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Friday fun post: how would you improve the design of the Buzzer blog?

If you like, skip to the end of this post to share how you think the Buzzer blog design can be improved!

Results from last week: if you’re standing and a seat opens up near you, do you jump for it?

Well my friends, we’re back with poll results!

Last week, I asked this question: if you’re standing on transit and a seat opens up nearby, do you jump for it?

219 of you bravely took the poll, and with 68% of the vote, the most popular answer was ” I look around first to see if someone else needs it, then I take it if no one else wants it.” (In the comments, Jeff McLeod commented on this result with “I see the second option is in the lead. Glad to see we are following our Canadian customs of thinking of others first lol.”)

The other two answers were rather far behind, but close in proportion to each other: 17% say they grab the seat asap, while 14% say they always like to stand.

As usual, the comments had some fascinating discussion. I’m not sure whether I could pull out any general conclusions. Mostly everyone said they keep an eye out for who deserves a seat more. It really could depend on the situation at hand. For example, here’s Hilary:

It depends entirely on what I feel like doing. I don’t often find myself on a bus/train so crowded as to have no seats open when I get on, but if I’ve already found a comfortable spot to lean against then I probably won’t bother to sit down when a seat appears. I mean, there’s not much point to it.

I do prefer to sit when I have the option, though, and if there’s seats to be had then I’ll probably sit down when I get on just out of pure and simple laziness.

Philippe G said something quite similar too.

I donno what it is, but if I start the ride standing up, I’m committed for the rest of the trip.

But like some others, samatwitch said that physical difficulties were key, so a seat was a priority.

Having a bad back, and usually needing to get off the front so that I can ask for the step to be lowered, I now grab the first empty seat – and am often offered it. So I’m either starting to look older – or in pain! ;)

I used to always get up and give up my seat for someone who looked as if they needed it more, but now I wait for someone else to do that, unless it’s an obvious case.

This week: how would you improve the design of the Buzzer blog?

Well, as you may have guessed, we are going to do a little update to the Buzzer blog’s design over the next month or so, and I would LOVE your feedback on how you think it could improve!

We can’t go radically different—the chief aim is to bring the Buzzer blog design in line with the current look of the TransLink website—but we do have an opportunity to do some tweaking and upgrades within that scope.

So please let me know what you think! Here’s a list of questions to help spark some thoughts.

  • What do you look for when you visit the blog? How does the design help or hinder your visit?
  • How do you find what you need on the blog? Do you have trouble finding things you’re looking for?
  • Is there anything you want to see more of?
  • Do you use the links on the sidebar?
  • How are the RSS feeds working out for you? Could we be delivering blog posts to you in other ways?
  • Just in general: what do you like and dislike about the design of the Buzzer blog?
  • Anything else to add?

A bit of a caution: we can’t obviously incorporate everything you suggest, so I hope you can understand if it doesn’t show up in the final design. Also, super drastic changes are lovely to hear (I’d love to know where you think this could go!), but just be aware that they probably won’t be implemented if they don’t fit the scope and/or take a LOT of development to get going!


  • By Peter, March 26, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

    I’d like to see it make use of peoples screen resolutions better (as in, auto expanding to take up available space.) Having to constantly scroll down because it only takes up 25% of my screen is slightly annoying.

    At home I run at 1920×1200, and I know it’s not exactly a regular screen resolution, even on my machine at work (1280×1024) there is still tons of free screen realestate!

    Other than that, no complaints about the blog. It’s simple and supports RSS!

  • By rubai, March 26, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

    i think a new header would be nice. :)

    also, i suggest putting the weekly poll in a more prominent place by perhaps adding it to the sidebar or a link on the topbar to encourage more people to vote (and discuss) throughout the week.

    finally, i think it would be neat if you can match the weekly print buzzer colour with the online version. perhaps it sounds tedious, but i think the current grey background is dying for a change! :)

  • By ;-), March 26, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

    The RSS feeds do work, but I’m only seeing 10 entries when I use the IE8, firefox or Blackberry browser. When there is a SPAM wave, I miss out on many good discussions. Increase the RSS entries to 100 or unlimited.

    Need to rethink how to deal with SPAM. Have designated overnight moderators? Subscription service? Use of those controls that forces you to type in what’s generated?

  • By Sean T, March 26, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

    I would like to see the ability to share posts with social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg etc. Most sites have APIs for this to easily add a button. Facebook will soon be adding a “Like” API as well but I doubt it will be in time for this update.

    I do not recall ever using the sidebar, though now that it has been brought to my attention there may be a few links that I check out. I would much rather see more real estate used for content.

    I would also rather see a way to login with a “stay logged in” check box instead of using a cookie put my name and email in the form. Not only would this be better for the user but you would be able to keep stats etc.

  • By skytrainboy22, March 26, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

    I would like to see the design of the buzzer blog match with the Translink Webpage. Because it looks like the old Translink webpage.

  • By Reva, March 26, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

    Would it be possible to add a feature at the end of each post, next to the number of comments, that would show the number of new/unread comments added since the last time you looked at the page?

    Perhaps the ability to quote directly from other users’ posts instead of cutting/pasting and/or using something like “@ So-&-So:” ?

    I use the sidebar links only very occasionally. Most of the time I just tune them out. However, I would much rather see those than any type of advertisements.

    Also, I agree with the other people above who said that the empty grey bars along the sides have got to go! Having the page automatically size to your screen would be best. Or put some colours, some designs there. :)

  • By Jim, March 26, 2010 @ 6:18 pm

    I would love more space dedicated to content. U also would love the addition of a linked page were images could be archived and accessed easily that are posted to the site. The image site makes it easy to see a certain image if I wanted to if it was available. I love the idea of making the color scheme of the blog match with the current issue of the buzzer. If the matching of the colors was not possible I would love to have the blog have a matching color scheme as the current bus/skytrain/sea bus fleet if possible.

    The addition of a page where videos transit related could all be accessed easily to view quickly would be cool.

    I am looking forward to seeing what we end up with after all the suggestions are sorted and a final product is produced!

  • By Eric, March 26, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

    Like ;-), I rely on the Comments RSS on the front page to check on the latest comments. Hopefully Feedburner has the option to expand on the number that can be seen at any one time. And I recognize there is a fine line to tread between moderating all comments to catch spam and having the comments appear promptly to enable (almost) real-time discussion.

    One suggestion: how about putting @translink’s and/or @thebuzzer’s twitter feeds on the sidebar. The former is useful for real-time transit alerts, while the latter can possibly replace the “Recent Posts” section, since you mainly use @thebuzzer to notify when you’ve posted an entry.

  • By Andrew S, March 26, 2010 @ 10:30 pm

    Everything is okay right now. Wasn’t there a box to fill in that was labelled “website” before? Something I’d kind of like to see is maybe like up to 30 seconds or something after we post, we can then edit our post (in case we just realized something or forgot to add something) =)

  • By peter, March 26, 2010 @ 11:02 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen spam in my buzzer blog RSS feed — I’m with others posts that mentioned the “buzzer look”. I really love the transit equipment/facility themed photo’s — in addition to the “fun post” what about a transit photo of the week. I want to see more pictures of buses, ferries and trains !

  • By Tim Choi, March 26, 2010 @ 11:21 pm

    I’m personally fine with the way it is – clean, fast, and easy to navigate. None of those fancy Javascripts and moving graphics that slow things down. A quick change in the header graphic would be all that’s needed, in my opinion.

  • By ;-), March 26, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

    Yes lose the Java to maximize mobile devices that can use the site.

    I also like the idea of being able to edit my comments.

  • By Ric, March 26, 2010 @ 11:51 pm

    I like to be able to edit my comments. I realize that after I post comments/questions that I forget things and have to end up posting another one, or I also often misspell words or use the wrong word. Perhaps there should be a delete/edit comment button to allow us to do this.

  • By Paul, March 27, 2010 @ 1:07 am


    For some reason I had over 100 spam messages just after this past weekend in the RSS feed.

    I’d also like the ability to edit a post. Maybe make time limited. Sometimes I’ve posted something and then realized I’ve made a spelling or grammatical error. Or maybe forgot to add something to the post.

  • By ericmk, March 27, 2010 @ 10:13 am

    Like a lot of people here, I also would like to be able to edit our comments when we might have something more to say or we need to correct an error. Also, the banner with the Vancouver area map looks kinda outdated. I like Jim’s idea of changing the color scheme to match the new Mark II SkyTrains, buses, and Seabus. I think that a new sidebar would be great. To me, it looks overwhelming as it goes pretty far down the page. I think the search and RSS feeds should be more prominent and put up in the banner, while the sidebar is reserved for recent posts and perhaps recent comments. As for links, categories, and archives, these could be drop down lists, like the archives are now. Whatever the changes are, I can’t wait to see the refreshed Buzzer blog! :)

  • By zack, March 27, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

    weeting: Your post is nothing but full of hate, disrespect, and disgust. If you have any suggestions for keeping clean, safe, and reliable transit fine, but this is not the right environment for such ridiculous comments to be posted here.

    Staying on topic: I like the fact that the design of the Buzzer Blog makes it very comfortable and easy to access links and the comments. Probably the improvement I would suggest is to make the page compatible with computers of all resolutions. I use a 1440×900 res laptop which is okay, but I when use the library version it is a little too big. And maybe a little fancy interface with slightly the same theme as TransLink’s website. :)

  • By Jim, March 27, 2010 @ 8:48 pm

    weeting: Please stay on topic in the blog. I don’t think this is the place for such comments you posted. Jhen is fabulous and does a lot to bring all of use readers information so that we know whats happening on the system. Things could be worse if say translink had no public relations people and the entire public was in the dark. If anything we should all thank Jhen for all her hard work getting information especially from all the different parts of the system to answer our questions. : )

  • By CJ Stebbing, March 27, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

    wow….the comments were good right till the end with weeting, and the guy that posted the link (FYI: dont click the link. it goes to a site offering job form whoozits. lol)

    i like the blog jhen, but someone else quoted saying that they like to see a feature where you can quote someone else. id like to see that.

  • By Cliff, March 28, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

    Being able to collectively mark comments as spam would help. Say three or four people. I don’t see spam or distasteful comments too often, but when it does rear its ugly head (like it did in this thread) it would be great if we could vote that comment in to oblivion.

    Do not ditch the links on the right hand side. This may be my lazy side speaking for not putting them in my Bookmarks folder, but I can’t stop clicking them now. Despite my differing opinion, I enjoy reading the alternative views of Paul Hildson. I quite like reading the Skyscraper forums and the Trans-Vancouver photos are an incredible resource for those with even just a passing interest in transportation. Without the links there, I likely wouldn’t have visited them. On a sidenote, a link to ICBC couldn’t hurt.

    I find that I don’t mind the way the space is used, despite all the wasted space on the sides. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind if it were change and I guess it would make the experience better.

  • By Cliff, March 28, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

    The irony of posting this only highlights something I forgot to add in.

    We need a way to edit our original postings. Even if that means instituting a login system!

  • By zack, March 28, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

    Wow! I can see the discussion on the topic took a really steep jump after that rude comment.

    Usually most websites moderate comments before they’re being posted. While most of the comments on the Buzzer Blog are fine, there is a small minority out there that deliberately use this blog as an easy to market, spam, and even incite ridiculously hateful remarks like the one on this thread. So I think there needs to be at least some kind of moderation of the comments before they’re being posted.

  • By Reva, March 28, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

    I agree that there should be a way for users to flag posts that appear to be spam or inappropriate if it is not possible to have comments moderated overnight or on weekends.

    If it’s a matter of not having any staff to moderate comments overnight or on weekends, I hereby volunteer myself to help out (if that is ok by any union rules). I’m up all kinds of weird hours and am online a lot so it’s not a big deal to me to check in every so often.

    Also let me put in another vote for the ability to edit one’s posts! :)

  • By ;-), March 28, 2010 @ 6:14 pm

    I really like Cliff’s idea of flagging SPAM by multiple viewers. But does WordPress offer this flexibility? Can it read our IP address to see if we are unique users as we flag SPAM as we see?.

  • By Monty, March 29, 2010 @ 3:01 am

    Since I use a Screen Reader to access the web, the No.1 thing I look for when visiting a web site is that web accessibility guidelines are followed during development. Since I personally provided web accessibility consultancy to Translink a few years ago, I know they are committed to the idea and for the most part their web presence is accessible (including WordPress – the back-end engine for the Buzzer Blog).

  • By Nick, March 29, 2010 @ 9:15 am

    a wider main column. It’s an incredibly narrow design.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, March 29, 2010 @ 11:03 am

    Awesome points all — thank you so much!

  • By Paul, March 29, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

    One thing I’ve noticed is ever sunday night / early monday morning. There is a huge amount of spam posted. The last two weekends I’ve gotten up to 200 spam messages in the comment RSS feed.

    You might want to look at either starting a loging system to post. If not that possibly a captcha system to help slow down the spam.

    Weird thing is it only happens on sunday night.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, March 29, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

    The updated redesign will include better spamguarding protocols (most likely a captcha!)

  • By Ivan, March 29, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

    The comments posted by “weeting” is deemed rude, immature and inappropriate, and there is no justification for that kind of comment.

    Jhen should remove that comment off the buzzer page, and remove any future inappropriate postings.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, March 30, 2010 @ 9:01 am

    Ivan: the comment has been removed now.

  • By Julien, March 30, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

    I love this blog! I read it religiously. I love the community that has formed around it. If it aligns to the new style, that would be cool. I love the variety of content on this blog, including the archival posts and weekly link digests. I really admire all your hard work Jhen and am super envious of this awesome job you have!

  • By Noname, March 30, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

    Bus Background and post more interesting stuff =)

  • By Cliff, March 31, 2010 @ 1:56 am

    Jhen, do you have the ability to ban postings by IP address? Being able to ban entire specific countries would go a long way to eliminating spam. There’s a lot of lists you can use by searching on Google and if you have the ability, you can take down a spammers IP and simply ban the entire range by utilizing wildcards.

    Of course, this is only relevant if the blog setup gives you the ability to do any of this.

  • By Ric, March 31, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

    Bus and skytrain background using the classic models. (Ex: MCI classic buses, mark 1 skytrain car, brill trollies)

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 1, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

    Cliff: I can ban by IP address. I didn’t realize those lists existed! I will have to do some research.

  • By ;-), April 1, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

    I think using an ip block list is a great idea to control nuisance messages. But how about collecting ip addresses of people posting here? Ip lists are not thorough.

    Also how are they able to post links without moderators approving them?

  • By Paul, April 2, 2010 @ 2:08 am


    Those ip lists are called black lists. Email servers use them. The downside is that they constantly change. So the best thing is if the blog program can actually automatically update it self to the lastest list.

Other Links to this Post

  1. Twitter Trackbacks for The Buzzer blog » Friday fun post: how would you improve the design of the Buzzer blog? [] on — March 26, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

  2. The Buzzer blog » Friday fun post: how do you pick up a free newspaper? — April 2, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

  3. The Buzzer blog » Redesigned Buzzer blog launches Monday: watch out for some downtime! — June 18, 2010 @ 7:30 pm

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