Crossing borders by train
What can be improved for international train travellers?
Do international train travellers arriving with the Thalys from Paris understand how to exit the station through the closed gates in Rotterdam? How does the German Deutsche Bahn ticked vending machine work at the Roosendaal station? Where do you have to check out with your ov-chipkaart when traveling to Antwerp? Do you have to check out at all? What service do travellers need when a train is cancelled? And where do they expect to find it?
To improve the customer experience of international train travellers, you first have to understand exactly what goes wrong. We conducted research for the Technical University of Delft.
Interviews and observations
We combined research methods to construct an overview of the problems faced when traveling in and out of the Netherlands by train. We interviewed stakeholders and made several international train trips.
In the trains we spoke to international travellers and at the stations we interviewed service personnel. And we made a lot of observations, logging how and where travellers look for information, buy tickets and navigate the stations. And (attempt to) cross the physical barrier of the ov-chip gates at the closed stations.
The international customer journey
We found many opportunities for improvement. To structure all findings, we created a customer journey for international train travel. There is no universal series of steps that each customer of international train travel goes though, but there are distinct phases to categorise issues.
A report at different speeds
Different people have different needs when it comes to research results. A high-level overview is crucial, but the factual experiences of customers add another dimension to the problems. And an in-depth understanding of the details is vital for selecting appropriate solutions. So we described our findings on three different speeds.
The big picture
To provide an overview of the problem space, we created a poster. It shows the different phases in the customer journey and lists the issues that we found in each phase. For each issue it gives clarity about the target group experiencing the problem and the impact it has on their customer experience.
A highway of user experiences
In our report all even pages are filled with pictures and illustrative quotes from travellers. They offer a detailed and sharp picture of how actual customers experience the issues we found, and what impact they have on their travel and their mood.
By placing these illustrative items on every left page of the report, they form an information highway that is easy to scan when flipping through the report. This offers some valuable first-person insights to readers who are pressed for time and focus on the executive summary, conclusions and recommendations.
An understanding of the details is necessary to be able to come up with good solutions. That’s why we describe our findings in detail, outlining the user goals in each phase of the journey and how the issues we found prevent customers from reaching these objectives. Apart from all findings, the report also offers a detailed description of the methods we used. And of course the conclusions and recommendations that could lead to improvement of the customer experience for international train travellers.
The closed payment border at station Roosendaal can be an unexpected barrier, as we found out from a traveller arriving in the Netherlands from Belgium: “What do you mean I need my ticked to open this gate? I just threw my ticked in the bin on the other platform.”
An actionable report
The Dutch railway company NS and NS international immediately started work on the actionable conclusions and recommendations in our report. Within weeks the poster of the customer journey map had evolved into a to-do poster, with notes scribbled next to the different issues to indicate what actions would be taken on the short term to improve the customer experience for international train travellers to and from the Netherlands.
Many thanks to Jasper van Kuijk, Bas Rijnders, the service personnel at station Rotterdam, Roosendaal, Heerlen, Arnhem, Enschede and Venlo and all the international travellers that were kind enough to share their experiences.
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As creative engineers, we love complex challenges. We design solutions that feel logical for users. We focus on quality. We choose to be a small agency, so we can give each client our full attention.
We bring over 20 years of experience to each project.
Bart van Lieshout designer—architecture (with honors), TU Delft. Bart worked 10 years as an architect, designing complex buildings such as hospitals. He is fascinated by grids and typography and always in pursuit of elegant solutions. Bart sings as a tenor soloist in classical music. His daughter is called Domino.
Our specialty is fact-based design.
We base our designs on facts and insights. We research the needs of the people who are going to use the product or service. And we merge these user needs and ambitions with our clients’ ambition in a concept.
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A solid concept is half the battle. It forms the basis for prioritising and planning features, helps to convince stakeholders and guides the product roadmap. For agile teams the concept provides a clear high-level context, essential during large or complex projects.
We help ambitious organisations to make online projects successful.
Our work is often of strategic importance to our clients, so we can only show a selection.
Design for online services of a pension administration
Ideation for purchasing tools for the government
Design for a website and mail service for lawyers
Design Sprints is a format developed by Google Ventures to create a user validated prototype in only 5 working days. The ideal compact (and low-cost) innovation kickstart for corporates with challenges and ambition.
Concept for a new public service portal
Implementation of UX research for a sports brand
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Branding for a dental practice
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We build websites on a regular basis. This keeps our knowledge up-to-date about what can be achieved in the browser—and how much effort is involved. We believe that good design takes into account how things are made. Online products are not clickable images, but responsive layout systems that work well on small and larger screens alike. So we need to understand the code that makes the design.
User research in public transportation
First website for mbstudio
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Because we believe that digital products make life better.
Why you do something is just as important as what you do. We believe in human-centered design: products and services designed from the perspective of the human who uses them. We believe that good websites, apps and online services make our life easier and more pleasurable. And that the impact of digital products on our life—and that of our children—will only increase.
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