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.