Great User Experience for a complex work enviroment

The red line in the Stockholm metro is being modernised, including a new traffic control centre. Traffic managers will have access to more information and functionality. Initially it appeared that 14 (fourteen!) monitors would be needed at each desk. At this point SL decided to engage someone who can really create effective user experiences even in complex environments, and they contacted inUse.

The team from inUse started with a number of study visits to existing traffic control centres. Through a combination of observations and interviews, we examined the work being carried out. The purpose was to understand what the job of a traffic manager involves in this particular context, at this traffic control centre. What do they do? How to they collaborate? What drives them? What already works well now and what needs to be improved?

Communication between people

When it comes to control rooms, by far the most important thing is communication between the people who work there. Traffic managers must quickly and easily understand one another, and information officers depend on hearing what the traffic managers are talking about. This enables everyone to act quickly if, for example, a train breaks down and traffic has to be diverted. For communication to function optimally, the location of the operators’ desks is incredibly important. Too many large displays would cause traffic managers to be isolated, which would in turn result in poorer communication and a less effective team.

Based on our observations and interviews, we drew up a design concept for the new traffic control centre. To keep the operators together in the room and provide good ergonomics at their workplaces, we created a totally new design for an operator’s desk that is more compact than its predecessor. It also means that computer screens are better arranged within the field of vision.

A totally new design for the operator’s desk

We developed a new way of managing all the IT systems that the operators need. The most frequently used systems have their own screens, while other, supporting IT systems are displayed on screens split into four sections. We built a full-scale model in cardboard and wood in order to test the solution with genuine users before production.

The overall experience is what counts in a control room, so lighting and colour schemes in the room also play their part in reducing the risk of reflections and dazzle. To keep the operators awake and alert, we have retained as much natural light as possible in the premises, while direct sunlight is filtered out. The new traffic control centre will be taken into use in 2015, with the ambition of being the most modern in Europe.

The desks have already become so popular that more control centres within SL have ordered the same desk.