Survey app for a national travel survey

Usability and clarity were essential when designing and implementing a survey app for Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom’s national passenger travel survey.

Case highlights

1

Designing a coherent and seamless user experience for several different user groups

2

Grasping and handling a complex research entity both in terms of content and technology

3

Developing a security audited, cloud-based solution on Google Firebase platform

The purpose of the Finnish National Travel Survey, which is carried out every few years by the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom, is to collect basic data on passenger traffic in Finland. The research data is used in traffic planning, monitoring, and prediction.

We set out to develop and update the user experience for the survey respondents. Our goal was to design and implement a modern, accessible, and easy-to-use digital survey app with its accompanying materials.

The research was carried out for Traficom as a consortium. Frantic was in charge of the digital research tool and the respondents' experience, and the actual research was carried out by WSP Finland. Kantar TNS was responsible for the data collection and maintaining the database.

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Seeking an easy and coherent user experience with service design methods

The National Travel Survey (HLT21) participants are drawn by random sample from all over Finland. The participants are asked to tell about their mobility habits, to answer related questions, and to fill in a trip diary for one pre-determined day.

“Survey response rates are declining, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach people by phone. Utilizing user-centered service design in designing the materials and the app interface was seen as a key measure in improving responsiveness.”  

– Hanna Strömmer, Specialist, Traficom

We wanted the participation to be effortless for respondents of all ages and with different levels of digital skills. In designing the material to be mailed and the digital app, we decided to focus especially on clarity and ease of use.

In the early stages of the design project, we dug deeper into the user groups that had been challenging to reach in an earlier research.

We studied the characteristics, needs, and desires of these user groups through a variety of service design methods, such as empathy and service journey mapping. In the design process, we emphasized an especially clear user experience also in terms of the visual elements.

Personalized question paths for different respondents

The several different user groups were also considered in the digital survey app. We designed different respondent paths based on who is expected to respond to the survey. The questions aimed at persons under the age of 15 were formulated according to whether the person takes the survey themselves or together with their guardian.

The research needs of the different Finnish regions were also considered with the help of individual question paths.

In addition to Finnish, it was possible to take the survey in Swedish, English, and Russian. The research questions and the app user interface content were translated into these languages. A desktop version of the app was also made, especially for older respondents as well as telephone interviewers.

The respondent experience flow was tested using remote video connections with users in different age groups, living in different parts of the country, responding on various mobile and desktop devices and user interfaces. The information obtained through testing was used to validate and iterate the user experience, and to ultimately optimize the respondent experience.

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A secure cloud-based app on a Google platform

The HLT21 survey app for collecting research data is a browser app based on Angular software framework. The app was intended to be implemented entirely in a cloud environment.

As a platform for the app, we chose Google Cloud Firebase. It provides the functionalities the app requires, completely cloud-based with Google's secure and certified Backend as a Service platform. Firebase manages the distribution of the app, data storage and transfer, and authentication.

The app was implemented in accordance with strict technical, data security, and data protection requirements. Firebase Authentication was used to build app-condition-based access control, which verifies the privacy of different user groups and the anonymity of the research data. The identity of the person using the app is verified when each piece of data is saved or read. The security of the app was audited by a third party.

Angular and Firebase enabling the dynamic survey app

Angular is a component-based JavaScript framework based on MVC architecture. It lends itself well to developing interactive browser apps and enables the efficient use of the Firebase platform features.

There are several question paths for different respondents. The paths are modified while taking the survey based on previous responses depending on whether they are relevant to the respondent. For example, a person under the age of 15 will not be asked work-related questions, nor will a carless person be asked questions related to the use of a car. Some of the research questions and response options, such as location and age, are determined based on pre-entered data, while others are determined dynamically on the basis of the person's responses.

The Angular framework is ideal for planning these kinds of complex, interrelated questions. The component-based structure makes it possible to efficiently re-utilize the questions and question structures. Question sets can easily be added and modified, and conditions can also be set. 

“Managing the different respondent groups, the regional questions, the internal response logic of the questions and the different language versions was a complex and challenging task. Our cooperation with Frantic during the question logic review went smoothly and communication was easy. With the Jira app, all members of the group were constantly aware of the daily status.”

– Riikka Kallio, Project Manager, WSP

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Comprehensive testing and integrations with other services

The Angular framework combined with TypeScript programming language is a modern and functional combo, especially when the app is connected to multiple interfaces and the solution requires comprehensive and automated testing. Precise automated tests have been developed for each question to ensure the integrity of the logical structure even when modifying the questions.

In addition to Firebase services, the app uses an open Digitransit interface in its trip diary functionality. Digitransit is part of the open-source service platform developed by Helsinki region transport organization HSL and Traficom.

With the help of Digitransit, we implemented the address and coordinate search functionalities needed to calculate the distances based on the given address information.

When the app user has finished taking the survey, the completed responses are automatically transferred from Firestore to Kantar TNS's internal tools and deleted from the memory of the app. The app creates anonymized response data, which is sent over with a protected data transfer connection.

"Nowadays it’s difficult to get people to respond to these types of surveys, which is why it was very important for us not to lose any responses because of difficulties in using the app. The HLT survey's digital survey app turned out to be in line with our objectives: modern, easy-to-use, and clear. It also takes into account the different response paths."

– Riikka Kallio, Project Manager, WSP

Competences

  • UX/UI design
  • Service design
  • Content design
  • Solution architecture & backend development
  • Project management
  • Scrum Master
  • Front-end development
  • Fullstack development

Technologies

  • Angular
  • Node
  • TypeScript
  • Firebase Hosting
  • Firebase Functions
  • Firestore
  • Firebase Authentication
  • Google Pub/Sub
  • Google Compute Engine
  • Cloud Storage FUSE
  • Google Cloud Storage

Want to hear more? Contact Maija!

Maija Typpi-Häkkinen +358 50 566 2819 maija.typpi-hakkinen@frantic.com
Maija Typpi-Häkkinen