India By Rail

India By Rail is an experience specially designed for the foreign tourists to help them book train tickets for their travels across India. 

THE CHALLENGE

Design a mobile experience (a mobile website) for booking Indian Railway tickets that is specially tailored for foreign travelers.

BACKGROUND

India has always been one of the most popular country in the world for the tourists to visit. In the last many years,  'globe-trotting' or 'backpacking' has become a very serious hobby and an occupation for several. Most of the foreigners who travel within India prefer traveling by train due to several reasons. The current online process of making a train seat reservation is quite difficult to understand, frustrating, tedious and prone to errors. I hence found it necessary and valuable to make this process straightforward, informed and as enjoyable as India is itself.  I've considered the mobile-first approach and recreated the experience for a mobile site. 

TIMELINE

4 weeks

This is a capstone project done to practice designing a mobile website for a booking system 

THE DESIGN PROCESS

Click on a box from the slider below in order to directly jump to that section. 

 

RESEARCH

TOPIC AND PRODUCT RESEARCH

In order to get a better understanding of the problem space, I started with rapid immersion and a detailed product research.  I identified the following three goals to be achieved during the product research:

GOAL

 Obtain basic information of the Indian Railways

GOAL

Immersion:

Study and experience the online ticket booking process 

GOAL

Conventional Wisdom:

How to be there and be useful in  Let’s-Book-It-Moments? 

MARKET RESEARCH

To observe how other ticket booking websites are approaching and attempting to solve the problem of booking train tickets, I identified the strengths and weakness of the direct and indirect competitor products. 

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USER RESEARCH

To empathize and understand the pain points and unmet needs of the users, I conducted user interviews and ethnographic studies. 

USERS

Globe Trotters and Backpackers

Users of non-Indian origin who have traveled extensively in trains in India or other

countries

Indians living overseas who regularly travel within India

 

RESEARCH SYNTHESIS

TOPIC AND PRODUCT RESEARCH

  1. Indian railways is one of the largest railway organizations in the world.  

  2. It has more than 20,000 passenger trains plying on its network

  3. Enormous and complex train network that is divided into various zones

  4. One of the most trustworthy and efficiently run mode of transportation

  5. Online ticketing system launched in 2002

  6. Tickets booked online per day - 1.5 to 1.6 million

Study and experience the online ticket booking process

  1.  Tickets cannot be booked without user registration 

  2. Registration process is lengthy, error prone with unclear feedback

  3. User experience for foreign travelers is no different than the Indian residents

  4. No definition or explanation for the several train types, train classes, ticket booking quotas and reservation types

How to be there and be useful in  Let’s-Book-It-Moments?

  1. Alleviate the concern that users might be missing out on additional information just because they're using a smartphone. 

  2.  Eliminate steps on mobile. 

    • Implement one-click functionality.

    •  Help the traveler fill in forms.

    • Provide alternatives for finishing the transaction (like click-to-call buttons).

  3.  Ensure your mobile site loads fast: 

    • Mobile users are impatient.

    • 52% would switch sites or apps if it takes too long to load.

    • 45% would switch if it takes too many steps to book or to get desired information.

Obtain basic information of the Indian Railways

MARKET RESEARCH

Maps / Visual Guide

Alternative Routes, Transfers, Connections

Detailed informational guide about concepts, terminologies, abbreviations used by IR

           Since there is limited value in comparing multiple train booking providers when it’s common knowledge that IRCTC is the sole inventory provider and its own site sells tickets at the best prices, we are trying to work on a product whose usability and added-value provides a strong enough reason for people to initiate their search for train tickets on our platform and then transact on a site of their liking.             - IXIGO founder - Aloke Bajpai

USER RESEARCH

 I chose to dig deeper into the backpacker / globe trotter user segment.
Persona creation and Empathy mapping were done in order to empathize, gain insights, observe patterns and understand the pain points and unmet needs of the users. 

PERSONA

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ELLIE QUINN

I’m a total travel addict who has been traveling on and off since 2010 and has visited over 55 Countries. Yes I’m a Country Counter!” 

https://thewanderingquinn.com/about-me/

ARCHETYPE

A travel enthusiast who travels and blogs full time

PAIN POINTS

  1.  Registration:  lengthy and error prone

  2. No indication that I'm booking under 'Foreign Quota'

  3.  Booking process: high learnability

  4. Choosing cities and stations: tricky

    • local names

    • similar names

    • multiple stations in one city

  5. No indirect routes shown: no direct route = no trains

  6. Resorting to Google from time to time for:

    • Clarifying names

    • Checking routes

    • Checking locations / geographical details

  7. What does each train type mean?

  8. What does each train class mean?

  9. What does each reservation code mean?

  10. Too many advertisements interrupting the flow

UNMET NEEDS

  1.  Graphical Representation:

    • Journey Routes

    • Geographical locations

  2. User Reviews and Ratings especially for Safety, Food, Cleanliness etc. 

  3. Provide booking for indirect connections via intermediate stops if a direct train does not exist between source and destination

MOTIVATIONS

  1. Traveling for me is to live my purpose and find my purpose

  2. Learn and practice Ayurveda

  3. Meet Wonderful People

  4. Meditation & Yoga

  5. Continue on my spiritual journey

EMPATHY MAPPING

DOING

What does a typical day look like for Eliie?

Traveling: Backpacking around different countries

 

Write, edit and publish blog posts and videos

Trying to make money and manage expenses:

     - create podcasts

  - radio interviews
  - work with travel  brands

Meditate 

Planning solo and group trips 

Learn about moon, astrology and spiritual journey

THINKING AND FEELING

What are Ellie's hopes, dreams or fears?

What is important to her?

"Travel is my life - it's what I do and it's what I am!"

"I first visited India in 2018 for 4 months and really loved it"

"Using the Indian Railway e ticketing system is initially tricky to work with"

"Indian railway e ticket system is easier to use on desktop than mobile"

"Ayurveda, the Indian science, fascinates me. I want to learn more about it in India"

"I love yoga and meditation. I wish to learn advanced form of those when I visit India next "

SEEING

What is Ellie's environment like?

 

Hard: Modest life with a certain amount of income requiring planning to sustain and survive

Filled with new connections: fellow backpackers, foreign and local travelers, blog readers, social media users etc. 

Exciting: New places, new experiences, new people

HEARING

What influences Ellie?

Being offered free trips around Europe and getting paid for some too!

I stumbled upon your YouTube channel when I was planning my trip. Very helpful!

You are so inspiring! You are living a dream!

I'd love you to plan my India trip

Great interview, Ellie!

PROBLEMS DEFINITION

PROCESS

FIND THEMES

Cluster learnings into themes

GENERATE INSIGHTS

1 theme = 1 or N insights

PICK TOP 3-5 INSIGHTS

TRANSFORM INSIGHTS TO HMWs

PICK TOP 3 HMWs

THEMES

Registration

Train Search

Overall Experience

INSIGHTS

Registration is mandatory to book the tickets

The registration process is lengthy, tedious and error prone 

The authentication process  of email and international phone number is tricky and error prone

Choosing source and destination stations is tricky given the local names, multiple stations within a city and similar names

There is no guide to provide information on different terminologies, abbreviations and codes

There is no graphical representation to help the user see her location or journey route and orient herself

There is no functionality showing connections, transfers to book trains when no direct train is there

There is a lot of information that is not relevant to a foreign tourist

There are a lot of captchas, advertisements and pop ups intermingled with the actual data

HMWs

How might we provide a robust,  shorter and clear registration?

How might we better inform and guide the user as she chooses the source and destination?

How might we provide graphical representation of the places and the iternarary?

How might we provide a detailed guide about IR terms and concepts and make it easily accessible?

How might we better inform and guide the foreign tourist as she looks through the sources, destinations and trains so that she able to book her journey confidently?

How might we make the experience of searching the trains and booking the tickets more relevant for the foreign tourists?

PROBLEMS IDENTIFIED

How might we better inform and guide the foreign tourist as she looks through the sources, destinations and trains so that she able to book her journey confidently?

How might we provide a robust, shorter and clear registration?

How might we make the experience of searching the trains and booking the tickets more relevant for the foreign tourists?

 

IDEATION

PROBLEMS

How might we better inform and guide the foreign tourist as she looks through the sources, destinations and trains that she is able to book her journey easily and confidently?

IDEAS

Ask for + convey information progressively

Search by a city name

Offer popular cities and popular stations

Global and local names as identifiers of cities and stations

Map: View the city / station on a map

Guide to understand the many train types, train classes, ticket quotas, reservation codes etc. 

Interactive map showing the entire journey / itinerary

Detailed reviews and rating for the train covering safety, cleanliness, food etc. 

How might we provide a robust, shorter and clear registration process?

Eliminate irrelevant fields or opt in offers relevant to Indian residents in the form

Progress tracker

Data persistence: save login credentials

Guest Checkout

Ask only for the minimum and required information

credit card scanner

An upfront message that registration will be required in order to book the tickets

How might we make the experience of searching the trains and booking the tickets more relevant for the foreign tourists?

Make the option to convey that the user is a foreign tourist - immediately visible, easily switchable

Provide a way to choose a country at the beginning

Auto populate the ISD code of the phone number

Provide translation as per the language chosen

Provide currency conversion

Provide an alternative to OTP during registration

 

INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE

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INTERACTION DESIGN

TASK

Book a train ticket for a journey from the cities Bangalore (Bangalore City Junction station)  to Calcutta

APPROACH 

TASK FLOW 

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USER FLOW

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WIREFRAMING

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VISUAL DESIGN

The credit of this illustration goes to Chumbak - www.chumbak.com  I have used it and tweaked it as per the needs of my visual design.

India By Rail

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HIGH FIDELITY DESIGN

AN INVITING, INFORMATIVE AND CLEAR BEGINNING OF THE EXPERIENCE

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WELCOME to a vibrant, inviting and a clutter free landing page.
 

The users not overloaded with extraneous information, asked to select from several options upfront and asked many questions...

Information will be provided, questions will be asked - but progressively - ONLY when needed and ONLY what is needed

GUIDANCE AND HAND HOLDING WHEN CHOOSING THE SOURCE AND DESTINATION STATIONS

"New Delhi has 5 railway stations - What railway station should I choose?"

 "How do I spell Krantivira Sangolli Rayanna? - The spellings are tricky!"

"Why cannot I find Bangalore City Junction station on the list?"

 "Is Calcutta same is Kolkata?

Is Ahmedabad same as Karnavati?"

 "What are the main railway stations within Calcutta?"

India By Rail provides  popular stations, popular cities, regional and the global names of the cities and the  stations.

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MAP SHOWING THE LOCATION OF THE STATION

What will it be like if misspelling a certain station or a city will result in it being a completely different city? 

India By Rail provides the map functionality through which the user can see where exactly the station is located and in what part of the country. It also shows banks, ATMs, hospitals and food joints near the station.

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INTERACTIVE JOURNEY MAP AND INTERMEDIATE STATIONS FOR EACH TRAIN

A journey via Indian Railway can be as short as of 15 minutes or as long as of more than 2 days! Given that safety and certainty is the number one concern of the foreign tourists in an unknown land, seeing the route visually and knowing where you are going gives a lot of confidence and peace of mind to the travelers. The ratings for each train help towards the same goal.

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GUIDE TO UNDERSTAND THE TRAIN TYPES, TRAIN CLASSES, TICKET QUOTAS, RESERVATION CODES and MORE!

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The Indian Railways has several different train classes, ticket booking quotas, train types and reservation codes! 

This experience provides the user with all the required information and knowledge she would need, at the right time and in the right amount!

UPFRONT AVAILABILITY AND BOOKING INFORMATION

Ticket availability per train class, pricing as well as booking trend for the future dates is provided upfront to the users without requiring any registration. 

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PRODUCT PROTOTYPE

 

USABILITY TESTING

TASK

Find a train from Bangalore City Junction to Calcutta Railway station and book a ticket from the available train class and train quota.

TESTING GOALS

Are all the user pain points and unmet needs addressed by this design?

What new pain points and unmet needs are found during the testing?

Observe user’s overall experience of using the product with respect to features, interactions, content etc.

What did the users find
1. extraordinary

2. as expected

3. frustrating 

when using the product?

TESTING APPROACH

The users were asked to experience and complete the task on both the products:

  1. Existing IRCTC mobile website

  2. India By Rail

USERS

Catherine

Age: 70

Train booking experience:
In Europe, mainly France

She recently traveled in Spain via trains

Stephanie

Age: 37

Train booking experince:

In Germany

She has traveled the northern India in trains 

Jalpa

Age: 35

Train booking experince:

Several short train rides in India
Currently uses NY Subway everyday

TEST FINDINGS AFFINITY MAPPING

 

REFLECTIONS AND FUTURE FEATURES

REFLECTIONS

Search By State Functionality

I designed a 'Search By State' functionality after I studied the Amtrak website for booking trains in the United States. The purpose behind creating this design was to help the user select a source and destination station by first selecting a state instead of remembering  / typing their names. An interactive map was also designed such that it will change as the user selects the stations within the state. I designed both the wireframes and the high fidelity mockups only to realize during testing that the users found this solution confusing. I realized that I should have done a round of testing with the low fidelity prototypes and then gone ahead with the hifi versions. I also realized that what works for one country (in this case the USA) will not necessarily work for another country (India) and its users.

FUTURE FEATURES

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Foreign vs Local

Tourist Toggle

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Registration

Guest Checkout

One Time Password Alternative

Credit Card Scanner

Data
Persistence