TfL's website updated on Monday, and yesterday they decided to announce the fact to the general public. Here are three tweets from @TfLOfficial.
» Our new website, which is now live, has lots of improved features to make planning your journeys easier than ever http://www.tfl.gov.uk » Our new website has launched, making it easier than ever to plan journeys on the move http://ow.ly/v2KJk » Our new Nearby feature lets you see on a map all transport options in your area, including live departure information http://ow.ly/v2Fhf
TfL also issued a press release to trumpet what they've achieved.
Meanwhile Flickr flicked a big switch on Tuesday and forced everybody to view photo pages in a new default design. Over the last year or so they've played around with all sorts of formats, generally increasing in complexity, to the consternation of users. This final layout displays the photo as large as possible on a jet black background with a volley of accompanying information crammed into a column down the right hand side. Here's an example of what they've done - a photo of Stoke Newington Common, knitted.
One such vanished feature is the ability to see where photographs were taken on a map. I've spent hours if not days over the last nine years adding location data to over 6000 photos, but as of this week all that effort appears to have been wasted. Dumbed-down Flickr offers only a place name, hidden well down the screen, but nothing clickable to view a location. Thanks Flickr, thanks a bundle.
And then there's Google Maps. They've launched a wholesale overhaul of their mapping interface, abandoning white-space borders for a wholly edge-to-edge design. Functions now have icons rather than words, so it's no longer obvious precisely which button where does what. And the whole interface has become so slow that I can barely use the site on either my laptop or mobile, waiting forever for a zoom or scroll while something processor-hungry flails hopelessly in the background.
Why do big companies insist on doing this sort of thing? They have a site that works, pretty much, but could be improved. Someone has a vision for change which turns into a wholesale upgrade of existing functionality. The design team then implement something they think is better, but remove stuff you've grown to need. And then the whole thing is launched with glaring holes, some of which eventually get patched up while other features fade forever.
Are there suddenly more upgrades of big websites at the moment, with companies blind to the fact that the public hate their so-called improvements? Are organisations suddenly more willing to launch flawed beta sites without waiting for finalised functionality? Or is this just social media amplifying a minority of disgruntled users when in reality the majority of the upgrade works fine?