I’ve just been trying to book train tickets via National Express’ new booking site, and have experienced a number of major customer experience / usability issues.

National Express rail tickets

National Express recently won the battle to take over the East Coast Main Line from previous operator GNER and, while its booking procedure was cumbersome at times, National Express hasn’t yet managed to improve on it.

There were a couple of problems with the new site:

  • Slow page load times
    The first problem was the slowness of the site – after selecting the details, times and dates of my journey, I spent almost a minute looking at this screen:
Ticket search
  • Shows unavailable journeys
    This was the most frustrating aspect, and something that National Express needs to deal with as quickly as possible.

    Having selected the trains I wanted, selected any additional options, and moving to the payments section, I was confronted by this:

Tcikets unavailable

The red text tells me that there are no tickets available for the times I have selected and asks me to select another journey. This happened four times, forcing me to start the process all over again.

We have mentioned this before with reference to online retail sites – if products / services are unavailable or out of stock then customers should not be allowed to even begin to make a purchase.

Allowing customers to select products only to be told at the checkout that they cannot buy them is a major source of frustration for customers, and potentially damaging to many cats.

Far better to manage expectations by telling them on the product page or, better still, don’t show unavailable items at all.  

We know some of the people at National Express and while they are working hard on improving the site, frankly it can’t come soon enough.

Related stories:

Majority of online shoppers experience transaction problems

Related research:

Online Retail User Experience Benchmarks