The new version of the DB Navigator App has been available for a few days. The app provides information about travel connections and allows you to purchase tickets online. As a commuter who travels by train between Rosenheim and Munich, I use the app daily to inform me about delays. That’s why I, of course, check out the updates to the app very carefully.
At first glance, the revised design stands out as being more modern and clean. Along with the new Flat Design, this is also due to the fact that important elements are given more space and less important options have been moved to the background. For instance, the settings for mode of transportation and transfer time are, along with ones related to the traveller, hidden behind a ‘Travellers and Options’ button; and also the selection of date and time takes up noticeably less space. The most important element, the selection of start and destination, has been nicely scooted over to the center of the screen. As a commuter, I particularly like the newly introduced toggle button that allows swapping of start and destination. It now works noticeably faster and simpler than the previous drag-and-drop interface they had before.
Unfortunately, the positive changes end there and I now come to some things that have actually gotten worse. For example, a detailed map from the starting station is shown to me now. For some users this might surely be helpful on special occasions. As a commuter, however, it is extremely annoying that my mobile data volume is now used for loading a map that is supposed to give directions that I already know inside out. Additionally, I question the use of a map that is only 2cm by 5cm on small smartphones, even for users who are actually looking for directions. A small button that takes you to a full screen map would have been much more useful here.
Generally, I have the feeling that with this update the attempt was made to adapt better to the needs of the users, and yet, the real user experience of thousands of train commuters is still neglected. For example, the central travel companion “Mein Reise” with its display of upcoming transfers, real-time information about delays and direct access to alternative connections offers great new functions for travellers who cover large distances. As a daily commuter who knows the routes and times of possible connections already, I have completely different needs. Technically speaking, I actually have only one need. In the morning, and in the evening, there are exactly three trains that I use frequently. All I need to know is if there are any delays or cancelations with these three trains, because if I know in advance that the train is delayed by 15 minutes, I can spend these minutes better at home, or at work; instead of being bored while standing at the train station.
Unfortunately, for this use case the app still doesn’t offer a solution. While there is a general function named “delay alarm”, the connections that should set off an alarm can only be maintained with some difficulty on the website, but not in the app itself. A delay alarm is shown in the app as a push notification, but only when you are logged in to the app.
So, for me, the update of the app is a classic example of what can happen if proper analysis of the user environment is missed, or if the needs of real customers are not dealt with sufficiently. To avoid that, at coeno, we try to have conversations with users in the form of semi-structured interviews at the beginning of projects. How insights gained from these conversations influence the final product has already been described in Anja’s Usability Blog. I would be very happy if, in the future, Deutsche Bahn would think of all user groups: commuters, frequent and not-so-frequent travelers.