KiwiRail Scenic Journeys (website redesign)

Clemenger BBDO, KiwiRail, 2011-2013

This project involved the complete re-design and re-concept of the KiwiRail “TranzScenic” website to an exciting new “Scenic Journeys” brand.

The new site was designed to help customers ‘put the train in their trip’ and be inspired about the great places and activities the train could take them to.

We began the project by talking to people currently travelling on scenic trains in New Zealand and discovered they formed two broad groups:

Independent/Active travellers

This group sought flexibility and made the train a connecting part of a longer trip that might include other forms of transportation. These were often tourists visiting the country for two to three weeks, who drew upon the recommendations of their friends and family to put together a flexible itinerary of activities and travel. They wanted to remain flexible for most of their trip, so it was important to them that the train (something that was a very ‘booked’ experience that required them to travel on a particular day and route) could connect them to places where there was lots of flexibility once they got there – lots of things to do.

Group/Social travellers

This group was almost the opposite in their behaviour. They were larger groups of friends or colleagues, and they were interested in the train as something that made an interesting and manageable group activity – it was easy to book for a large number of people, and most groups had made plans to do something overnight at their destination before heading back to their origin point.

Out of this research we were able to design effective content for the website, and also plan future products for KiwiRail that would take advantage of these behaviours.

The new design focused on highlighting complimentary activities that related to KiwiRail’s three main services, highlighting these through imagery and visual storytelling – demonstrating clearly to customers how they could make the train part of their trip.

Visualising the possibilities

At launch, we did this primarily by visualising the kinds of experiences people could have in the areas the train went to. The website design incorporated a clever masonry-style content layout and a tagging system that ensured relevant content appeared on pages – always encouraging users to take advantage of a related deal, or book one of the three main services. This layout also:

  • displays key service information like timetables and terms
  • promotes special deals and offers
  • guides users back to the three main services
  • showcases interesting local destinations that can be reached by the train
  • displays photos and videos of the scenery
  • shares quotes from happy customers.
A masonry layout allows different types of content to mingle on the page.


We also worked to help connect the train journey to experiences by helping KiwiRail create and promote new travel packages that allowed users to combine train services with actual experiences in those areas. This meant we were helping both Independent/Active Travellers – inspiring them see how the train could be part of a wider journey – and Group/Social Travellers – providing them with bookable events that they can easily put together for their group.

Booking process

Throughout the trip booking process, we made design modifications that allowed users to concentrate on their own trip when booking, without needing to understand how KiwiRail’s systems and processes work.

My involvement

  • I performed qualitative research to find out about the types of people who travelled on the trains – actually travelling on the TranzAlpine service and interviewing travellers and taking observational photographs about the experience.
  • I developed personas and user journeys describing the kinds of people we wanted to help, and described the sort of experience we hoped to create for them.
  • I documented our proposed website in extensive wireframes (I racked up 26 pages for the initial launch), a site Information Architecture and content plan.
  • I worked closely with a freelance copywriter to create the needed content for the site.
  • I helped maintain the integrity of the initial design as the website continued to grow and new products and services were offered – producing new wireframes as needed.
  • More recently, I designed a new mobile site to provide access to simple booking and location based information for customers traveling within New Zealand.
My favourite part of the project was being allowed to take time to travel on the train and interview passengers in the discovery phase.
The research gear I took with me. Two audio recorders, two cameras, a clip board and name tag (to pass as an ‘official’ researcher).
Interviews were turned into qualitative personas of the main types of people I encountered on the train.

These personas were then turned into two main design personas, and user journeys.

The wireframes for this project were extensive – 26 pages just for the initial launch. Much of the pages had significant ‘dynamic content areas’ so these wireframes also documented the different content widgets and their behaviour.