The UK’s rewarding train ticketing app

Header image for the VTT case study showing the Virgin Trains Ticketing Logo and an illustration of a commuter with a surfboard

At Brightec we believe in creating meaningful technology that positively impacts peoples’ lives. As one of the UK’s biggest brands, Virgin champions people, experiences, and the planet. So, when the Virgin Red team approached us to collaborate with them on a vision to make travel better, we jumped at the opportunity.

Introducing Virgin Trains Ticketing

Virgin Red knows that travel can be a real chore. From studying timetables to navigating turnstiles or waiting at platforms, getting from one place to another can be hard work. But the stress can start long before you even reach the platform; everyone needs a train ticket and that process isn’t always simple, or enjoyable. So, why not make the experience easier for the user — and reward them at the same time?

Virgin Train Tickets: Earn Points on Everyday Travel

Virgin Trains Ticketing allows Virgin Red members to ‘earn on the everyday to save for the extraordinary’. Within the app, members can book train tickets across England, Scotland, and Wales, earning Virgin Points — which they can spend with Virgin Red — as they do so.

The more train tickets purchased; the more points collected. Save them up or spend them straight away; Virgin’s universal currency never expires. So, whether you want a free lunch or you’re saving for a luxury trip, Virgin Points help you get there.

Virgin Trains Ticketing is open to everyone. It’s completely free. And it makes that Monday morning commute or weekend getaway that little bit more enticing…

Developing the Train Ticket App: All Aboard!

Wireframes of the Virgin Trains Ticketing App for user experience design

At Brightec, collaboration is at the heart of our process. We believe that everyone has something different to bring to the table. So, when Virgin Red requested collaboration on the development of a train ticket app, we wanted to go full steam ahead.

Throughout this project, we worked closely with Virgin Red’s team of designers and developers, user researchers, and its ticketing supplier, SilverRail, to develop one of the best apps for train tickets in the UK.

Train Ticket App Development: Staying on Track

Virgin Trains Ticketing is one of the biggest app development projects our team has ever carried out. We had to utilise every tool in our arsenal and as always, we explored the app development journey from initial concepts, through design and development, to delivery and app release.

Virgin Red and Train Ticketing: Developing a Brand New Product

Screenshot of the confirmation email on a tablet and an illustration of a man with a dog

There are very few times we get the chance to work on something brand new. But working with Virgin Red was different. While we were developing the Virgin Trains Ticketing App, the Virgin Red team was creating the Virgin Trains Ticketing brand. The relationship was very symbiotic, with our thoughts and ideas feeding into Virgin’s brand considerations and vice versa.

Virgin Trains Ticketing: the Human Centred Approach

Virgin Trains Ticketing is a functional app, designed to help people find train times and buy tickets as quickly as possible. But other companies offer applications that provide the same service and we wanted Virgin Trains Ticketing to stand out.

The Virgin team focuses on finding the Virgin voice in everything it does, and using it well. This allowed us the flexibility and creative freedom to create a stand-out app that really reflected the Virgin and Virgin Red brands.

Throughout the app development process, we utilised Virgin’s innovative approach to help us capture that moment of joy; where a customer uses the app and knows this is Virgin’s way of doing things. We achieved this by asking, ‘how does that make you feel?’ at every stage of the app development journey.

Working in this way helped us capture and maintain the essence of the Virgin brand — ensuring we developed so much more than a competitor’s app with a red skin. We developed a joy-filled experience that accurately reflects their iconic human centred approach.

Virgin’s Mantra: Test It. Does It Work?

Screenshot of the Virgin Trains Ticketing App showing the search results and search screens

As an award-winning app development company, we know how easy it is to make assumptions about user behaviour. While developing an app, it’s easy to say, ‘I think’ or ‘I assume that’, however, this is rarely helpful. At Brightec, everything we do begins and ends with the user and we understand how effective this mindset is in developing apps that people love to use.

Throughout the app development process, we tested our assumptions to ensure there was quantifiable data behind every aspect of the development process, adding real certainty to the project.

Virgin Red: Going the Extra Mile

Screenshots of the Virgin Trains Ticketing App showing the ticket and the confirmation screen

Virgin has always gone the extra mile for its customers and Virgin Red is no different. Virgin is passionate about understanding its customers’ needs and how to provide a service that goes above and beyond for the individual.

While Virgin Trains Ticketing provides essential information such as which platform to go to and which tickets offer the best value, Virgin Red wanted to take things further. So, the team approached real people and carried out invaluable research that informed the app development process.

Virgin’s Diary Studies

With the help of Virgin Red’’s Diary Studies, we gained invaluable insight into the user’s figurative and literal journey. As part of the Diary Studies, Virgin Red gave participants a phone and instructed them to walk around, get on trains and tubes, and note any difficulties they faced.

This information fed directly into the app development process as everything was counterpointed to the users and what they would need from the product. Some of these changes went into Release One and we have retained others to develop in the coming months, making the app even more relevant to the individual user.

Brightec’s User Research

Screenshot on iPad of the Virgins Trains Ticketing landing page for web

User research and testing is one of our top priorities here at Brightec. As part of developing Virgin Trains Ticketing, we prototyped our ideas and carried out moderated user testing on the app and its features.

Moderated user testing allowed us to watch and understand how users were interacting with the application. The results of each user testing session informed our app designers and developers of changes they could make to ensure the product more accurately served the user.

Both Virgin Red’s Diary Studies and our own user testing greatly influenced the app development process, ensuring we created a product people wanted to use and engage with.

Virgin Trains Ticketing App Reception

Delivering Virgin Trains Ticketing and watching it go live on the 28th June 2022 was an amazing feeling. We received positive feedback from the Virgin Red team, praising the app for capturing the essence of the Virgin Red brand.

“What stood out about Brightec was their determination to bring in innovative ideas that pushed us to accomplish the project. They’re also very solution-oriented — they always tried to resolve any problems we encountered without inconveniencing us.”
Chris Briggs, Senior Delivery Manager, Virgin Red

There is More Work Further Down the Tracks

We are delighted to be continuing our work with Virgin Red and the Virgin Trains Ticketing app. It is lovely to have continuity on a project like this. Over time, we look forward to introducing features that go the extra mile, providing that very solid Virgin brand experience we have all come to know and love.

We are incredibly proud that this app was named 'App of the Year' by the UK eCommerce Awards 2023. Read more about our work with Virgin Red.

Get in Touch

If you liked the sound of Virgin Trains Ticketing and you have your own app development project to discuss, get in touch today. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!