User Research Practice: Metro Safety Check


User Research

Course Project / Nov 2017



Safety check in subway is considered a significant way to ensure passengers’ safety. The government has putting much effort in nudging people to volunteer in checking bags before they enter the subway. However, the majority people ignore the safety check point in subway. Among those who did participant in the security check, they did not have a positive experience in doing so.

How can we invite more people to volunteer in the metro safety check with a positive experience?



Here we propose redesigning the metro safety check process to encourage more people to participant in the safety check with positive checking experiences. The design solution focuses on feedback loop, visibility of service and the emotion of pride.


Identify the Problem Space

In the main stops in Shanghai metro, only 4% to 33% passengers participate in the safety check.


The reluctance to participant causes a vicious cycle. A low percentage of willing passengers causes the security guards to force the passengers to cooperate by dragging their bags, which in turn leads to a negative experience of passing the metro check. Afterwards, passengers are more reluctant to volunteer in the safety check.

How did we get here?
User Research

We interviewed 4 regular visitors of Shanghai metro and held 6 in-situ observations at 4 different metro stops. We were particularity interested how users pass the safety check and why. Based on the researches, we created user persona and generated key insights.


Research Insights

Insight1: Users feel that it is a waste of time

On one hand, users acknowledge the importance of security check. On the other hand, they know for themselves that there is nothing illegal in their bag. Therefore, they feel a waste of time participating in the security check.

Insight2: Users feel that the security guards do not pay real attention

User think that the security guards never pay attention to their bags. Besides, they argue that the guards are “happy” to see people not participating in the security check. However, in the observation, all guards were absorbed in their work, paying close attention to the results in the monitor screen. This feeling of users turns out to be a misunderstanding.

Insight3: Users sometimes have a feeling of superiority after volenteering

Users sometimes feel superior over other passengers when they did participate in the safety check. However, currently we do not have any external cues to provide users this sense of pride. Most likely, users generate this positive emotion to justify their time and effort put into the checking process.

Design Recommendations

The design recommendations focus on turning the vicious cycle of reluctance-rude behavior of safety guards - negative experience to a positive cycle of feedback – positive emotion generated – willingness to participate. More specifically, we include in our design the mechanism of reward and feedback in behavioral psychology to achieve the ideal cycle.

Feature1: Feedback provision after passengers pass the check

Insight: Users feel that it is a waste of time to pass the security check.

Design Recommendation: We recommend implementing feedback after the checking process is over. The feedback could be a board and a voice message indicating that “you have successfully passed the check”. By creating a sense of ceremony, users could feel that their efforts are valued.

Feature2: Provide positive stimulation

Insight: Users sometimes have a feeling of superiority after participating.

Design Recommendation: We recommend providing messages of appreciation after the passengers pass the check. The message could be a voice message of “thank you for your participation and wish you a nice day”. This helps passengers gain a sense of being valued afterwards. 

Feature3:  Visibility of the working of the security guard

Insight: Users feel that the security guards do not pay real attention.

Design Recommendation: we recommend enhancing the visibility of the work of security guards. This can be achieved by management of the security guard team: other security guards should not be standing right beside the one who is checking the baggage and talking. Meanwhile, we could add two monitor screens showing that the guard is checking the baggage carefully.

©2018 by Yu Zhao.