Rhätische Bahn Reference
Magazine & Blog

Surfing on the Rhaetian Railway

Impressive landscapes, unique mountain ranges and UNESCO World Heritage - you will be able to digitally experience all that on the new website of the RhB.

With over ten million customers, the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) is Switzerland's largest alpine railway. The relaunch of rhb.ch is setting the course in the digital world and introducing new standards in the tourism industry. Since the middle of 2014, railway travellers have benefited from a modern, responsive booking platform with detailed route information in real time, illustrated with pictures and videos that inspire to an emotional and individual journey.

On the road together

The interdisciplinary project team consisted of various roles: software developers worked hand in hand with front-end designers, designers, consultants and marketing staff. In order to promote a common understanding and to ensure commitment to goal achievement, all project members from RhB, Unic and other stakeholders participated in a two-day kick-off meeting and immersed themselves in the RhB world: They all travelled together in the cozy «Stiva Retica» to Bergün in the Albula Valley.

The first joint workshop took place in the top floor of the Albula Railway Museum. Backed by the knowledge of railway history, the team initiated the future of the online presence and developed the first ideas. The first day of the workshop prepared the team members for the creative process in the project. In addition to definition of the project scope, the most important goal of the kick-off meetings was to weld the project members together and form a project team that bundles the competences of each individual. The kick-off meetings was rounded off by a joint hike along the biking trail between Preda and Bergün.

The customer travels along

To shape the online customer experience in a need-oriented manner was a central concern of the RhB. Therefore, RhB also took the customers on a journey into the digital world. The target group was analysed by means of written and oral interviews in the trains and railway stations of the RhB. Thus, it was possible to make the image of the target group and its expectations of the new Internet presence of the RhB more accurate. In the workshops, results of the surveys, such as the desire for hotels and packages, were discussed, evaluated and given a structure.

At various stages of the project, usability tests were carried out in the laboratory. For this purpose, customers were given different tasks, which they had to solve on a prototype using a smart phone and a PC. The built-in Google map serves as an exploration tool to inspire offers and products, and on the other hand, as an aid during the booking process. The selected route is displayed on the map, which turned out to be a playful component in addition to the conventional navigation elements, and was much appreciated. It has also become clear that some new navigation elements on the smart phone were accepted without problems, but not on the PC. This makes clear that the usage context plays a central role. During the course of the project, the usability tests have proven to be essential for targeted further development of the website.

To validate the results of the usability tests, RhB integrated a beta version of the Bernina Express booking module into the old website. The possibility to organise trips and get inspired through the new booking process has brought about a positive feedback among many visitors. In addition, further important findings were obtained with the help of the digital analysis, which also contributed to the further development. The new, responsive Internet presence was tested in the Unic Device Lab, which has been in operation since the beginning of the summer of 2014. All popular smart phones, tablets and operating systems are available there, which enables detailed testing of a responsive website. By means of monitor control, rhb.ch could be tested synchronously on all modern devices.

Hand in hand

The project team consisted of the same people over the entire project. The project newsletter, which appeared on a regular basis, ensured that all project participants were always up-to-date on the project status. He informed about the latest project steps and decisions and the immediate tasks. This ensured that project members worked hand in hand, because they always had the overall goal in mind and it was clear on what they were working.

In addition to the newsletter, various vessels were established to ensure continuous exchange. Extensive telephone conferences took place almost every other day, sprints were organised every three weeks. In this way, a solution was developed that combines the different viewing angles of the different know-how carriers. Sascha Bader, Unic's senior consultant, describes collaboration with the RhB as follows: «We have managed to weld the RhB and Unic team members together to form a dedicated team. Excellent cooperation was the key to implementing such a complex project.»

Agile project tour

In the course of the project, RhB decided to take an agile approach using the SCRUM method. It is characteristic that the project is not planned from beginning to end. Instead, product development takes place iteratively in several sprints. Thus, the respective project results could be checked in order to be able to intervene if necessary.

In addition to cross-company cooperation, the close collaboration between the various competencies at Unic also played an important role. From the central idea, through concept to frontend and backend development, as well as analytics and SEO, all disciplines were executed by competent Unic teams. Now the new RhB website is running in its own Unic Hosting Centre.

«After the relaunch means before the relaunch.»

With this in mind, Unic and RhB continue to work together and continue to develop the platform. The development of scalable e-mail tickets and advance bookings for the Vereina car shuttle train are further e-commerce activities, which are launched in 2015 by the RhB together with Unic.

Teamwork - On track in the web

Matthias Schmid

Matthias Schmid

1 x Google - Just RhB, please! Together we set the course for search engine optimisation.

Florian Stürzinger

From concept, to design, to release, a fascinating different experience in cooperation.