Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) on Tuesday revamped its e-ticketing web portal adding a brand new user interface (UI) and a host of new features to its platform. It’s a big change for the website that is used by millions of users daily. It is arguably the most accessed, if not most popular, website in India. Even people who open Google open many times to search IRCTC and then end up on its website. Thankfully, the redesign is done well enough. The redesigned website hopes to make the process of booking tickets on the web-portal swift and easy. The new site not only allows users to check the probability of getting a confirmed ticket but it also gives them greater mobility to use the website.
Now, before I talk of my experience in using the new IRCTC website, some background information. The revamped version of the website has been developed by the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) and it uses data mining of information gathered by the agency about the booking patterns from users to give more robust and accurate results.
In terms of the features, the updated version of the website has a lot to offer to the users who were often harassed by the complicated and arduous user interface of the older IRCTC website. For starters, with the new UI coming in, users will not have to sign into their IRCTC accounts for checking insignificant details such as their PNR statuses, train schedules, and tracking their trains, which by all means is a welcoming change. As most of you will agree, earlier the website was pretty much useless without the login details.
For using the new IRCTC website, all users need to do is go to the IRCTC website and click on “Try New Version of Website” option highlighted in red in the top left corner below the IRCTC logo. What happens next will essentially take you back to the era of Yahoo mail (in a good way). To put it simply, the landing page of the revamped IRCTC looks somewhat similar to the login page of Yahoo mail, which means you no longer have to go through the trouble of looking a cluttered homepage with tiny fonts.
Image Courtesy: IRCTC
Searching for trains on the revamped IRCTC website is extremely simple. All users need to do is add their boarding point, destination, date of journey and their class of journey and click on “find trains” option. The site will then display a list of trains that has been colour-coded to highlight trains that leave on particular days. Additionally, the details of each train are displayed in the form of a card wherein users can select their journey class to check for fare and availability. Earlier, IRCTC used to display a boring, difficult to comprehend list that looked like a company’s balance sheet.
But this is not the only feature that IRCTC has added to the new interface. Users can now modify their train search using a variety of parameters such as departure and arrival time, sub-stations of a city, train type, and journey class — all of which were missing in the previous format.
Another major change coming to the IRCTC website is the “Forecast Confirmation Probability” feature which predicts if there is chance of getting a confirmed ticket. For example, it will show “60%” if there is a 60 per cent chance of getting a confirmed ticket.
Earlier, the website displayed the number of tickets available under various categories such as available, waiting and RAC (reservation against cancellation). IRCTC says that the waitlist prediction feature will take into account data from past 13 years to arrive at a “robust, workable model”. In other words, it uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to find patters and predict which ticket will get confirmed and which won’t. The new feature will be particularly helpful to the users during the peak holiday season when getting a confirmed ticket is difficult and there is no way of knowing if a wait-listed ticket will get confirmed or not.
Image Courtesy: IRCTC
The agency has also simplified the process of booking tickets on its platform. It has incorporated a new “card” system for filling in the details of various passengers. Now users have to enter details of a passenger such as their name, age, gender, seat preference, and food choice in a single card. A similar separate card will enlist details of another passenger. While a similar row-format is available in the older version of the site, what makes the new setup better is the use of large fonts along with information being presented in a user-friendly format which ultimately facilitates the use of the site.
Additionally users can add up to six banks under the preferred banks section in the My Profile section which has been redesigned to look like the profile page of Orkut, a Google-owned social media platform which was discontinued in 2014.
Besides this users can also perform multiple activities such as cancel or print their tickets, request for an SMS or select an alternative train by using the “Vikalp” option and changing the boarding point. With the new UI coming in, users don’t need to login over and over again for checking their browsing history.
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All in all, the revamp is one good thing that has happened to IRCTC since the launch of its mobile app. The revamped website looks clean and spacious. Users no longer have to fidget around to understand where to look for specific controls as the distribution is logical and balanced. Use of colour coding and larger fonts further adds to this simplicity. Time to bid adieu to old IRCTC website.