Hint is a software for controlling and monitoring rail traffic. It is designed to support the dispatcher in his great responsibility to ensure a smooth rail traffic.

Challenge

The currently used system is based on the evolution of rail traffic and not on todays technological standarts. Developing a holistic approach to controlling and monitoring rail traffic in an easy way and to ensure security at once was the biggest challenge.

How might we help expert users to document, communicate, controll and monitor at the same time?

To ensure security and having an overview of all incidents, dispatchers are working with three different systems and up to ten monoitors. There was no need for the interface to be intuitive to use for first-timers – it’s meant for pro-users with lots of experience, who wish for overview and speed. At the same time, it is supposed to stop human errors from happening by making smart suggestions and providing context-sensitive information. Because of this, we set on the following goal: The user is guided and supported but not constrained.

Solution

A Workflow Centered Software

Hint is designed to provide a holistic overview for dispatchers and to enable them to take action in a fast and secure way. The system is designed in a way that the number of eight monitors could be reduced to a single one. Less relevant information has become detached from the direct view of the user and is still part of the homogeneous Systems. Controlled by computer mouse and keyboard, precise and safe input options are given. Due to the simple construction, less installation and maintenance costs are incurred.

Components

The system components are based on the requirements and conventions of the current system, but were replaced by a new design and a user-centered approach. The information architecture and the hierarchical structure of the elements are based on user research.

Controlling and Monitoring

The system structure is based on taking action during stressfull situations in a fast and secure way. The new priorization of content and functions results in an overview item on top and a flexible and detailed view in the center.
In the case of incidents, indicators occur that enable the dispatcher to assign the problem and solve it quickly.

Communication

The dispatchers were unable to communicate quickly because telephone numbers and persons in charge were not associated with incidents. The system is designed to provide context-sensitive information and enable the dispatcher to communicate effectively.

Process

We were working closely with the "Betriebszentrale München", the workplace of dispatchers, and had the great opportunity to observe how they work, what they say and do and how they interact whith the system and their colleagues. User journeys, process mappings and user testings have continuously helped us to align our vision with the needs of users throughout the process.

Learnings

Designing for expert users which are going to use an interface for eight to ten hours a day and which are used to the existing software requires great listening skills and lots of empathy to meet user needs.

Team

Bachelorthesis at HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd. Together with Miguel Pawlowski, Catrine Schlosser and Anna Foltinek