JR East Project (Part 1): Identifying Problems

While working on the JR Group companies’ websites, I thought that there might be another problem to solve. As I finished with all JR companies’ homepages, I start to re-create further. I’ve mentioned before that my motivation doing all these things because I couldn’t go to a Global Internship Program by JR East in 2019. Now that I know how the JR East website is, I decided to create some more for them.

Very cliche question, isn’t it? Well, I have to start anything by asking something after all. The East Japan Railway Company, or most people know them as JR East, is a Tokyo-based railway company. If you are familiar with Yamanote Line, they are the operator of that notable Tokyo loop line.

Yamanote Line E235 Series (Source: Wikipedia)

JR East was established along with five other JR passenger companies on 1 April 1987. The company covers mostly on Eastern Japan, including The Tokyo Metropolitan Area. It is the biggest JR group companies, with more than seven thousand kilometers of operating km and more than fifty thousand employees. From a business perspective, they have three pillars in this topic: Railway, Life-Service, as well as IT & Suica development.

I was bored.

You read it right. At first, I just want to make some homepages for JR companies and enhancing some of them. But then this pandemic came, and I was forced to do practically everything from home. Yes, I did have classes to attend and assignments to do. But apart from those things, I have nothing else. To kill my boredom, I decided to continue this personal portfolio project.

On a much serious note, aside from the website’s uniformity with the other and some aesthetical matters, I found out that the primary site and the ticketing site are two different things. I’m talking about… Like when we want to book a flight ticket, the airline’s website usually doesn’t redirect us to another site (the search goes on the same tab but probably in a different URL). But this is not the case with the JR East English website. On their homepage, there are choices for ticket reservations, exchange order (coupon or pass), and train timetable, like I’ve put on the new website interface. But they redirect the choice to another tab, and honestly, that puzzles me.

Eki-net.com Homepage

Currently, JR East has a ticketing website called eki-net.com. When we want to book a train seat, the system will redirect you to that website. But this redirecting thing is not alone on my list of problems.

The list goes on with the struggle of waiting for the site (Japanese) to load on the browser. I’ve been in a day when I had to wait for the website to load. After waiting from the morning until the night, it didn’t open. It turns out, based on their English site, the system has some maintenance periods. (And by the time I write this article, the web loads up easily…)

Discussing maintenance periods makes me remember one thing while working with this project. My friend, one day, said to me that even the JR West ticketing system only operates during working hours. The facts regarding specific periods are quite surprising. I don’t understand whether these period issues are the norm in the Japanese system or not. But anyhow, I don’t feel right about this matter, and it must be solved sooner or later.

When I was doing this project, I approached this matter with sort kind of use-cases. I decided to do so because I was doing this project parallel with my college project, which heavily related to this use-case thing. The college project involved some things like requirement identifications, specifications, diagrams, etc. In other words, I would not only redesign their website interface but also enhance some of their systems.

The problems that I’ve identified and mentioned before are mostly technical. But I won’t consider those for use-cases. Instead, I put the three main functions as my use-cases:

  • Ticket Reservation,
  • Coupon or Pass Order, and
  • Train Timetable Checking.

Aside from these three things, I set the other problems as non-functional requirements or needs, like the system must be able to operate for 24 hours per day, or the system must be able to handle a bunch of users at one time, and many other things alike.

I create this whole thing with the help of Sketch, Adobe Illustrator, as well as Google Docs. Both Sketch and Adobe Illustrator are the tools for redesigning the interfaces. Google Docs is a tool to write my formal-style document. I used these tools as well while recreating JR Group identities before this.

Working on this project has some limitations, too, especially when it comes to language. As this is a Japanese company, the first language of the system supposed to be Japanese. And since I’m not a Japanese speaker, I created the whole thing in English instead of Japanese. To cover this condition, I wrote on my document that the system must be available in at least two languages: Japanese and English.

Another thing that limits the development of this system is (and let me get this thing straight) the fact that this whole system is just a concept. As I’ve mentioned before, the redesign itself was just to kill my boredom. Yes, it is for my own portfolio good as well, but I don’t expect further from this, aside from the fact that this might be helping me during the jobseeking period after I graduate.

Since this might become a long story, I will divide the whole East Japan Railway Company topic, and continue writing in the next post.

Travel & Aviation. Design Reimagined. HELLO FZ.