UK Trains is on the right track

UK Trains screenshot

In the latest installment of our series featuring Windows Phone design consultations, we catch up with Gustavo Guerra, developer of the free UK Trains app, which pulls in feeds from the national rail service and displays it in the app.

With the app, individuals can find a tremendous amount of real-time information, including:

  • List of nearest stations to current location
  • Map with directions to chosen station
  • Station departure and arrivals boards, including platform information
  • Live train progress during the journey, and expected arrival times

The app can auto-refresh that information every 60 seconds, even under the lock screen or when the app is in the background; and users can pin individual stations to their start screen for quick reference.

Clearly this is a wealth of information to convey to your typical train passenger. The design challenge at the time of the consultation was determining how to convey the essential information in a manner that is clear and concise. 

Gustavo met with Dave Crawford, design lead at Microsoft, to get some ideas for ways to enhance the app for its users.

Watch this short video to see the design consultation between Dave and Gustavo:

“It is nice to see that it is actually a native app, and not relying on browser content. This is something that we really try to encourage in our Windows Phone app developers,” said Crawford.

Two priorities to address

The first item to address was fixing the alignment within the app display - and keeping a straight line of content all the way down the screen. Dave suggested that this can be checked quickly using a tool like Expression Blend, or within the design view in Visual Studio.

Dave also suggested fixing the display of arrival information within the app. The time stamps were center-aligned, but to make the information easier to read, the column should be indented to one side (right-aligned) and then Gustavo also needed to make sure the various data on the screen shares the same alignment. In summary, alignment is one of the easiest things developers can check to ensure their applications have a more considered design.

Additional suggestions for improvement

Prior to the consultation, all of the content displayed in the app was using the same “weight” of type face, making it hard for the user to prioritize the information shown on screen. Gustavo needed to decide which items should be shown in a thicker font, in order to give a sense of priority to specific items. For instance, Dave recommended putting the time stamps and platform numbers in a slightly lighter weight font compared to the station name details. (You can see how the display of information has improved since Gustavo made changes like the “Departure” information shown.)

Additionally, Dave said: "I would like to see him introduce some telemetry tracking - get some Flurry or some other APIs in there - so he can see what his users use, and how they use it.”

This type of information will give Gustavo more insight into not only the total number of people using the app, but more importantly, how they are using it, too. This will help him plan for future releases.

Gustavo has implemented many of the recommendations that came out of the consultation, which can be fully appreciated in the latest version of UK Trains that is available in the Windows Phone Store. (Gustavo also offers an Irish Trains app, too.)

Make the most of these design resources  

Are you ready to enhance your Windows Phone app? Start with this video that shows you the best Tips &Tricks from Dave Crawford when it comes designing apps for Windows Phone:

Additional guidance for designing great apps is available in the Windows Phone Dev Center within their Design Library. You can also find sources of inspiration in our Design Gallery.

If you are thinking about apps for the Lumia 1520 and 1320, review our design considerations that help you to optimise your apps for large screen Windows Phone devices.

Additionally, design consultations are available as rewards from our DVLUP program, including an introductory one-hour consultation with the experts from Toledo Design.

You can learn more about Freda - which is available exclusively for Windows Phone and Windows 8 - from the developer’s website.