Update of the DB Navigator App: Many good things, but still not commuter friendly

The new version of the DB Navigator App is available since a few days. The app provides information about travel connections and allows you to buy tickets directly. As a commuter who travels by train between Rosenheim and Munich, I used the app daily to get information about delays. Therefore I took a closer look at the update.

At first glance, the revised design catches the eye, which appears much more modern and tidy. In addition to the new flat design, this is mainly due to the fact that important elements are given more space and less important options take a back seat. For example, the settings for means of transport and transfer times are now hidden behind a common button together with those for the traveler, and the selection of date and time also takes up significantly less space. The most important element, the selection of start and destination, has moved to the center of the screen. As a commuter I especially like the introduced toggle button, which allows you to swap start and destination. This is now much faster and easier than using drag-and-drop as before.

Unfortunately for me this is already the end of all positive changes and I come across things that I now find even worse solved than before. On the start page, for example, I am now shown a section of a map with the starting station. This might be a useful feature for some users in special cases. But as a commuter I find it extremely annoying that my mobile data volume is now used to load a map that is supposed to show me a way I know inside and out. Apart from that, I doubt the sense of a map that is just 2 by 5 cm on small smartphones, even for users who are actually looking for the way. Here a small button leading to a fullscreen map would have been much more useful.

In general, I have the feeling that the update is an attempt to better meet the needs of the user, but the usage context of the many thousands of commuters is still neglected. For example, the central travel companion "My Trip" with its display of upcoming transfers, real-time information on delays and direct access to alternative connections offers great new features for travelers who are covering longer distances. As a daily commuter who already knows his route and the times of possible connections, I have completely different requirements. In fact, it's just one requirement. There are exactly three trains in the morning and evening that I use regularly. All I want to know is whether there are any delays or cancellations on these connections. Because if I know in advance that the train will be 15 minutes late, then I can spend them sensibly at home or at the agency instead of standing around bored at the station.

Unfortunately, the app still offers no solution for this use case. There is basically the function "delay alarm". However, connections that should be considered here can only be maintained in the web and not in the app. A delay alarm will be displayed as a push notification in the app, but only if you are logged in.

The update of the app is therefore a classic example for me of what can happen if the analysis of the usage context is neglected or if the needs of real users are not considered enough. To avoid this, we try to conduct interviews with users in the form of semi-structured interviews at the beginning of projects. How the insights gained from these interviews influence the final product is described by Anja in her blog article about usability. I would be very happy if the German Railways would also consider all user groups in the future when optimizing the apps, and take commuters as well as frequent and few travellers into account.

Maximiliane Wagner

UX Concepter & Usability Engineer



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