Smart maintenance SAAS solution for railroad switches. UX design approach

Kyrylo Horban
7 min readAug 5, 2019


A new approach in design for asset operators that control assets’ health and manage occurred and predicted issues with the maintenance team.

Redesigned from scratch. 5 days to learn a new domain with the aim to help operators reduce time to react on issues including a bunch of usability fixes.

To understand what to improve it’s necessary to understand the basics.

Let’s start.

Get the scope of domain knowledge.

1.1 Country


Region: e.g. Bavaria

Ring: e.g. Munich ring

Asset owners

1.2 Switch

Total switches number

Switch ID/number

Location: longitude, latitude

Owner’s name


1.3 Components

Switch machine

Cross bar

Switch rail

Guard rail


1.4 Component




Drive Bar


1.5 Component parts

Electric motor

1.6 Parts. Parameters. Operations.

E.g. Transmission assembly

E,g, Working current — 4–6 Amps.

Operations within switch

Starting Opening of the detection contacts.

1.7 Switch Health condition

Issue details
E.g. broken bolts/screws

E,g, poor (or critical).

Let’s see it in action

So, let’s continue with UX discovery.

2.1 Google stats

Identify SEO queries related to domain specifics to focus on specific keywords for further exploration.

These include but not limited to:
Rail monitoring

Remote rail monitoring

Maintenance monitoring

Railway monitoring

Railway maintenance

Predictive analytics software

2.2 UI Patterns

Identify common UI benefits and fails so to structure and prioritize information architecture.

This includes cross-domain predictive maintenance solutions.

2.3 Switch analysis

Identify what causes issues to switch components and parts.

2.4 Root cause problems

Don’t stop and Digg deeper.

3. Design Challenge Analysis

3.1 Eliciting requirements

Make sure that we understand the same way the requirements and will be on the same page while presenting the final solution.

3.2 Analyzing requirements

Find relevant information with regards to milestones and find relationships
as well as patterns.

3.3 Personas
Based on open data

3.4 Jobs to be done and user flow

As a head of maintenance staff, I want to easily identify the switches that require maintenance actions to deliver maintenance schedule for DB support team.

User flow (a common one)

After logging profile, Niels first of all checks out the critical issues and those which require attention. Then he needs a basic overview where issues occurred, what type of switch failure, what equipment affected by the issues.

Niels checks if all the issues were reported on-time to DB support team.

3.5 Personas


As an asset owner, I want to easily identify the root cause of the switch failure so to report maintenance staff on actions to take.

User flow (a common one)

After logging profile, Edward first of all checks the most critical issue. He sees a basic overview of where issued occurred, what type of switch failure, what equipment affected by the issues.

Edward checks the tab where a particular component(s) lead to the problem. On this window, he sees specific graphs and charts as well as info on predicted life-cycle of a particular component that requires repair or change.

3.7 Usage context

Identified common patterns:
— people over 30+
— Attention span due to many screens
— Many operators wearing eyeglasses
— Not good lighting conditions

These and many other conditions lead to faster tiredness. So, UI should help concentrate on what is most important and highlight on the user’s dashboard.

3.8 Information architecture

Information architecture is all about organization of information in a clear and logical way. Such organization follows a clear purpose — helping users navigate complex sets of information.


To produce content that users will find valuable, but what’s equally important is to make that content findable.

3.9 Define a structure

See it in action

3.10 Multi-user flow

This approach helps to understand how different users can collaborate, so to manage their expectations.

3.11 Constraints on this Design Challenge

— Asset owner interview on issues of the current solution.

— No hands-on with the current solution to compare.

— Lack of proper S&C domain knowledge. 1,5 week yet.

3.12 Asset owners interview questions

Understand usability issues before wasting time and money on unneeded functions.

  1. Tell me about your experience.
  2. What are you responsible for?
  3. What are the main functions you perform daily?
  4. What is important what you see this report?
  5. Why is it important?
  6. What pains what working with the program do you suffer from?
  7. Why this makes pain?
  8. Tell me about 1 case that you couldn’t perform successfully?
  9. How often this happens?
  10. How did you solve this issue?
  11. Imagine you want to see details of the switch behavior
    when the switch condition is poor.
  12. Show me how you do this.
  13. What are the important points you need to be aware of?
  14. Why?
  15. What issue we have haven’t yet covered?
  16. How often this issue occurs?
  17. If we scale this issue 1 least important to 5 very important, how you would rate it?
  18. Why you rate 4?
  19. If some information is missing, what do we lack?
  20. What it’s missing, how do you solve this problem?
  21. What sources including people are you using to get missing information?
  22. How delightful overall experience with {Company_name}?
  23. If we scale this issue 1 least delighted to 10 I’m fully delighted, how you would rate it?
  24. You said 7? What did we lack to get 10?
  25. What I forgot to ask and we should highlight?

4. User Interface. UX in Focus

My Challenge

Design a Minimum Lovable Product (MLP)

Ensure that the asset owner will:

  • Get the state-of-the-art UX
  • Fast and effectively accomplish his/her task

of Predictive Maintenance for Switches

4.1 Switch Overview and Issues

An asset owner optimizes daily and monthly maintenance actions based on the health of switches for which he/she is responsible.

Starting point: Asset owners need an overview of their switches for which they are responsible.

They want to easily identify the switches that require maintenance actions based on the health status and criticality of the switch.

This is the current solution publicly available as an example.

This is the optimized solution.

Black and White (contrast and size)

Black and White + 50% Blur (Point attention to spots that matter)

Japanese version

4.2 Switch Detailed Views

An asset owner manages his/her switches based on details about the components of a switch.

Starting condition: The user has selected a specific switch and has drilled into a detailed component of the switch (e.g. Track Bed, Frog, Blad, Point Machine, and Locking mechanism).

The user wants to understand what issues are associated with the switch and what status each issue has.

4.3 Switch Data views

An asset owner drills into Aggregated Data Trends to understand switch behavior in the past and in the future.

Starting condition: The user wants to see details of the switch behavior when the switch condition is “poor” or “below average”. The details can include the detection of anomalies in the past or in the future based on predicted results.

Behind the scenes

If you’re looking for UX designer I would be glad to join your team.

Don’t miss other practical knowledge.



Kyrylo Horban

Senior UX designer. My UX Design is all about: Common sense in every detail, Proper domain knowledge, Scientific approaches. Portfolio