Handing train managers a better digital tool

In a collaborative project with MAXIMALdesign, we spent time on the job with train managers working for the Belgian rail system in order to design an efficient user experience for the updated version of the digital handheld device that they use for their most important day-to-day tasks. 

Belgian Rail System NMBS/SNCB PublicEnglish / French / Dutch3 designers 

Upgrading to a new digital tool 

Train managers working for the Belgian rail system rely on a handheld digital device to perform most of their tasks. This device is used for all steps from preparing a journey to the journey report. It is also used for responding to emergencies, so efficient handheld operation can quite literally be a question of life or death. 

The Belgian railway’s new digital handheld, ITRIS, has more functionalities than the unit it replaced providing real-time access to information on connections and delays, and allowing payments by debit cards. It is also a slimmer and lighter model compared to the older one. 

The introduction of the new device required a new, user-friendly screen design together with a new carrying method to ensure that the new interface would prove to be easily adoptable and efficient in the field. 

Becoming train managers

To truly understand the users’ needs we took to field studies on the train and at the station shadowing the train managers at work. We also organised a series of framing and design workshops with the train managers where we collectively set out the task analysis and created some initial design ideas. 

For the user acceptance phase, we validated our design deliverables with the train managers by organising a real-life user test of the prototype on a train journey and making a design documentary of the field visits and user testing to better raise awareness across the entire organisation. 

Exploring future scenarios of use with mock-ups during a co-creative workshop

A new, improved design for a newer way of working 

We delivered a detailed design specification for the new handheld ITRIS digital device in 2014. Following testing by the train managers themselves, it was fully deployed by summer 2016. 

The new device is about a kilo lighter than the previous device and offers a lot of extra possibilities for the users. Examples are the possibility for the travellers to pay by card and real time information about connections, special needs of the travellers and incidents on the net for the train managers. The device also makes it easier for the managers to check the tickets as it is easier to handle.