diamond geezer

 Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The ever-so-slow rollout of TfL's new website continues. The first phase came last June, with a new way to Plan Your Journey. A further update arrived in December, adding a Nearby function as well as Live Departures. And this month they've added the final features, meaning the beta website is "finished and ready to replace our existing site". Old and new will be run in parallel for a while to allow tweaks to be made and bugs to be fixed, but before long the existing site will be retired and we'll all have to use the new one. So, is it an improvement?

The key difference, as I've mentioned before, is that TfL's new website has been designed with smartphones in mind. Text links have been replaced by buttons that are easier for chunky fingers to push, and the layout of pages is mostly portrait rather than landscape. For those out and about with a mobile device the design will be more intuitive, whereas those at home with a computer screen should expect more white space and more scrolling.

Let's take a look at the six latest additions...

1) Bus route maps
Where would you expect to look for a bus map on a website? The tab at the top labelled "Maps", or the button halfway down the home page that says "Buses"? I assumed the former, which brings up a list of all the maps available on the new TfL website. Compare and contrast old and new. Old has all the maps listed on the same page, with pictures as a further visual clue. New divides TfL's maps up into six separate (pictureless) sections, and an additional click is required to discover two further bus options. "Find bus routes and stops" is one, and "Bus maps by route or by borough" is the other, but both of these take you back to the old website. The only maps here are pdfs, or tiny Google squares of staggering uselessness. No, to find bus maps on the new website you should have clicked on that word "Buses", and then typed in a route number, and then woo.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have zoomable interactive Google maps showing precisely where any bus goes. Admittedly we had used to have this before, but the new maps have greater functionality, plus a linear version of the route stop by stop at the bottom of the page. Click on any red dot on the map (or in the list) to see which buses stop there and when the next is due. The maps can get a bit complicated, and it's a shame you can't switch off some of the blobs or labels to avoid information overload, but the idea is sound. Every bus now has its own bespoke route page, for example beta.tfl.gov.uk/bus/route/25 or beta.tfl.gov.uk/bus/route/100, just replace the number at the end with any route to get the map of your choice. There are teething problems, for example the R8 definitely doesn't run in a straight line through the Bromley countryside, but a lot of coding has taken place to make sure this lot mostly works.

I'm less excited by the new bus timetables, which are a little basic. Pick a route and a bus stop and the beta website tells you when the buses leave, or how often they leave, or maybe a mix and match of both. The day is divided up into segments, but there are no lines to guide you, only changes in shading. Particularly poorly thought out are the first and last buses each day. A 24 hour bus route like the 25 doesn't have first and last buses, but the beta website says it does, the former at 00:05, the latter at 23:59. A daytime-only bus like the 100 does have first and last buses, but the first should be at 06:00, not 00:06, as the website insists. Rather more useful is what happens if you click on each section of the timetable, because this brings up a list of stops and how long your journey should be at any particular time of day. Try playing with the new set-up and see what you think.

2) Tube status interactive map
For those of us that travel by tube, one of the most useful features on the entire TfL site is the list of line status updates and accompanying map. That's now finally upgraded, and gives a subtly different experience to what you're used to. Compare and contrast old and new. The new map doesn't zoom in as quickly as you're used to, and oh dear, that's not the right font is it? All the effort TfL usually goes to in applying consistent branding has been jettisoned, and a lookalike font has been used to name all the stations. I'm disappointed. The new map also doesn't always fit inside its box properly, or maybe that's just the two browsers I've tried using. And the new map greys out the stations, which the old map didn't, which I think makes the new design harder to take on board.

The options for viewing line disruptions are also different to what you're used to. The old map showed "Line closures" and "Severe delays" by default, ie serious blockages, and you could toggle "Minor delays" if you so wished. The new map bundles all three disruptions together, with no option of separation, giving a less good overview of which parts of the network are stuffed. Your only choices are to display disruptions in colour, or to display them in grey, the latter particularly useful today with a major tube strike underway. Where the new map really falls down is in showing which stations, if any, are closed. On the old map there's a special tab which lists closed stations in red before listing more minor access issues underneath. The new map makes no such distinction, instead presenting a mega-list in alphabetical order with every disruption concealed until you click. The chances of spotting a genuinely closed station in amongst this virtual haystack are minimal, I'd suggest.

One more grumble. The main map is for "Tube, DLR and Overground" line status but an additional interloper has sneaked in. That's the cablecar, whose operational status appears on a completely separate page, but designers have shoehorned it onto the tube status map instead. I wouldn't mind if it was greyed out but no, the cablecar appears in Emirates red no matter what its status. You probably won't spot this odd-one-out-ness on a tube strike day, but on a normal day the cablecar's splash of colour glares out like a subliminal advert, which I suspect may be the intention.

3) Fares and single fare finder
Once upon a time TfL published a leaflet listing every different kind of fare. A few years ago they switched to providing several big tables on their website. And in the future we'll have lots of separate click-through lists where you drill down and eventually find the fare you need. Easier to find what you need, perhaps, but slower, and also much much harder to compare one fare with another. One tab lists "Most popular fares", which could be very helpful, but the list of "Popular Travelcards" includes two (Z1-3 and Z1-5) that no longer exist. The Single fare finder no longer seems to be able to cope with Overground or National Rail stations, which is a seriously retrograde step. And will anyone understand the mysterious fare options on the cablecar page, which are delivered with zero explanation?

4) National Rail status board
Oh blimey, what happened here? Compare old and new, and sigh. TfL's current website has a tab for National Rail status full of relevant information, but restricted to rail companies that actually serve London. The new website lists every UK rail company, in alphabetical order, including trains in Scotland, trains in Liverpool and trains on the Isle of Wight. It's surely ridiculous on a London-based travel website to kick off with Arriva Trains Wales, which means the top travel disruption is currently "line is currently closed between Machynlleth and Pwllhelli". A large part of London relies on South West, Southern and Southeastern trains, but they're at the bottom (scroll down, scroll down), and restricted to a ridiculously narrow column which makes reading travel updates on screen difficult. Perhaps the promised "status map" will help, but I have my doubts. Bit of a mess all round, sorry.

5) Website search
It's not working, is it?

6) Travel maps section
And finally, let's compare old and new again. Old has an interactive tube map, new doesn't. New has an interactive Congestion Charge and LEZ map, old doesn't. Both have Cycle Hire docking station maps, of very different types. It's a complete upheaval this new beta website, and no mistake.

TfL's new website is on its way, and soon, replacing everything you've got used to using online over the last decade. It's a positive step in many ways, embracing smartphone usage and optimised for travel on the go. But it's also a bit of a mess in places, and not always intuitive to navigate, and inefficiently laid out for desktop users, and takes an awful lot of clicks sometimes to get to anything useful. It's great that the Agile Programming Team are letting us play with their new creation as it develops. Let's hope the experimental phase lasts just a little while longer, so that everything works by the time the rest of the capital is forced to use it.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards