Journey is as valuable as destination

Team

Gabriel Yeung, Grant Zou, Sarah Tong, Joshua Fan

Role

Ideation, Prototype,

UX + UI Design

Time frame

Four weeks

Understanding Values

As we focused on our research in local tourism industry, we recognized that the Canadian air & rail tourism is booming. However, VIA Rail is struggling to fill half of their trains’ seats. As a result, VIA Rail is seen only as a provider of transportation, one that costs more, and takes more time to get anywhere.

After mapping out the customer journey, we realized VIA Rail’s current website is ineffective at enticing consumers. As a result, potential passengers are not discovering the value of their excellent onboard experience. 

"Connected - we will create innovative solutions and ideas to connect our passengers, employees, and assets."

VIA Rail Annual Report 2016

By reinterpreting their value of Connectivity as the journey being as valuable as the destination, our intervention aims to realign their value proposition in order for VIA Rail to be considered as a desirable option for tourism.

Targeting the Right Audience

We identified three customer segments. Based on our research, in order to best entice customers, we focus on the first-time customers. Through anecdotal reviews of VIA Rail, our persona is an open-minded adventurer who seeks to maximize her travel experience.

 

Applying our persona to the journey framework, we found that VIA Rail was ineffective in communicating to consumers due to the current website’s dense and non digestible information, resulting in major pain points. Therefore, we decided to intervene at the entice stage to keep the customers engaged.

Applying our persona to the journey framework, we found that VIA Rail was ineffective in communicating to consumers due to the current website’s dense and non digestible information, resulting in major pain points. Therefore, we decided to intervene at the entice stage to keep the customers engaged.

Sprint Process

We began our sprint by first identifying our long term goals. With our business problem in mind, we intend to increase the number of riders on VIA Rail as well as influence potential customers to consider VIA RAIL as a desirable travel alternative. For our sprint session, we first generated questions that we wanted to answer in this session:

Questions that We Kept in Mind

1 Does the pain point directly link to the business problem?

2 Does the solution address the pain point?

Will customers perceive the intended value proposition?

4 Will customers compare VIA Rail to other tourism transport?

Testing Our Assumptions

During the sprint week, I was mainly in charge of prototyping and refinement from user feedback. From the user testing, participants found that the use of visualization fits with the highly visual stimulation of the journey experience. They also recognize our intention to convey “journey is as valuable as the destination”. However, they believe the use of media to better capture the experience, journey routes needed clarity, and greater information value proposition on board the train.

 

Based on the user feedback, we then applied the Maslow's hierarchy model to organize information by prioritizing customer needs - from tangible to aspirational to fulfill their physical and physiological needs. Throughout the 5 days sprint activity, we learned to test ideas and assumptions faster, improving efficiency and validity in the idea generation process. 

Precedent Study

Insight 1

Milwaukee Ballet

A ballet company's website that changes media with every scrolling interaction. It also uses video to better embody the elegance in movements that static photos cannot. Similarly, since VIA Rail is known for their great onboard experience, using video can immerse users in helping them better understand the comfort and visual stimulation within the train.

 

Insight 2

National Geographic

National Geographic uses mouse scrolling to trace a path on a map. This reflects the journey experience in how sights unfold along the way as you progress along with breaking down the dense information for users to review. 

 

Insight 3

Lonely Planet

From Lonely Planet, full bleed, vivid images would review when users hover through article titles. This can be applied to slow down and encourage appreciation for the journey experience, as a journey can involve many, quickly passing sights.

Insight 4

Red Bull

Red Bull categorizes user generated content - blogs, events - using relevant hashtags not only to strengthen their brand, but to engage content fans in conversations that they’re interested in. While VIA currently promotes one hashtag (#viarail) that can easily lose interest after checking it out, having more focused hashtags can help maintain connection from person to person and to content itself.

Design Driven

01.

Maslow's Hierarchy

Maslow’s hierarchy helped us identify customer frustrations from a new perspective, recognizing that if customers weren’t able to satisfy their basic needs, they would never move to higher level goals.

 

02.

Transformational metaphor

Our sprint week brought forth the transformational metaphor of “seeing through a window”, manifesting in our website’s figurative windows, using full-width media panels to captivate audiences with moments words alone can’t express.

 

03.

Journey is as valuable as destination

The mapping of the ingrained physical interaction of scrolling to digital navigation matched our intent of a guided journey, allowing consumers to peruse content at their own pace, frame-by-frame, appealing to each level of value.

Introducing VIA Journey

Landing

Consumers enter our solution through the navigation on VIA Rail’s main website. Then, an optional video of the onboard experience would lead to an overview of the 6 routes VIA Rail offers, presenting an immediate value proposition.

 

We give an option to skip video at the beginning, considering that the revisiting users may want to land straight on the website.

 

We present the 6 routes offers by listing them as side navigation, so users can clearly pick their options. Once they choose their routes, user can look into details by clicking the explore button.

Journey

Moving into a specific route from the homepage, consumers are presented with specific scenes from that journey. Each scene is revealed through the customer’s every scroll, breaking down the physical journey into a series of digital interactions.

 

This creates layers of information, reducing cognitive overhead and affording customers the ability to understand the journey at their own pace.

 

The intended effect this has on VIA Rail’s perceived value is that the presented landscapes and cities become a tangible value; a promise of what customers will receive, with stories and images to reinforce that journey is the key value of the trip.

Social Media

For each stop along the journey, consumers may notice a subtle pull-out indicator on the right side of the page. Selecting this triggers a playful animation, sliding out a curated series of Instagram photos posted at that stop.

 

These posts provide credibility to VIA Rail; showing that other passengers have bought into VIA Rail’s journey-based experience. Using geo-hashtags to chunk this content further reduces cognitive effort, and highlights the intangible value promised, to show potential passengers what they might do on this journey.

Class Offering

Scrolling down, the site front-loads our three class options. Hovering over each reveals an immediate tangible value, and clicking explore triggers more information to fill the frame, consistent with the thematic use of the long scroll

 

We recognize that we can’t design one set of higher values to appeal to all customers, and we leveraged their price points and distinct classes allow us to better target different types of customers. Instead of trying to appeal to the cost-conscious consumer with the premium offerings, we guide customers down their corresponding classes, tailoring the activities and accommodations that best fulfills their intangible and aspirational needs.  

Summary

Finally, after exploring the breadth of information available for the selected route, we wanted to propose the next steps: options for the consumer to book a journey or explore other routes. The intention of this is to provide both a hard and soft commitment; consumers can choose to make the purchasing decision, or continue exploring.

Reflection

From this project, one of the key learnings I find critical is to be able to narrow down the scope of a business problem in order to find the opportunity for design intervention, then finding the right target audience to understand their needs within the problem. With such a short amount of time, it was easy for us to set ourselves in traps by following what we thought was the right direction. However, we learnt to test our assumption quick and not being afraid to restart the research process. I think it is important to avoid being too attached on an idea and end up forcing to change the problem to fit the solution. Therefore, I find it useful to build a project roadmap to keep our process on track and organize our thought process visually to ensure the group is on the same direction. 

via rail final week