Understanding commuters’ experiences and emotions

Published 28 Apr 2021 4 minute read

Atlantic Design were commissioned by Eversholt Rail Group (ERG) to upgrade and enhance train carriages serving busy South East London commuter routes. This included seating layouts, traffic routes and the overall commuter experience.

The team at Atlantic Design sought to adopt a human-centred approach to the design process, engaging Further to capture and interpret commuter experiences (in context), attitudes and behaviours, and responses to a range of concepts and design proposals. The overarching aim was to prioritise future developments in a more structured and collaborative way.

Scope of work

Further’s role and involvement in the human-centred design research process included:

  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Recruitment of hard-to-find commuters
  • Research design
  • Online moderation
  • Mapping of themes and insights
  • Reporting and making strategic recommendations

Our Approach

Embattled commuters required a method of engagement sensitive to their daily commitments. Our response was to design an online research community lasting two weeks, which included a range of activities such as mobile diaries, discussions and projective exercises open for participation via mobile, tablet and desktop devices.

Commuters were recruited via a combination of online panels, social media, ‘refer-a-friend’ schemes and station intercepts. The search was a big challenge, not least because it was a very narrow cast of commuters using specific routes (and carriages) that were eligible to take part.

During the two weeks, diary exercises, debates, projective tasks and surveys were activated to gain a holistic view of commuter experiences. Mobile ethnography formed the central element of the study, helping capture experiences, feelings and emotions in-the-moment. Daily travel highs and lows were recorded along with contextual factors such as weather, timeliness and reason for travel.

The Results

  • Further helped champion the ‘voice of the commuter’, to expose existing carriage limitations, and collaborate to develop future designs
  • The longitudinal nature of the community enabled a wider selection
    of hard-to-reach commuters to share their experiences and feedback
  • The ability to empower commuters to report and gather contextual
    in-the-moment observations, helped to expose a variety of unknowns
  • The project delivered rich, contextual understanding, beyond ‘big data’ sources, providing not only evidence, but the inspiration required to create
    a better design solution

"Further enabled us to enforce a more empathic, human-centred approach to the redesign, to bring travel experiences (and limitations) to life and place commuters at the front and centre of ERG’s considerations. This was the first time we employed this method of research and our client was delighted, not only by the findings, but how the people were delicately involved in the design process, as collaborative partners"

Graham Love, Director

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