User-centric survey app for traffic research

We worked closely with HSL’s research department to design the customer experience and visual brand for the 2018 Travel Survey, which was brought to life through an Angular-based survey application. Helsinki region municipalities and Helsinki Regional Transport Authority (HSL) conduct the Travel Survey to study the travel habits of the Helsinki region’s residents. The survey results are used to develop traffic forecast models and plan the public transport system. 

The project in a nutshell


The Travel Survey was in need of an update, and we wanted to offer an easy and accessible way to participate through a web survey that utilizes location-based data.


We designed the customer experience, visual brand, and Angular-based survey application for the research looking at the travel habits of the Helsinki region’s residents.


The outcomes of the trial study offered encouraging results, as the response rate increased and our client received high-quality data. Test users described the survey as smooth, clear, logical, and easy to use.

From paper forms to a web application

The Travel Survey is used to gather reliable and comprehensive data about the Helsinki region’s residents’ travel habits and possible influencing factors. Travel Surveys have been conducted regularly since 1966, every five years or so.

Until now the survey has been conducted by mail and phone interviews, but to catch up with the times it has now been brought online as well.

Our mission was to help the HSL research department design the survey’s customer experience – from inviting a random sample of participants from the population register to polishing the survey’s brand – and renew the previously paper-only format to a modern and easy-to-use web application. The online survey needed to work seamlessly for participants and researchers alike.

How to persuade, simplify, and engage

In the Travel Survey, participants answer questions about their travel habits and are asked to record a travel diary of journeys made in one predetermined day. A journey is defined as traveling from one place to another outside the immediate vicinity of one’s home. The Travel Survey is not a research on public transport, however – the aim is to collect information about all modes of transport. This is why the survey needed its own brand, one that would not be affiliated with HSL and clearly communicates that all modes of transport are equal objects of the study.

A particular challenge for recent surveys has been a decrease in the response rate, as participation is voluntary. Providing a clear, easy, and engaging experience was key when designing the customer experience. The transition from getting the invitation letter to logging in to the online survey needed to be as smooth as possible. It was also important to ensure that participants would complete the whole survey, and that it would be fun and rewarding to record the travel diary.

We created a simple and fresh look for the survey, in which different modes of transport are pictured with colorful illustrations. The illustrations were also essential in expressing key terminology like journeys, departures and returns, and tours. The copy needed to be clear and understandable. From iterating the order of the questions to selecting the right wording, special care was put into making the survey easy to complete.

The survey’s structure, how the interface guides the user along, and the transition from the paper invitation to the digital survey were all tested with users, first with paper prototypes and later with a trial study. Experts at Frantic and HSL also tested the survey app multiple times, while the researchers’ own interface was designed in cooperation with the actual persons doing the research interviews.


A dynamic survey enables multiple user journeys

The survey application is a functioning dialogue between the home view and the different sections of the survey. Users can move from one section to the next according to their own interests, while the interface ensures that they don’t get lost along the way.

The survey, built as an Angular app, uses the REST API to save, retrieve, and update data. The survey questions vary based on the user’s previous answers. After each question, details from the survey are saved to the backend service provider’s data structure. The app uses predictive text input and other helpful features to make filling out the survey easier.

Users were able to use their location data to help record journeys for their travel diary. The app itself uses Digitransit APIs to find addresses and display routes. Users could also freely add and edit journeys.

Promising results from the trial study

In spring 2018 we had one final test for the survey application – conducting a trial study. There were 800 participants in the trial phase, and the results were promising. The response rate increased from 20% (in 2014) to 25%, and in their feedback participants described the survey as smooth, clear, logical, and easy to use. Also, the data gotten from the trial study were of good quality.

Based on the trial results, the actual Travel Survey was conducted during fall 2018.

New insights from service design in travel research

"Frantic’s service designers faced the challenges of the Travel Survey head-on: How can we turn a complicated travel diary research into a simple online survey? How do we make users understand that it’s not a public transport survey, even though it’s done by HSL? We found a solution to each and every problem and developed a really usable online survey – and defined the whole response path. "

"While working with Frantic we learned just how extensively service design can be used in research. Especially the user testing sessions were eye-opening! Frantic’s experts were great to work with and the end result was a successful survey app and high-quality data."

Elina Brandt, Transport Analyst, HSL

Fruitful outcomes – even for our experts

It was extremely interesting to design the customer experience for something like the Travel Survey. Especially the travel diary takes some time and effort from users, so it was important to make the experience as smooth as possible, rewarding even.

We tested designs for the interface with many users, first with a prototype and then with a coded version of the service, to pinpoint any potential problems to fix, and also to see the moments that brought smiles to users’ faces. In every session, we learned so much from our users about what it takes to create a good user experience! The end product, a result of trying and testing, engages users to respond to the survey and enjoy completing it.

–Kaisa Ruotsalainen, Service Designer, Frantic


  • Customer experience design
  • Co-design and user testing
  • Prototyping
  • Concept design
  • Visual brand design
  • Content design
  • Visual design
  • User interface design
  • Technical design and implementation


  • Angular
  • Digitransit API
  • Firebase Cloud Messaging

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