At the beginning of the month, I put out a call for a couple of testers to help us look at where we’ve come from since we launched the new mobile site last September as well as where we should be heading. We received over 20 applications, and, in the end, we settled on two great testers. Although there were a lot of qualified people who offered to be testers, the two Buzzer blog readers we settled on were both heavy users of the mobile site and provided some very constructive information in their applications.
The first tester of the day was Luke. He brought his iPhone 4 and his good nature along with him. The mobile team got him to play with the existing mobile site as well as showed him some other North American transit agencies’ mobile sites. I met up with Luke after the testing and asked him how it went.
How did you find the testing?
It was a lot fun, actually. There were a lot of ways that I could provide feedback, and there were a lot of things that I saw that [the mobile team was] already aware of.
What’s your favourite thing about the mobile site?
My favorite thing is actually knowing where the bus is. That way, I can determine if I need to run for the bus or if I need to take a different route like using the Canada Line or the SkyTrain.
What’s your least favourite thing about the site so far?
The fact that you can’t really see the pattern of the route when using the text version of the site. For some routes, it doesn’t matter because they’re all going to the same place. But the #9, for example–there are different destinations. You have to use the map version of the site and click on the bus to see where it’s going. Another thing is the two-minute delay in the update.
That delay is why I always tell people that if you are using Next Bus and see that your bus is close to your stop, get there a.s.a.p. How about the predictive time feature?
[The testers] didn’t see it, but we did see how other mobile websites do this. Portland appeared to have this feature since the time it told me to catch a certain bus was different than the scheduled time it showed me.
Would a predictive feature like Portland’s be useful to you?
Definitely, because you could look at the text version of the mobile site and see if your bus is early or late.
Great! Thanks for volunteering to be a tester!
Patrick was our next tester. He brought his Google Nexus S smartphone running Gingerbread. Here’s what he had to say after a good 50 minutes of testing and questions:
What were asked to do during the testing?
I was asked about TransLink’s Next Bus system and to compare it and contrast it with similar systems in other cities that have been successful to certain degrees and gone down different routes than TransLink has.
What do you like best about the new mobile site?
I really like that our system has a very user-friendly interface and has the ability to see where all the buses are on the route. On the map, you can see when a bus is being slowed down by traffic, which is great.
We’re working on a predictive feature for the mobile site, and I understand that you were shown how other mobile sites do this. Do you have any impressions on how other systems predict when buses will arrive?
I think predictive is the way to go. I think that with the sheer amount of data that you can collect with GPS, there’s no way that you can’t predict 99 times out of a 100 how long a bus will take to travel a certain amount of distance. It provides everyone, including the casual and regular rider, with information on how long it will take a bus to get to them.
Did you use your phone during the testing?
Yes, I did.
How did it work?
Have you found any bugs using your Android phone during the previous phases of this beta mobile process?
No, not at all. But I did learn how to use the Favourites option, which I didn’t know before. I had always meant to set it up, and I read the blog post, but I hadn’t set it up yet. It’s an extremely useful tool, but it’s a tool that’s a little daunting to get started with.
Hey, thanks so much for taking the time to test the site, Patrick!
Now that this stage of feedback is complete, we’ll be looking for more feedback via the blog next week. We were expecting to show Luke and Patrick the predictive phase of the mobile site, but this will have to wait until next week since the mobile team has been working hard on refining the predictive feature. The mobile team is also currently making changes throughout the bus fleet to provide more frequent location updates and working on a text view option for GPS search which will allow customers to see a list of bus stops within a particular distance from the GPS location. Stay tuned!