Positive train control

Research & Design


A train controller company that relied on radio devices decided to change the way users interacted with the radios. They wanted a new interface that would allow for faster responses to issues while reducing the cognitive load of the users. We were brought in to create a design that created more efficiency in the overall process.

The Problem
The radio operators interacted with the radios with code that did not have a graphical user interface (GUI). These users were reluctant to switch to any sort of GUI. The design had to demonstrate its usefulness to the users while meeting the efficiency requirements of the business stakeholders.
My Contributions
  • Researcher and interaction designer
  • Contextual inquiries
  • Flows and wireframes
  • Concept testing sessions
  • Prototype iterations
  • Displaying a large amount of information
  • Creating greater efficiency in the process
  • Maintaining safety standards
  • User resistance to GUIs

Contextual Inquiries

I was able to observe the users that monitored the train line system as well as the developers that adapted the system as necessary in their workplace. The system was monitored in three different locations, each with their own needs: a mission control center, a help center, and a response center. Each of these needed to monitor a different set of data, but were unable to access the other interface if necessary. Additionally, while the developers at the response center were able to efficiently generate code to make changes, newer users expressed having challenges learning the necessary code.


From the user research, I was able to come up with some high level flows and concepts to try to capture what was needed to monitor the different systems while allowing for an easy to learn GUI interface that would not lose response time in switching from the command line interface.

Information Architecture with Ticketing Flow


Wireframes and Prototype

Once the concept was approved, I built a prototype that we were able to test with a few of the same users previously interviewed. After one round of testing, I adapted the prototype and created annotated wireframes.

Annotated Wireframe


I then worked closely with a visual designer and developer to create a fully functional application.

Visual Design for Application



Once the system began to be implemented, the developers within the company insisted on maintaining their command line interface. My company’s developer and I worked closely with the company to try to accomplish this within the new interface. The end result was then implemented on their system.