In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was an expectation from the Government’s Department for Transport providers to give customers available information on how busy their transport method would be so they can travel safely and adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Train operator Southeastern, part of the Go Ahead Group, had data available in a ‘Darwin Feed’ which allowed them to see how busy carriages were at certain times. The average train loading data essentially quantifies overall space on a train inclusive of standing room, Southeastern then determine the percentage thresholds of this data to translate it into different levels of seat availability.
Southeastern asked us to create designs for how to display this information to their customers in a user friendly, simplistic and accessible way. We needed to expose the feed data on the website, app, the live departure boards and calling point tables.
Designed with the user in mind
We started by conceptualising and designing icons to represent the number of seats available; many, plenty, some, a few or standing room only. So the icons were accessible for colour blindness and on black & white screens, we added additional styling along with a key table so the data could be interpreted easier if needed.
Many seats available
Plenty of seats available
Some seats available
Only a few seats available
Standing room only
One of the main challenges was having to try and fit additional information into an already crowded space on the live departure and calling points board.
To solve this, we took a mobile-first approach and redesigned the existing content to make it more suitable for viewing on smaller screens. We moved some key information to the top of the boards, reduced text size and reduced some column sizes.
Our engineering team had two tasks; to work on the back-end to expose and link up the data in the Darwin Feed, and then front-end work to reflect the new design work for the site and expose the data there. The feed returns a seat availability using a number between 1-100, in order to expose this data nicely we needed to categorise it properly with thresholds we defined with Southeastern.
Making travel safer for customers
Once the design and engineering work was complete, we carried out thorough testing of the end-to-end journey across a variety of stations. By working closely with the Product team at Southeastern, we were able to complete different iterations of the product until the final sign-off.
The project was a direct response to Southeastern adapting to social distancing guidelines and taking a customer-first approach by making travel onboard their trains safer.
This was also the first time this data was made available to Go Ahead Group customers, with other train operating companies likely to take similar steps in providing passenger capacity information in the future.
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