Ian Lurie’s comments on the Sound Transit website are basically sound, constructive ones. I’d quibble that his search critique ignores that a search for “Seattle Bus Schedule” should turn up Metro before Sound Transit.
However, I think a grade of F- is a little harsh. Trip Planner and schedules are on the front page. The content available on the site (in terms of reports and data) is light years ahead of Metro. That doesn’t matter to most visitors, but it’s important to openness and transparency. I’m not a fan of letter grades for this kind of thing but that deserves at least a D.
I don’t know much about the graphic design of websites but there are three things that would be prominently featured on my ideal agency front page, below the jump.
- Getting started/New Riders – text and video, in multiple languages, on how to use the service. Ask them where they’re going, a couple of questions to determine their fare classification, and then serve them a custom video (built out of some standard building blocks) showing them exactly what to do and what fares to pay. I’ll let the user interface people figure out the best way to do that.*
- Trip Planner/Schedules/Maps – Lets me quickly access information to create my own trips, assuming I know what I’m doing.
- Personalized Accounts – I should be able to register for an account with the site where I can indicate what routes I care about and at what times. I should also be able to indicate a preference for RSS, email, robocall (?), or SMS alerts, which will tell me about service disruptions on those routes, and buses that are late over a certain number of minutes (via onebusaway). When I go to the website with my cookie stored it should give me a summary of alerts and next bus/train information for those routes.
* Here’s one workflow for this:
1. Pick a language.
2. Input start and end points, via either a map or the text interface
3. Are you under 18, 18-64, or 65+?
4. Produces a graphic/text trip representation much like Google Maps.
5. Prominently display two options: (a) Watch a video on how to ride the bus/train – showing fare payment (customized for either boarding or off-boarding), asking for transfers, etc. This should be customized for the inter-agency policies as necessary. (b) If applicable, learn about a cheaper way to take this trip by using ORCA. Do NOT mention ORCA otherwise — too much choice makes it confusing.