26 January 2008


The SUMit dependance has gone mobile. All this travelling does require a fair bit of information. Dr. Leonard Verhoef's theory on information design has tainted my view. A lot of public information could do with a bit of improvement.
Location Desired Reality
Train station Taiping, Malaysia
  • Departure times of trains to Kuala Lumpur.
  • A counter to buy tickets,
  • open before departure of trains.
The station lists many schedule met departure times. Each train has a separate sheet of paper with all its times. Those wishing to go to Kuala Lumpur must scan all schedules.

A list of departure times per destination would be nice, see Dr. Verhoef's theses Why designers can't understand their users. But unfortunately, the focus of train companies is on trains, not on passengers.

There is an evening train. I will not take an evening train, but I bet the counter is open. And evenings are nice and cool, a good moment for a walk to the station and buy a ticket in advance.

Well, the train station does have a counter, but it is closed. There is no information about the business hours.

A fellow passenger goes and asks the station manager. The answer is astonishing:

  • The counter is only open in day time, from 10:00 onwards.
  • Those who wish to travel in the evening can buy a ticket in the train.
  • An other possibility is the web site of Malaysian Railways. Well, yes, I know the web site but the extensive list of questions was too complex for me.
Malaysia Airlines check in, Kuala Lumpur Sentral A check in facility The check in counter of Malaysian Airlines at KL Sentral is excellent.
  • No hassle, no hide and seek,
  • check in for all flights at every counter and off you go.
  • My big backpack is on its way to the airport already. And I have a few hours to spare in the city.
Kuala Lumpur Sentral Ways to go to the airport. There is no summary of possibilities. Each transport company does offer information, yet just about their own services. If you want to know the best way, you will have to visit all suppliers.
  • There are busses to the airport. Those are outside the station, at ground level, towards the monorail. I have not found any information about these busses in the station.
  • Close to the check in desk, there is a counter for the KLIA express. The express train is fast, very modern and comfortable, yet expensive.
  • There is a cheaper train, but its counter is in the centre hall of the station.
All information is public, yet not easy accessible.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport Tax free shopping and boarding Kuala Lumpur International Airport is good.
  • The departure hall is easy to find.
  • The tax free shops are good.
  • And it is easy to find the gate.
Adelaide airport Possibilities to go to Belair National park It is the same story, once again: There is no summary of services.
  • There is an airport shuttle bus.
  • There are taxis.
  • There is a public bus to town. That bus is well hidden for arriving passengers. It departs from the 1st floor, departure level.
Want to know the best way, go and ask the information counter.
Belair train station A possibility to buy a ticket There is no counter available. Travellers can buy a ticket in the train at a vending machine.

The information on ticket types is very limited and seems to target an audience that know everything already.

  • A day ticket costs $ 7,70. The machine does not accept bank notes, just coins. The station does not have a money change facility. The closest shops, sources of coins, are... accessible by train.
  • The drive advises me to just have a seat anyway and buy a ticket upon arrival in Adelaide. Well... A few stops further I detrain in Blackwood, where the nearest shops are.
Every next day I am busy collecting $ 7.70 of coins. My disappointment grows when the machine does accept most of my coins, except the 5c ones. So, my collected coins still don't get me a train ticket.

I have to change money with another passenger and yes, o wonder, I am able to buy a ticket.

Now this ticket is not valid for transport yet. Passengers must use a second machine to validate the ticket. It is fully unclear to me why the first machine can't do that for me.

Blackwood train station Possibilities to go to Adelaide Same story, no overview
  • Every platform has in information button. Push the button and hear about the next train from that platform only. To find the first train to Adelaide, you have to visit both platforms, connected by a steep high bridge.
  • There are busses going to town. And yes, should you wish to know which bus departs first, you will have to visit all bus platforms.
  • Now, there are folders with bus routes and departure times. But... to get them, you must travel first to... Adelaide Central station.
  • Well done: The bus stops are numbered. Now that is nice and easy. Passengers can estimate how many stops their journey will take.
  • Most busses ride in peak times only. Off peak the train is an easier choice. So, I will skip the busses for now.
Adelaide A bus ticket to Port Lincoln This quest is best solved by a search on Internet. There is a small travel office in the passage from Adelaide station. I happen to know the travel office, as it did help me with train reservations on a previous journey. And yes, they are good in arranging bus tickets as well.

Company blindness

All suppliers above have a few things in common:
  1. Every supplier suffers from company blindness. Anything outside the company, including the customer, is outside the frame of mind. Provided information seems designed for people that do not need it, because they know their way already.
  2. Just Malaysian Airlines and the travel office think along customer lines.
  3. The other suppliers fail to offer information that matches a traveller's needs.

Ergonomics for the mind

Many transport companies has a long way to go. They make thins as easy as possible, for themselves. The traveller must follow their procedures, as if they are employees.

The information they offer is public, yet is more tailored to internal use than by public.

It is rare to find information that suits the human mind. Dr. Leonard Verhoef's information design training based on psychology has a huge potential of participants.

Splendid isolation

I will not need any travel information for the next few weeks. There will be no travelling for the moment. Port Lincoln will be SUMit HQ in the weeks to come for the development of tailored planning software. I hope to finish the staff planning system for SCA. And have a few weeks of holiday afterwards, in an area that I yet have to choose.

Till next nut,