User Research: Commuters in motion on the link light rail

A view of what a typical scene and environment on the link light rail looks like. (Image from

The Implementation

This week, I researched how commuters interact while riding the light rail. Throughout this process, my goal was to find out how I could implement better design, through observation, for the light rail. Since the light rail is fairly new and allows for more riders than a bus, I wanted to take advantage of possible design flaws when users were faced with a new layout; I also wanted to have the ability to observe a larger quantity of rider experiences. In order to record my observations, I used the P-cubed heuristic, which stands for People, Place, and Practice. I ended up recording observations on daily interactions among both people and their surrounding environment. Some of my observations included a couple reading advertisements along the light rail, as well as a man reading a newspaper. Using the observations I collected, I found that design processes regarding light amounts for sleeping passengers and space amounts for storage could be improved or added to help benefit the overall experience for a rider.

The observations I recorded in my sketchbook using the P-Cubed heuristic.

Current Reflections

Initially, I had planned on riding a bus in order to view how commuters interacted with their environment; but after getting on a bus to attempt to observe interactions, I found that there wasn’t a lot of interaction or movement taking place. Since a bus is pretty compact, and some buses have many stops, most people were just on their phones or sleeping. When I switched over to the light rail, I found that more people were talking to each other and there was more space to move around and interact with the environment itself. If I were to conduct user research on commuting again, I would want to focus on questions like: “Is the environment between a bus and train different; and if so, why?”

Possible Implementations

User research is extremely important in just about every field, but I could see real-life observation-based research being implemented well into other transportation services that aim to improve comfort and customer experience. For example, in airlines, limo services, or even taxi services, customer experience is extremely important. In an airline, if user observation was able to be implemented, the company would be able to see how they could better improve the design of their meal services, entertainment modules, and overall customer comfort practices. Although customer experience is important online as well, it wouldn’t be necessary to implement the technique of real-life observation-based research into websites. Since the important information usually relies in how the user interacts with the computer, most of the data needed would have already been recorded digitally.

Image Source:

Seattle’s Link Light Rail Daily Passenger Boarding Count — Graphical charts show day by day ridership changes. (2016, December 8). Retrieved February 14, 2017, from