The author: Frederic Kalinke


Written by Frederic Kalinke

When it comes to user research, it pays to not waste time exhaustively testing the same thing, to get the best return for your time, effort and money, get in, test, make improvements and repeat.

Putting your users at the core of your design when developing a new product is critical. With this is mind and adopting an iterative approach you create an ecosystem for instant feedback and improvement on the most crucial elements: efficiency, engagement, ease of use, and level of error tolerance. Catching problems before they snowball and defining clear paths for improvement.

This approach was implemented by the SilverRail mobile ticketing team, when testing the new user experience for a Account-Based-Ticketing app SilverRail are developing. The app enables passengers to travel on trains before buying a ticket, in other words, travel now-pay later.

This agile, iterative approach to design and testing provided us the means to make substantial and rapid improvements after each user session, then repeat the process with an updated prototype until we were satisfied.

So what was our approach?

Define your customer segment.

Do your groundwork. Define your user group wisely, keep in mind who you’re building the product for. How will they use it? Does where they live have an impact, or how often they travel? How will it benefit them?

Narrow your audience down and focus your testing on features that are relevant to your target customers.

Define who they are, get to know them, understand and listen to them.

Keep sessions small.

We agreed on 3 separate sessions, two weeks apart (to allow for changes to be implemented), each with a maximum of 6 customers.
‘By running smaller sessions you won’t get quantitative feedback or irrefutable trends, explains Richie Wykes, Product Designer at SilverRail, but behavioural patterns will materialise and you’ll discover possible deviations from your intended UX flows. New insights are constantly being incorporated into the next and now improved version of the app.’

Be time savvy – act on feedback after each session.

By observing the whole day in a ‘war-room’ you’ll be able to interact and react in real-time, meaning you’ll have a clear plan of action before the day is over.

This gives designers and engineers the ability to hit the ground running. It also stimulates innovation, igniting fire in the belly in a way that a laboriously read usability report can never do: Direct feedback through the customer lens creates clarity.

In fact, a huge benefit to this approach is the absence of the end report. This quick-fire research and development approach results in an improved product, either ready for another round in the usability ring or to move on to the next phase of production.


Breaking Habitual Behaviour.

Asking people to change their behaviour to embrace better, faster and simpler technology isn’t as simple as you may imagine. Although the concept of the app, (travel now-pay later), was fully explained, the users default action was to reach to book a ticket.

Being able to study the consumers interactions empowered us to improve the UX design and create a new prototype almost instantly, a huge leap forward towards the intended flow.


Building trust can be as simple as using the right words.
As the app works out what the user pays only at the end of the journey, would the customer trust the technology to deliver on its “best value” promise?

Would they trust the app to deliver its side of the bargain?

Within the first 2-3 users, we knew that some of the language used was easily misinterpreted.

After some subtle amendments to language in the app, it was clear we’d got it right and the information was clear and not open to interpretation. The users understood where they had saved money and how the app had achieved it. This enabled us to use later sessions to concentrate on further enhancing usability and to test the validity of additional features.

Convenience is King.

Most consumers are now acutely aware of the risks of sharing their data. How would our users feel about how our app tracked their journeys and where that data went, or how it was used?

Would this feel to intrusive? Or would the convenience of not needing to queue-up and buy tickets, or navigate the options of a ticket machine win out? Some fine-tuning was needed to get the balance right.

Certain information customers felt happier to enter themselves, other information they were happy with the app just ‘knowing’ intuitively.
Once we struck the right balance, the ease and convenience that the app introduces to train travel meant that the benefits easily outweighed any of the initial concerns that came up.

Richie explains, ‘In just 3 days, with 18 participants we made both major fundamental and small incremental improvements to the UX.
From the hierarchy of information on each screen, to helping users adjust to a new booking process. From deciding on icon choices, to displaying customers savings, everything had been improved. All that is required to get maximum value out of the research is knowing your key customer segments, a handful of participants, a well-constructed and concise test plan and most importantly, making sure every user opinion matters.’

If you’d like to understand more about our work on this app, drop us a line!