I’ve put a lot of work into making the trntxt experience as efficient as possible. Even though it was designed for old phones with a slow connection, it works well on modern smartphones, and in my opinion, beats any train times app out there. Of course I think it’s better (I did make it after all), but I’m going to try and explain why it’s better.
I once learned that when someone looks for information, it is best to have that information displayed after as few gestures as possible. My experiment compares the use of the National Rail Enquiries (NRE) app with trntxt, on both initial setup and subsequent use. I’m going to dig out my old iPod Touch for this because my phone doesn’t do screenshots and nobody else has Windows Phone 7. At the start of the experiment, we are going to assume that you know the name of the app but it isn’t installed, and you know the URL of trntxt but have never visited it before.
Apps need to be installed in order to use them, so the first step for the NRE app is to install it. This requires you to open the app store, search for the app and install it, entering your Apple ID password in the process.
…except since my device is a bit old, it can’t run the NRE app. Luckily the First Great Western app (or at least an older version of it) is supported, so instead we’ll use that for the comparison.
Once installed, the app’s icon is on the homescreen. If I didn’t have that compatibility problem, that would have taken me 8 taps (not including typing the app’s name and my password), then a 9th tap to open the app.
Trntxt is just a website, so you open your browser and type trntxt.uk. The page loads without having to enter a password. At this point you could add it to your homescreen, but we can do something much cooler, so we won’t pin it just yet.
That’s 3 taps (not including typing) in total.
Let’s say we want to go from Bath Spa station to Reading. We want to know what time it leaves Bath and the time it’s expected to arrive at Reading.
In the app, you need to tap on Train Times, tap the departure station text box and type the station name, then tap into the ‘calling at’ text box and type the other station name. A final tap on ‘View Trains’ will get you the departure times over the next 2 hours. The problem is that you aren’t given the arrival times straight away – you need to tap on each service to receive more details, including the arrival time.
With trntxt, you need to know the name of the stations or their 3 letter station code, then put them in the address bar separated by a slash. On hitting enter, each service that is displayed comes with the departure time and the time it is expected to arrive. At this point, you can pin the page to your homescreen for easy access later. You’ll notice that the journey has its own icon, allowing you to quickly identify it.
Both the app and trntxt make use of optimisations that make your repeat journeys easier to access.
The app has a ‘quick access’ menu that can be accessed after tapping ‘train times’ from inside the app. That’s 3 taps to access the list of departure times, and a further tap to get each arrival time.
Trntxt can be accessed using a single tap from the icon pinned on the homescreen. That’s all of the departure times for the next 2 hours, including estimated arrival times.
One of the main advantages of using trntxt.uk over an app on an iPhone is the pinning feature. An app on an iPhone has a limit of one icon on the homescreen, whereas you can pin multiple instances of trntxt onto the homescreen. This means if you make multiple journeys on the train, you can have single-tap access to all of them. Can your iPhone app do that? Didn’t think so.
This advantage isn’t so advantageous on Android and Windows Phone devices because apps are allowed to pin multiple icons on the homescreen. However I’ve yet to see an app that can rival the speed at which trntxt loads a request.