Yesterday Transport for London gave me a preview of its upcoming and impressive looking new website which it says will radically improve the service it offers to the 250m Londoners and tourists who go online every year to find their away around the capital.
Top of the list of changes is the use of ‘responsive design’.
The new site (like this one) uses a design which adapts to the screen size it’s being viewed on, eliminating the need for separate versions and ensuring users can always find the same information regardless of the device they’re using.
The image below shows how this works:
This change is important because even with a pretty unimpressive mobile site, more than 25% of users already access TfL’s information while on the move.
Journey Planner, the most popular part of London Government’s digital empire, is gaining new features including Google Maps integration and StreetView. These will make it much easier for Londoners and visitors to the capital to get around, especially when making a new or less familiar journey.
And a new ‘nearby’ feature will use your mobile phone’s location services to pinpoint your whereabouts and show the nearest bus stops and Tube, DLR and Overground stations to you.
Having had a chance to play around with the site I was very impressed – the new look is modern, easy to use and places all the key information needed by passengers at the heart of the design.
You’ll be able to play around with the site in a month or so when a public trial will be opened up. TfL hope this will provide valuable real-world feedback which it’ll use to fine tune the site before it goes live later this year.
TfL’s website is the second of the Greater London Authority online presences to get a makeover, but looks like it’ll deliver more for Londoners than the recent revamp of london.gov.uk which left sections of the site inoperable.
One unfortunate casualty was the Assembly’s mailing list sign-up page which was inaccessible for at least a week and it’s still not possible to revel in the briefness of would-be Mayoral hopeful David Lammy’s tenure on the Assembly.
City Hall’s politicians were already unhappy with the limited impact and performance of their site which looks dated and requires a multitude of clicks to find key information, so the revamp woes stirred up already trouble waters.
The good news for all concerned is that, while it doesn’t have the millions New York has apparently lavished on its upcoming online revamp, City Hall is drawing up plans to deliver “a go-to site” which makes it easier for Londoners to discover what their Mayor and Assembly are up to.
At last month’s meeting of the Bureau of Leaders – a regular off the record meeting of the Mayor and Assembly group leaders – Boris set out his plans to bind the GLA websites together more closely.
I understand his ambitions met with some initial resistance from TfL who have proven less than keen to share their millions of visitors with the boss.
But in a boost for Boris, the meeting saw the Assembly groups express their unanimous backing for his plan to use the new TfL site as a “template” to bring some uniformity to the GLA websites.
If the entire UK Government can make do with a single website it seems reasonable for London to do likewise but, in the face of TfL opposition, Londoners are more likely to get a number of similar looking sites which all link through to the other parts of the Mayor’s empire.
The point of this planned inter-linking is to boost public awareness of what the Assembly and Mayor do and forms part of the £160,000 initiative previously dismissed by Assembly Members as Mayoral self-promotion.
But Assembly criticism has died down now that AMs have learnt that they’ll also benefit from the profile-raising strategy.
To their delight, they might soon see TfL having to highlight one of their reports on transport accessibility, fares or poor value sponsorship deals slap-bang in the middle of its lovely new website.