"Use of IRCTC website for booking tickets of Indian Railways is only meant for people who are well organized and well planned. Those who plan their visits well in advance are the winners in this game. Last minute bookings will not help you get the desired tickets. You have to hop from one page to another atleast for few hours to attain Nirvana of booked ticket"
So far I have booked almost 50 tickets on this site. Most of them done at the end. But recent experiences prove the above statements. And during this journey I have kind of discovered few tips and tricks you can use to beat the system. However the final result rests in the hands of IRCTC. When each and every second of your time is precious (for last minute ticket bookers) following tips may help you get desired results. Also find my comments on each point inline in italics.
- Open 2 to 3 browser instances and try again and again to reach the login page in each one of them. Probability is very less, but you can try. The probability of getting the home screen in the very first try is inversely propotional to the festival/holiday/holiday in sequence
- Once you have opened the browsers switch off image loading/animation/sound/image dither/font cleartype options in the browsers. All these things take up too much of network bandwidth creating bottle neck for the original content/page. I don't know why IRCTC site has so many animations and images on their home page. Yes advertisement is the business model but it's not primary function/source of income for them. They should consider the users pain. How many users who do online booking refer to these advertisments and follow them for further information?
- Use Remember password feature of the browser and site, so that if you land on login page the login details are filled in and you don't have to waste your precious minutes. Just hit enter or click on login/submit button to login. Well well once you do this you have saved 15-30 seconds of your time filling in important two lines of credentials.
- So after login the biggest mistake that IRCTC website people have done is to land you on "Plan travel" page where in you have to find trains first, then fill in your personal details and then go for payment page. 3 pages in whole which takes up almost 10 to 15 minutes depending on your network and typing speed. So you have to fill in details again like source and destination station, class, date of journey etc. In this case use autofill feature of the browser. It's there in IE as well as Firefox. But this one is limited as it does not autofill few options. So we resort to 3rd party softwares. FormAutoFill is one such good freeware application. You can make profiles for different forms. So before you start booking take some time out when there is no rush, afternoon or evening (IST) and make this forms. Then when it's time to fill the online ticket booking forms just select the appropriate form from this software and it will fill in all the details in just one click. So you again save almost 2-5 minutes of your time on single page. And hit submit to go to next page. So if you are planning your travel it'll save 10-15 minutes and for quick book option it'll save 5 minutes of your time. More you save time more is the probability of your getting to the page.
- You must have extreme patience to get to the payment screen. Don't use autofill option for entering login credentials of netbanking unless the computer is used by you only. Never use it in cybercafe as it can be used to leak all your money from your account. Ok once you have made payment it's upto God only to lead you to congratulations screen of your booked ticket. There is still chance that your payment gateway or IRCTC server misbehaves and you are slapped with "Sorry- transaction failure" screen.
So these are few observations that I have done. Infact there are many but it'll take series of posts to discuss them. I have done an assignment on designing simple and usable screens for online ticket booking site during M.Des in usability classes.
Will scan the assignment notes and post it soon (i need to locate where those sheets are lying these days)
Well I forgot to add wonderful online resources that will ease half of the task of booking ticket i.e. checking availability of seats. Cleartrip, Zoomtra and Erail are the few websites that gives a new paradigm to checking availability. Zoomtra goes ahead a little bit and allows the user to search tickets based on price, departure time, arrival time and journey duration and that too in a noble way. Hmmmm, discussing these paradigms and their comparison will be taken up in another post.