Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) x Happy Lab

How NS stays in touch with customers

The researchers and designers of the Dutch railway company NS periodically jump into our UX labs in Amsterdam to get to know their customers. When they are here, we chat about research all the time. We figured it was about time to share some things on NS’ research approach. We spoke with Niels Hamelink on the testing culture at NS and why testing is an essential part of their product development process.

Do lab research to understand the ‘why’

In their aim to create an ultimate user experience, NS has gathered loads of quantitative data throughout the years. They learned all about what people do and how they do that. But all this data did not give much insight in why travelers behaved in a certain way: “We gather a lot of quantitative test data and because of that data we know how people behave in our Mobile application and on our website. But the how, doesn’t answer the why.”

Doing qualitative research at Happy Labs helps them to put all the data in perspective and truly understand the way people interact with their app and website. Combining quantitative and qualitative research is a powerful way to get a better understanding of the context and experience of customers. “We want to test the complete customer journey and find out whether or not our customers understand our message throughout the customer journey.”

Combine several research methods

Finding the best way to do research is a case by case challenge. There are tons of options. And your specific research questions and assumptions play an important part in your final decision. “Our test method depends on which developing phase we’re in and the type of questions we have. Are we prototyping or is it about a live product? With a live product you can run a quantitative test, when you are prototyping you cannot. Also the size of the subject is a factor when we decide which testing method to use.”

NS does research in many ways: “You can think of internal reviews, guerrilla testing. Often we run tests at train stations. These tests don’t last longer than 15 minutes and are more guerilla style. While travelers are waiting for their train to arrive we let them test one thing and that’s it. At Happy Labs we’re trying to zoom out, bundle tasks, and take our time to zoom in on specific parts of the journey.” 

Just do it

We asked Niels for some final advice when it comes to testing. The answer was plain and simple: “Like Nike says: ‘Just do it!’ It doesn’t matter if you’re going to test in a lab or guerilla style, just try it and don’t be afraid. Just keep in mind that you’re building something for your clients, so make sure it works for them. Also, it’s a great way to get to know your users.”

Do you want to improve your digital products, just like NS? We are happy to help perform a great user test with a hassle-free experience. Click here for the possibilities.