Interview with our tech experts
FAIRTIQ app users can finally buy tickets for themselves and additional passengers. Last year, the company successfully pilot-tested its new ‘companion mode’ in Switzerland, Göttingen and Central Thuringia. More than 1,200 users took part in the trial. Now, FAIRTIQ is gearing up to launch the new function. From February 2023 onwards, the companion mode will be progressively rolled out across all FAIRTIQ partner regions.
"Our new companion mode shows that we never stop working to make sure our app meets the needs of our partners and users. The biggest challenge was embedding the complex function in the app design while making sure that the app remains easy to use." FAIRTIQ CEO Gian-Mattia Schucan
In the following interview, Stefan Haymoz, Product Owner, and Jonas Schmid, Squad Lead & Mobile Engineer, reveal the strategic thinking behind the development of the companion mode.
They explain that functions which appear simple are in fact often complex to develop, and that the companion mode will always be a work in progress.
Companion mode – the basics
Starting in February 2023, FAIRTIQ will progressively roll out the new companion mode across all its partner regions. FAIRTIQ users in Germany will be able to buy one additional ticket. In Switzerland and Liechtenstein, they will be able to buy tickets for up to four additional passengers.
For the new function to work, everyone must start and end the journey (including changeovers) together. The companion mode also factors in the age of the additional passenger(s) (child/adult) and any discounts that apply, e.g. the Swiss Half-Fare Travelcard or the German Bahncard, to ensure that the FAIRTIQ user is always charged the lowest available price for the journey. There are plans to extend the function to tickets for dogs, bicycles and groups, and to integrate the companion mode in SDK versions.
Prioritising user needs: the 'companion mode' has long been top of FAIRTIQ users' wishlist
Simplicity and user centricity are written into the DNA of FAIRTIQ and its app. Although the new companion mode might be easy for customers to use, its technical implementation was anything but easy for the FAIRTIQ team.
"The ongoing development of the FAIRTIQ app is one of our top priorities. This work is key to meeting the needs of our customers and partners and ensuring that the app runs without a hitch. I am very proud of my team because the introduction of the companion mode represents a major milestone for us.'' - Michel Yerly, CTO
We spoke to two of the FAIRTIQ experts who played a major role in the development of the new function: Stefan Haymoz, Product Owner, and Jonas Schmid, Squad Lead & Mobile Engineer. They explain what it takes to successfully develop and implement a new feature like the companion mode.
Behind the scenes at FAIRTIQ: the companion mode from a tech perspective
Adding another passenger in the app sounds simple. Was it?
Stefan Haymoz: Unfortunately not (smirks). The simpler it looks for the users, the more challenging it is for developers to implement. At FAIRTIQ, we focus a lot on making complex features look simple and easy to use because we want to maximise the benefits for our customers.
What are the factors you need to consider when developing a feature like the companion mode?
Jonas Schmid: The companion mode might not seem like much in terms of the ongoing development of our app, but behind the scenes it is actually a big deal. Adding another passenger to a journey goes to the very heart of our system. This means we had to change all of the FAIRTIQ app’s core modules and the server components behind it. The key to its successful implementation was good coordination between the different teams who were each working on specific core modules.
You developed the new feature according to the MVP principle. What is that?
Stefan Haymoz: MVP stands for ‘minimum viable product’. In other words, the first version of a product – in our case, the companion mode – can largely survive on the market and enjoy customer acceptance. The idea is not to build a high-speed train straight out of the box, but to start by constructing a regional train that is allowed and able to run on existing tracks. For us, this meant launching a new function in the FAIRTIQ app that meets minimum market requirements as well as customers’ basic expectations. Once the function is released on the market, we start work on developing a better version.
Why did you opt for the MVP approach?
Stefan Haymoz: We decided to follow the MVP approach because it meant that we could make a market-accepted product available to customers while simultaneously tweaking and refining the product behind the scenes. If a development team does not act according to the MVP principle, there is a risk that assumptions are made during the analysis phase that can only be confirmed months later, during the implementation phase. With the MVP approach, which is widely used in the tech industry, we ensure that the product we are developing can survive on the market and also satisfy the basic needs of the user.
How did the pilot test go and what was user feedback like?
Stefan Haymoz: The pilot phase went really well and we were delighted with the consistently positive feedback from the test users. For us, the favourable response from the pilot phase confirmed that the function was ready to be rolled out across all FAIRTIQ partner regions.
What were the toughest development challenges you faced?
Jonas Schmid: The toughest challenge was embedding the complex function in the app design while still ensuring that the app is easy to use, even for those who don’t want to use the companion mode. The development involved loads of UX decisions, which had implications for the app.
What can we expect in the future?
Stefan Haymoz: We have a lot of ideas to make the FAIRTIQ app even more user-friendly. We will develop and implement some of these in the coming months and years. After all, the MVP concept is all about pursuing the further development of new features even after they have gone live. We will keep working on improving new features like the companion mode so that one day, they too will become the equivalent of a high-speed train!