women with children who had for about 40 years.

We tried to understand their main painpoints and managed to conclude the following:

  1. Older people have bonus tickets and younger people buy day tickets.
  2. Long lines to buy tickets at weekends
  3. They find it useful to buy tickets online for all municipal swimming pools.
  4. The surveillance has a regular evaluation, people are not safe leaving their belongings in the towel especially in the afternoon.
  5. Bad accessibility for seniors, both to enter the pool and outside.
  6. Cleanliness in general has a good score for both grass and water.
  7. Many people felt a lack of more shaded areas.
  8. The snack bar was good, but there was no restaurant or cafeteria so people had to bring food or go out to eat something.
  9. For the families with Children the pool was not so good because there was no children’s pool and the pool was too deep.

User Persona

Based on the results of both qualitative and quantitative interviews and the safari, we created two people.
“User Persona is the fictitious representation of the ideal client of a business. It is based on real data about customers’ behavior and demographic characteristics, as well as their personal stories, motivations, goals, challenges and concerns”. (

Miss Carmen

The first User Persona created was Miss Carmen, a 70-year-old woman, retired, separated, and lived her entire life in Madrid. She worked in a ministry for over 30 years and is currently retired and spends her time studying and going to the pool every day.

She usually does exercises every morning, wants to stay engaged physically and mentally, goes to the pool to relax and pass the time.
Her frustrations about the pool are the lack of access for people with reduced mobility, do not hear her complaints about the pool in the ombudsman, lack to draw attention to people who do not comply with the rules of swimming pools, and do not usually rely much on the safety of space.

García’s Family

The second User Persona we created was the Garcia family, a family made up of Juan, 36 years old, Maria Helena, 34 years old and her children, Valentina, 3 months old and Miguel, 2 years old.

Juan works in the Supplies part and Maria Helena in a supermarket.
They are a young family living in the District of La Latina in Madrid, but they come from Peru, they work hard all week long and on weekends they usually make plans to stay together, they want to do something different always and not fall into the routine, and above all have fun.

Their frustrations about the pool are the long lines to buy entrance, in this pool of Casa de Campo in particular there is no pool for children, the edge of the pool is always full of people which makes it difficult for children to play with more freedom, the bathrooms do not have changers for babies, and the stairs of the pool are too narrow, which is dangerous for the children.

Empathy Map

After the creation of the User Personas we made the empathy maps.
This map is developed in a simple and graphic scheme, which allows a very objective perception of what is being analyzed. With the information of what the user thinks, feels, what he hears and what he does.
That is, a summary of all the feelings of the User Personas created, which allows us to put ourselves in their place in an easier way.

From the map of empathy we saw that the main pains of Carmen are access for older people, and the safety of space.

For the García Morales Family, their main pains are the delay in buying tickets and lack of access for children.

User Jouney Map

The next step was to make the User Journey Map, User Journey is a graphical representation of the customer’s relationship with a product or service in all its stages, from before the purchase to after its use. From the user’s journey it is possible to understand when they are satisfied and which are frustrated in each phase of contact with the solution presented to correct errors and find opportunities.

In Carmen’s user journey we see that she is frustrated when she arrives, because she sees that her usual shade area is busy, when she tries to get out of the pool but has difficulty because of the stairs, and at the entrance, when it comes to recharging her bonus, she has to wait a long time in line.

For the García family, their main points of frustration are when they try to buy tickets on the Internet and see that there is no option, and when they arrive at the box office, they see that there is a long line and have to wait for 20 minutes under the sun.


After understanding the painpoints of the ideal users, we can understand their needs and thus have some insights as a solution to the problems encountered as:

1. To have a more accessible ladder or a ramp for older people or people with disabilities

2. Change the lawn of the pool, since the current is artificial and burns the feet of users when walking

3. Have other ways to buy the entrance as an app or a physical machine

4. Improve the information about swimming pools.

Prioritization of Ideas

Finally we made a matrix with all the ideas we had in Brainstorming and evaluated them in terms of feasibility and desire.
With this matrix we concluded that the most desirable and viable idea was

To develop a physical machine for purchasing tickets and for acquiring bonus tickets.

Value Proposition and Business Model Canvas

The Value Proposition and the Business Model Canvas are important steps to be developed after already having the idea about the final defined solution, they serve to represent the benefits employed in their products or services, for the customers who acquire them, leads the company’s relationship with the purchase decision of its customers.

The business model, on the other hand, seeks to describe how a project can create, deliver and develop values.

Thus, our final value proposal was:

The acceleration of the purchase of tickets for the pool.

And the most important points of our business model were as follows:

Key partners: Machine providers and revenue services.
Cost structure: Software providers and physical machine providers.
Customer Segments: Swimming pool users familiar with technology


Search for inspirations

Before starting to develop the chosen solution, we looked for inspiration in some machines we already knew such as the Madrid subway machines, train machines, bus machines, fast food chains and cinemas.


To understand what the software flow would be like, we developed a flowchart, we thought from the choice of languages to the final process that would be to buy the tickets and furthermore, we thought about the bonus recharge part, which would be a monthly recharge or 10 days for the entrance.


With the inspirations that we had sought and with the flowchart that we developed, we made our first drafts and we got to this result:

But we saw that the result we arrived at was not attractive or functional enough, besides that we missed a more intuitive system, which could meet all users of the pool and the result we arrived at was very much like everything that existed already. So we went looking for other more innovative references and we found the Madrid bus (EMT) page and app and the Amsterdam subway machine.

With these inspirations we arrived at a second result:



For the final process, we researched about suppliers and costs of this type of machines, we found the brand Unifox, a brand with modern styles and a good cost.


For the final development of the prototype we chose the Chulapa and Lato typographys, we chose to use the Chulapa typography, because it is a typography based on the signs with names of Madrid’s street, made by Ruiz de Luna for the historic streets of Madrid. It can be downloaded and used through this link:
With regard to colours, we chose the blue of the Madrid Community Logo and other shades of blue and grey as the main colours.



Design thinking is a very interesting approach to problem solving and in the end it is possible to have ideals of both Service Design and UX/UI Design.
I believe that we can have many insights with qualitative researches above all, after understanding the main pains of users.
In the end we also arrived at a very interesting solution, but perhaps with more time we could have developed it better.
However, it is important to adapt to the deadline of both the client and the company and make it the best possible result.

UX/UI Designer