Every few weeks or so, the mobile team rolls out refinements to the Next Bus service found within our mobile site, m.translink.ca. This month, I’m very excited to see three new additions that I think will greatly improve helping customers find the right bus for their needs. First up: favourites are now live! Read more »
Category: Web and Mobile Offerings
It was only last week that I wrote about the latest updates to Next Bus. This week’s exciting announcement is about a very significant update to the desktop version of Trip Planner. For years, people have been telling us how much they like using Google Maps. Trip planner has had its own map, but it pales in comparison to Google Maps’ functionality, usability and familiarity with uses. Well, I’m tickled to say that today is the official launch date of Google Maps on Trip Planner! Read more »
The mobile team has been quietly working on new functionality for our Next Bus service. As many of you know, after the new mobile site (m.translink.ca) was launched in September, the Next Bus (nb.translink.ca) page was updated so that if you use the map function and you click on any bus stop, you’ll get the corresponding routes that service that stop and their schedules. Read more »
You might have already noticed a recent change with nb.translink.ca. If not, you can either go there directly or go to m.translink.ca, and click on “Next Bus”. Once you’ve chosen the bus stop #, you’ll notice the real-time map looks a little different. Now all bus stops have a “T” icon, so you can find them easily on the map. But this isn’t the big change. You can now not only see the schedule and the real-time locations of the buses that service the stop # you searched for, you can click on any stop in Metro Vancouver and see the schedule and buses associated with it by simply moving around the map. Perhaps you see a bus stop that’s closer than the one you searched for. Now you can easily click on it and see if there is a route that you like and see where the buses that service that route are in real-time!
Think of it as a tweak of the Next Bus service that was released in September. Previously, you had to enter the bus stop # each time you wanted to find a bus near you. That meant having to return to the search page and possibly having to look up the bus stop # every time. Now you just need to enter a stop # once, and you can move around the real-time map and click on as many stops as you like.
- The mobile team is working on being able to go directly to the real-time map without having to enter a bus stop # first. This way, you won’t need to find a bus # in order to use the map, which should save some time.
- As mentioned in my previous mobile post, future phases will include being able to search by route(s), search by user’s location and real-time bus arrival times.
- Once these phases have been rolled out, the mobile team will be working hard on making all of m.translink.ca accessible across numerous smart phone platforms including Android, Windows and Blackberry OS.
As always, your comments about the service are welcome. I’ve been forwarding each and every one of them to the mobile team and will continue to find answers to the questions and comments you post.
After a lot of planning, work and some testing (thanks again, Buzzer readers), the newly upgraded mobile website is finally here!
The new Next Bus
If you logged onto m.translink.ca recently, you would notice that the page looks different. Not only has the page been redesigned, there are two new services provided: Next Bus and Favorites. Oh, and there is also a twitter feed at the bottom of the main page. When you click onto the new Next Bus feature, you’re taken to the “Where’s My Bus?” page. From here, you can either enter the bus stop number (if you know it), or you click on the “Find My Stop” button on the right. If you enter a stop number, your next choice is to have your search displayed as a map or as text (having it displayed as text is great if your cell phone isn’t a smart phone).
If you don’t know your stop number, then the “Find My Stop” button takes you to a page that allows you the intersection or popular location for your location. This page accesses the same functionality that is used when using Trip Planner. Once you’ve chosen your desired stop, you can chose either a map or text display of your search.
The Real-Time map
Oh, the map. I love looking at it. Anyway, once you’re at the map view, you’ll see a red pin showing the bus stop you searched for and the buses (illustrated by a blue and white icon) that service that particular stop. The route number is displayed in the bus icon’s window. The arrows indicate the direction of the route that bus is on. Above the red pin is a bubble showing the details for the stop number that the user searched for including the stop location and number, the bus route numbers and their schedules for that stop.
“Real Time” means you’ll see the actual location of the bus. For this release of the beta, you’ll be able to cross-reference the scheduled time of the bus with bus’ actual location. Each bus is equiped with a GPS that updates its location every two minutes. Because each bus is running on its own clock, not all buses will update at the same time. In order to update the location of the bus on the map you’ll need to manually “Refresh” the map by using the “Refresh” button at the top of the screen or your browser’s “Refresh” button.
This first release of the mobile site saves your favorite route by using the Trip Planning function. Once you’ve chosen the trip option you prefer, you can click on the “Add To Favourites” button. Currently, you’ll be able to store up to four favourite routes.
You’ll also notice that the favourites function also stores the last four searches you’ve performed using Trip Planner (both to and from your desired destination).
Trip Planner, Schedules, Fairs, Rider Info, Buzzer Blog, Alerts and Contact Us
All these functions on the mobile site are the same as on the TransLink website or similar to what we had on the old mobile “App” site (with the exception of the “Save To Favorites” button in Trip Planner). You’ll notice that much of the text has been chopped down to the essential information in order to fit on most mobile devices. As mentioned previously, the release of the new mobile site is in beta version.
The mobile team is still working out some bugs and plans on rolling out updates and new features in the months to come including being able to search by route and multiple bus routes according to your location as well as adding real time arrival times to the schedules. The plan is to start with basic functionality and build upon that foundation. Please also remember that this first release of the mobile site works best with iPhones (3G, 3GS, 4). The mobile team is working on making the site work better with other smart phones and operating systems . As usual, I’ll be forwarding comments to the mobile team, so go out on the system and try it out!
This morning, five Buzzer readers were among the first non-TransLink members of the public to test out the new mobile site. Choosing only five of the 37 people who applied to be testers was not easy. I appreciate all the enthusiastic applications many of you sent in!
All but one tester brought an iPhone4 (we also had a Palm Pre in the mix) to try out the new TransLink mobile website. This was a good thing since this first phase of the new mobile site works best on iPhones (4 and 3Gs) and iPads. I’ve heard that the site also works fine with some Android phones and newer touchscreen BlackBerry phones. As the mobile team has told me, they want to get the three releases of the new mobile site up and working (Release 1 – searching by stop #, Release 2 – searching by route, Release 3 – searching by location) before they work on perfecting the compatibility of the mobile site with other phones and operating systems.
The testers sat down with a member of our mobile site team and were given access to the new site on their phones. Having over an hour to see how it worked, they peppered myself and our team member with questions about this and future releases of the site.
On the whole, the testers seemed to like the new site and found it easy to use. “Much better than the existing site,” was one comment I heard.
I wish I could tell you more about what was discussed, but that would spoil the surprise for when it goes live next Tuesday, September 6th!
I hinted in the Comments section of the last new mobile site post that I might have some interesting news soon. Well, here goes.
Since the blog has been such a great place for constructive comments and discussion about our future mobile site, why not get readers to provide feedback on the product itself?
The team that has been working so hard on the new mobile site would like to invite five Buzzer Blog readers to beta test the first release of the Real-Time Next-Bus portion of the mobile site.
The testing will happen on Monday, August 29th! If you have your Monday morning free (roughly between 10 a.m and 12 p.m), then you may want to think about applying to be a tester. We’ll provide transit tickets for your trip to and from your home and snacks!
How to apply to be a tester
Please send an email to the email@example.com with the subject line, “I Wanna Be a Tester!” In the email, please provide your name, phone number and in 200 words or fewer why you should be chosen to be a tester. The chosen five testers will be picked by myself and members of the mobile site team based on your submission and comments made on the mobile site to date.
Those chosen will be given access to the beta of the Next Bus portion of the new mobile site and be asked to provide feedback on its functionality, design and ease-of-use. Specifics on the day will be provided when you’re contacted. Please submit your email no later than 9 p.m. on Monday, August 22.
Phase 1 of the Next Bus portion of the new mobile site is set to go live in early September. It will coincide with the introduction of the new mobile website to help customers get better transit information while they are out and about in Metro Vancouver. The feedback from the five Buzzer readers will help us with future phases of Real-Time Next-Bus and our new mobile website.
We’re really looking for constructive feedback that can help TransLink refine the product that is still in its evolutionary stages. The aim is to continually refine the mobile product and provide our users with a system that is easy to use and provides accurate information for people on the go.
The five people chosen will be notified no later than Wednesday, August 24. Thanks in advance for offering your time and feedback. Your contribution will help us make transit more accessible and relevant to more people. So, get those emails into my mailbox and have your say on how the Real-Time Next-Bus service and mobile website can be improved!
In our discussions regarding our new mobile site a reoccurring comment is to make it simple to use. Many of us lead busy lives, and we can use any help we can get to streamline them. Our hope with this blog is to provide you with an easily digestible, informative and fun way to learn about all things transit in Metro Vancouver (and beyond sometimes).
Keeping in the spirit of simplicity and making sure the public is informed of TransLink activities, the TransLink Events Calendar was created. The idea is to put all TransLink-related events like meetings, promotions, schedule changes, transit training, public consultation and community outreach in one place. Not a bad idea, huh!
Moving forward, there will be more events added to the calendar including I Love Transit Night, which will be added to the calendar this week! This is something new for TransLink, so I’ll be passing on your feedback on the content, layout or anything else about this calendar you think could make it better!
The early June Friday fun poll sought answers on how you want your real-time information on the new mobile site. One hundred eighty-four (184) of you responded to the poll, which shows how much interest there is on this subject matter! Here’s how you responded to the poll questions:
We presented three ways the future mobile site could provide you with information on your trip. You can get real-time information by: (1) bus stop, (2) route or (3) by the location of the user. Not surprisingly, only 14 people or 8% of those who participated in the poll said “No” to this third option.
The next question we asked was how to display the information itself when it comes to differentiating between scheduled times and actual times. Most of you (133 or 74%) said colours were the way to go. Only 47 people (26%) said a symbol was the best way to differentiate between the two times.
There were a lot of great comments about this question like these:
“In regards to Question 2, colours are usually difficult to use from a usability standpoint. People have various forms of colour-blindness, so using colours for some sort of important information usually leaves these people in the lurch.
Further, you have to take the devices people will be using into account. On my iPhone, colours get washed out in bright sunlight. Bright sunlight might be a concern in Vancouver if it ever comes!
Using some other means to differentiate between real-time and scheduled times would be better than using colours. Italicized fonts, or the suggested asterisk.”
“Why not both? Either use both colours and symbols or have an option to switch between them. You could even go as far as having the user select which colours they want to use (as there are many different types of colour-blindness).
When push comes to shove, however, and only one option must be selected, colour is my preference.”
“Another option is what Seoul does – say WHERE the next bus is (name of the last stop it was at) rather the estimated time of arrival.”
The third and last question the poll asked was on the frequency of how often the site will update information. I was a little surprised by the results. I knew updating once a minute would win against updating once every couple of minutes, but in our fast-paced world, I didn’t think that as many as 80 people (43%) would think that updating every two minutes was good enough. In total, 104 (57%) thought once a minute was the best way to go.
Thanks to all of you who completed the poll. As many of you know, we’re changing our mobile site with the goal of getting a new and improved version up and running by the end of this summer. Keep your eyes on this blog for updates on the progress of the site and more opportunities for feedback. Our mobile team has been very interested in your feedback and in reading all of your comments, so keep them coming!
As promised, here’s the Friday fun poll about the new mobile site! Many of you have noticed and commented about the recent changes to the existing mobile site, and I’ve been passing on your questions and concerns to the team working on the new mobile website platform. The team tells me that they’re working hard to get the new mobile site up as soon as possible since they know the platform in its current state (i.e. being redirected to our Trip Planner site) isn’t ideal.
Building on the your input from our previous poll on the new mobile site, including optimizing performance, saving favourites and including enhanced maps, we’d like to know how you would like to get your information on the new platform.
The new mobile site will incorporate GPS technology. This will include GPS information from our fleet and GPS information from user’s smart phones. This new redesign will be optimized for mobile devices such as the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices. It will also be available in a generic mobile and desktop version.
Rolling out in stages, will hope this technology will eventually be able to tell transit users the actual location of each bus and approximately how long it will take to get to where they are by relaying information from each bus back to transit users via their mobile devices. This is a huge project, so new features will be rolled out incrementally in select areas of the system before they go system-wide. In the first phase of this project, users will be given bus locations via a map. Later on, functionality like predicted arrival times by stop will be added to the map and in text-based form.
The mobile team has been looking at mobile sites of other systems around the world to see what we can learn and apply to the design of our new mobile site. At the moment, the team has come up with three distinct ways users can use the future TransLink mobile site to get real-time information. I thought I’d use the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York City) mobile site as an example of possible options for the TransLink site since we haven’t decided on any one design yet and hope users like yourself can help in the design process through this poll. So here is how the current design of the new mobile site might work as far as how users can use the tools to get around. Read more »
Many of you have told us that our mobile site is in need of a facelift. Yes, we know we’re not going to win any awards for the current design. Well, we are very happy to report that upgrades are coming on May 25!
We had been planning on doing a complete revamp of both the application (iPhone, Android and BlackBerry) and the mobile site to go live later this summer, but it’s become clear that’s not good enough. The current iPhone app and the mobile site are delivering inaccurate information to customers, so we’re going to upgrade the m.translink.ca site and move it to a new platform.
The good news is that you will have:
• Immediate access to our most current information
• Increased functionality over the current site
• Better access to schedule information
• Better access to Next Bus information
• Access to Trip Planning functionality
• Access to up-to-date alerts that pertain to your trip
That said, the user interface on the new platform is going to be quite basic – because time is of the essence on these improvements, we opted to focus on speed and accuracy of information. Our plan is to improve the mobile interface and functionality over the next few months before launching new iPhone, Android and BlackBerry apps.
Speaking of apps, unfortunately, there’s no Buzzer Blog link on the new interface, but there will be one on the app we release in the months to come! This will be especially important for those with iPhones who make up 92% of our mobile site users! We WILL have a Buzzer link on the upgraded site. Hooray! This is good news for iPhone user of which the existing app also has a link to the buzzer. Incidentally, iPhone user make up 92% of all mobile site users.
Depending on your mobile service provider, it may be a day or so before you see the new mobile site, so thanks in advance for being patient!
The new site will be a big improvement, but it won’t be perfect, which is why we need your feedback over the coming weeks and months – please tell us what you like, don’t like, want to see, etc. We want the new site (and apps) to be useful, useable tools, and we need your input to make them great.
Next week, we’ll be building on the feedback you gave us in December last year. I’ll have a Friday Fun poll next week that will ask you which of a handful of options you’ll want for the future app.
Minor update: TransLink.ca’s main YouTube account is moving!
So if you’re subscribed to the existing account, please move over to the new one! This is where all our big, “official” videos are posted: promotional videos for our campaigns, informational videos about public consultation, webinar recordings, etc.
(And if you’re curious: yes, the Buzzer has a separate YouTube account for blog video that would otherwise clutter up the main TransLink account. Also, there’s also one for TransLink’s media team for messages about service disruptions, when they’re needed.)
Just wanted to draw your attention to a couple of teeny (but good!) updates to the TransLink.ca trip planning widgets!
Advanced search settings for the homepage trip planner!
Look: an “Advanced Search Settings” drop down menu has been added to the homepage trip planner! As described in our last update in December 2010, the Advanced Search Settings menu lets you pick things like “More walking” or “Wheelchair accessible stops” or “No SkyTrain” for your trip. Try it out!
The trip planner widget gets a refresh
Tiny style adjustment: both the regular and narrow versions of the embedded TP widget have been revamped to more closely match what we have on the homepage. The new changes have already taken effect everywhere the widget is installed—the code doesn’t need to be replaced.
(As you may know, we have a trip planner widget that you can embed on your own website for others to use. And YES, I asked the web team when we can get prefilled destinations in the widget, and they are apparently still working on it. More updates as I receive them!)
In case you’re interested: TransLink’s Twitter service pilot has been featured in a HootSuite case study today!
HootSuite is a social media dashboard tool that we use to manage our Twitter account, and it has been invaluable in keeping our workflow smooth. Bonus: HootSuite is based in Vancouver, too!
So if you want to peek behind the scenes a bit, please do check out the case study over at their blog. I think they’ve done a great overview of TransLink’s Twitter work and how HootSuite helps us out!