Improving trip simulators for eco-conscious travellers

Jan 10 · 4 min read

A Design Usability Testing Case Study

Flying should not be a mandatory for anyone wanting to see the wonderful Acropolis

Let’s imagine the following situation : a 25–30 y.o. couple living in Paris are planning their next summer holiday in Greece. Provided they have budgeted it, this should normally be a fairly easy problem to solve for any app.

This couple however would like to go without having to fly, because they are very conscious of the massive carbon emissions that come with it. This means travelling slow, which is OK as they plan to travel for 4 weeks and will have time for a long trip there, even for a few stops along the way.

Now, a few years ago, planning a road-rail-sea-only trip across several European borders while trying to factor in time, route and price to find the optimal transport combination, would have resulted in little more than a terrible headache…Even today, most trip comparison services do not enable it, as they usually only address flights, in some cases car rentals, but leaving out trains, buses, ferries, or any other transport.

“Rome2rio searches a database of flight, train, ferry, bus and driving routes to present route and price options for travelling to any destination.”

Kayak, Skyscanner, Tripadvisor, Hopper and the likes are therefore out of our scope. Thankfully, there is this one magical Australian-based app which does the impossible, magical math of taking you from point A to point B, anywhere in the world : Rome2Rio.

Quoting their Wikipedia presentation :

“Rome2rio is an online multimodal transport search engine that launched in April 2011.[2] Rome2rio is a worldwide covering platform capable of long-distance (inter-city) trip planning as well as local (intra-city) journey planning. Users can input any address, town or landmark as the origin and destination and Rome2rio searches a database of flight, train, ferry, bus and driving routes to present route and price options for travelling to that destination.”

So, with this specific scenario in mind, I asked 3 of my friends to play the role of my users, to see how Rome2Rio did at helping them plan their fictitious trip.

A train to Turin, a second one to Bari, a ferry to Petras and a bus will take you from Paris to Athens in…35hours.

Two environmental-impact-related opportunities for improvement : “slow trip” planning feature and carbon emissions calculator.

What came out as the main problem to solve was that Rome2Rio gives you “theoretical” journeys but does not take into account hour compatibility between the different segments. As we are looking at over 30 hours of cumulated transportation time, it’s not a trip you can fit all in one same date. Besides, to make it nicer, my testers had in mind to stop a couple of days on the way e.g. in Turin or Bari.

Instead, it would be great to go one step further into the trip planning by selecting dates and times for each transport mode, which would give you greater visibility. Given the nature of the trip it would not be realistic to expect a reservation and payment platform combining all these segments, but since R2R has access to all schedules, the planning part is definitely realistic.

Also, R2R lists trip recommendation based on time and cost, which implies that for a Paris-Athens journey, the plane options rank first. For such eco-conscious users, those criteria are not relevant while they are potential R2R lovers. It would be great to add a filter enabling to choose the ranking criteria and recommend the lowest carbon-emitting option. However, feasibility wise, this means adding a carbon calculator algorithm that brings a different kind of technical challenge beyond the scope of pure experience design.

Therefore the next part focuses on designing an additional trip-planning feature for the app.

Proposed lo-fi prototype of a new trip-planning feature for Rome2Rio

in red : a new tab invites you to plan your trip
A side panel appears, you can enter your preferred schedule for each segment of the trip
after clicking “simulate” you get to this page result with recommended options (right-hand panel). For each, you can choose to be redirected to the operator’s webste to book or see alternative times from R2R. You can also adjust you initial choices and refresh the left-hand panel

Written by


Beginner Chameleon. Currently attending Ironhack UX/UI Bootcamp which I will be posting about.

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