Daria Lanz

Case Study

Designing the cleverest commuter ticketing app

Virgin Trains: Retrospective ticketing

How long do you spend at ticketing machines trying to figure out which is the best ticket for your travel?
We revolutionised train ticketing for British commuters with the first-of-its-kind ticket model that works out the best fare for you to commute, retrospectively.

working at

with this awesome team

UX Lead: Daria Lanz
UI Lead: Stuart McAdam
UX Researchers: Jamie Stantonian & Dan Fickling
Copywriter: Michael Alves
Senior Client Director: Shelley Malham
Experience Director: Andy Ingle
Creative Director: Alex Blaney
this project identifies as

Product Design
Consumer App
The brief.
Train ticketing is complex – customers find it difficult to understand which ticket is the right ticket to purchase – and their value perception is low. Many customers end up overpaying for their train journeys, unnecessarily.

Virgin Trains had invested in technology which retrospectively calculated the cheapest personalised weekly combination of tickets based on the customers’ actual travel. We designed and tested the product, working Agile with an international dev team to get the product into pilot for late 2019.
The outcome.
Working in a fast-paced agile environment, we delivered both MVP and post-MVP products for their pilot and migration phases. We created a ground-breaking new product to purchase tickets, reducing queue times at ticket machines, and eliminating the headache of figuring out which ticket is the best option for customers.

On 12 December 2019, Virgin Trains franchise dissolved, and the product app became the new brand. After a delay due to the Pandemic, they are currently working towards a pilot of the MVP.

User Testing Feedback

"It's like Amazon for trains...it gives you the Amazon experience of making it simple, quick, and cheap, but it's for trains."

-User Research Participant
What we did.
Working in sprints, we ran stakeholder workshops to align, prioritise, and gather internal insights. We created a research committee of people who travelled regularly for work around the country, to understand regional variations in challenges; We were conscious the main team was London based and we needed to make sure we designed for commuters across the UK, not just the London bubble.

We approached the process of purchasing a ticket from the ground up, re-designing flows with most to least ideal paths, leveraging geolocation and push notifications to minimise user tasks.

The hardest part was figuring out how to reassure the user what the algorithm was doing, without trying to explain how it worked, because it was way too complicated. We went through many iterations of how this might look, testing with different users and leveraging our research committee for quick stress tests. We redesigned the onboarding flow to build user permissions as usage continues through the app, in order to reduce onboarding at the start and get people using the app.
Daria has led this project at a ridiculous pace whilst quickly getting her head into the world of the UK rail industry. The client has said how amazing she is (they’re right!), and they are amazed at how much work Daria and Stuart have done in such a short amount of time. Daria and Stuart have worked to changing requirements with extremely challenging clients who are not afraid of giving very blunt feedback! All the while Daria has remained in control — she’s a natural leader who is calm, has authority and just gets sh*t done!

As for the project itself… it’s very high profile at Virgin Trains – due to losing the franchise, these two products we’ve created will be THE Virgin Trains business. Over the summer, frantic Virgin Trains stakeholders have been defining this whole new business and new brand, with Richard Branson himself asking for updates.

These products must go live in a few months as this has already been announced to the press. So it’s been A LOT of pressure for us. I’m very proud of all our team.”
Shelley Malham, Senior Client Director - Inviqa
UI Concepts
There were so many design challenges in this product because everything about it breaks the current mental models of how to purchase tickets. Plus, the value of the app and what it can save you is only seen at the end of the week after retrospective round ups are calculated and paid for. This posed a big challenge for first-time use – how do we keep users engaged long enough to realise the power of the app and make a saving?

To make matters worse, the complicated tech is too difficult to translate into transparent savings on a daily basis, so how do we communicate what they’ve saved and how much more they might save based on future travel?

This was a huge team effort because of the time constraints we were working to, and I’m so proud of the team for the work we did. Looking back, it was one of the most challenging projects I’ve worked on, but also one of the most rewarding.
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