Dublin Bus – CX Case Study

Dublin Bus – CX Case Study
November 25, 2016 Cathal O'Brien

Sometimes when a company updates their product, they fail to think of the end-user. Instead of being an improvement, the product change becomes a confusing customer experience. How do you mitigate against this and update a successful product that already has a lot of customer buy-in, and keep those customers on board and ultimately happy?

Case Study: Network Direct

In 2010, Dublin Bus began a process of reorganising the capital’s bus routes through a project called “Network Direct”. This was a massive undertaking, where the majority of routes were either removed, merged, or altered in some way. Not only were the routes altered but Dublin Bus looked at the destinations on the front of the bus and updated them to be more accurate and less confusing. At least that was the idea behind it.

Some of the updates made sense. For example the 19A used to go to “Limekiln Avenue” and the 15A to “Limekiln Farm” even though both terminated in the exact same place. When the 9 replaced the 19A, it and the 15A both got the same destination of “Limekiln Avenue”. Belfield was replaced with the more informative “UCD Belfield” on the routes that went to the university.

There were some examples where Dublin Bus got too precise. The northern terminus of the 16 was on Shanard Road in Santry. When the 16 was extended to Dublin Airport, Shanard Road was served by the 1 instead.  Dublin Bus gave this new route the destination of “Shanard”, going so far as to exclude the “Road” element of the name. This caused confusion for some of the customers:

  1. Customers had to take on board the fact that after nearly 50 years, the 16 was now the 1.
  2. The routing to Santry was different from the one the 16 followed.
  3. The front of the bus now said “Shanard” rather than the more helpful “Santry”.

Overnight, Dublin Bus had created a virtual new area of the city that no one could place on a map.


A route 1 bus with the confusing “Shanard” destination displayed. Photo Credit: Cathal O’Brien

The same problem happened in Sutton. A new route 31A to Shielmartin Road was created but again the destination just showed “Shielmartin”.

When change is taking place, it is good to inform the customer and communicate effectively but not to overload them with too much new information. Asking people to get familiar with a new bus route number and routing was enough of a task. Destinations that were too precise (and resulted in the creation of “new” areas of the city) was going too far. It was giving people a level of detailed information they did not need. It seemed Dublin Bus recognised this, and today the 1 goes to “Santry” and the 31A to “Shielmartin Road”.


A route 31A bus going to the “new” part of Dublin called Shielmartin. Photo Credit: Cathal O’Brien

Change should take place in a precise and measured way. The process should not result in the loss of long-term customers. The needs and expectations of the customer should be factored in from the beginning of the planning stage and the end-user should be borne in mind at each stage of the process. If change results in a confusing customer experience and a drop in customer sentiment, then it should be re-evaluated.

One way to mitigate against a confusing customer experience is to make decisions based on the results of Usability Testing. By testing your product on real users you can get real, accurate feedback that will result in a better product. This will allow you to measure the effectiveness and user satisfaction with the new changes. With Usability Testing you can benchmark iterations to analyse which version to fully implement. This is one of the best tools a designer can use to validate the decisions they make.

Cathal O'Brien
Cathal is a UI Developer at Graphic Mint.