Plonquo is used by transport companies to plan their train transports. The main purpose for it is to help planners look at their planning from multiple dimensions and dispatchers to carry out all tasks related the transports.
In the summer of 2017 I got involved with Plonquo. At the time their UX and interface was like their product: very technical. I started off by tackling some low hanging fruit right away, such as changing fonts, colors and sizes to make all the info more comprehensible.
As I got to know the product and it’s use cases better, I dove into more complex areas. And I can tell, the world of train transport can be quite complex. There are a lot of bells and whistles you need to take into account and which can not be left out.
Ernest is an original thinker who is able to come up with new solutions. The work for our innovative planning application requires a high level of abstract thinking. Ernest is able to do that. His approach of attacking a problem in terms of "Jobs to be done" is very effective. This results in a user experience that works for the user and is visually attractive. Besides being able to design a good user experience, he is a nice person to work with and does he deliver what he promised.
Founder & CEO Fabriquartz & Plonquo
The planboard is the core of the Plonquo app. The planboard is the place where the planners figure out how the transports will travel, where the dispatchers have their overview and find their instructions and where the financial administration find the details for both incoming and outgoing invoices.
On the planboard all transport activities are plotted, and boy there are a lot of activities going on in transport. The challenge here was to make the planboard as readable as possible for the three different departments. Therefore we introduced different activity types: draft, planned, in progress, done and closed.
Not only was there a need to differentiate for the departments, the different type of activities - such as travel, load/unload, in depot, twelve in total! - also needed to be distinguished in a glance. Therefore every activity type has a different color. Luckily the Material color palette is great and helped a ton here.
Tasks for dispatch
Most transport activities have tasks related to them. Some examples: before a certain transport can start, all wagons need to be technically checked, the right permits needs to be acquired, the mileage of the locomotive needs to be registered, et cetera.
At first I created a Tasks interface in the Planboard.
This worked well to quickly check a task and it’s context. But when the dispatchers were in crunch mode, they wanted a big list of tasks they could check off one after the other. I iterated the different task components and created a new user interface with it solely focused on tasks. I have always been a fan of mail apps that look at an inbox as a to-do list, so I knew I wanted to recreate this kind of layout.
Also, because a lot of tasks need to be carried out on the ground, we needed to support a mobile interface for the tasks.
While working on Plonquo I got the chance to deep dive into Material Design. This resulted in a Sketch Library based on Material guidelines and real world Material app.
Furthermore I prototyped a lot on paper and whiteboards. In Sketch I designed everything and created clickthroughs as well.