If you’re one of the millions of people who’ve recently logged on to Metro’s website, metro.net, you may have noticed that it is exploding with information, and not always in a good way. A lot of it is pretty helpful, but some of it is outdated or hard to find.
In short, the current website is a great resource, but also an unruly one. The current website is six years old and has received so many add-ons over the years that each addition starts to undermine the overall usability of the entire site.
Rather than opening things up and trying to make sense of it all, we’re excited to spotlight the innovative efforts of Metro’s Communications Department, who took it upon themselves to start fresh with a whole new concept, which is now live at beta.metro.net. The Source has been following the site’s development with posts highlighting its features and chronicling its iterations.What makes this new effort so innovative? Because rather than approaching web design like government agencies often do — i.e. creating a giant upside down pyramid of information, the new beta site greets customers with information they most likely need. And more importantly, it stays away from what they likely don’t.
About 75 percent of Metro’s web traffic is people looking to plan a trip or get information about schedules, stops and service. So why not make the entire top half of the new homepage a massive, interactive trip planning web app?
And not just any trip planning app, but one that is easy for customers to interact with because:
- It’s map-based, rather than relying on text, and shows Metro’s current service offerings in a very visual way. This approach builds customer confidence that is critical to navigating a place as large as Los Angeles County, whether you’re new to town or have lived here for decades.
- It allows you to view transit service information in several formats that offer different information depending on whether you’re a new rider trying to figure out how to get from here to there or more familiar with Metro and just looking for real time updates for a stop or station.
- It allows you to explore how to combine several modes for a single trip, linking rail, bus, bike and walking, which mirrors the real life way that we get around.
And it wouldn’t be innovative without the technology. The beta website was built from the ground upusing new mapping technology, GPS location-based technology, new alert/advisory system, and the open-source trip planner. As mobile technology has exploded in the last five years, Metro is taking advantage of the accessible and powerful services and applications once only for apps, now available for the web.
Beta.metro.net’s new design embraces simplicity and usability, and is customer-focused. For example, the site is mobile-first, since 65 percent of all web traffic comes from a mobile device, and responsive to all devices (mobile, tablet and desktop). It accomplishes this by again putting the customer’s needs first, presenting a second tier of tools and resources to help people use the system and offering our current plans for new projects and services. This approach provides a more connected, clear, and accurate expression of what we do and why – an extension of our mission and vision for simple, effective, and usable regional mobility.
The new site also establishes key connections between transportation and the region. Without being heavy handed, the site provides friendly suggestions on using transit as a cultural link, and shows that transit is central to the identity of the region.
That’s not to say that all of that information from the old site is gone. It just doesn’t dump information on those who don’t need it. Beta.metro.net assumes that if you’re looking for some specific piece of information about a program, project or initiative, you’ll be willing to click a couple times to find it, guided by a clear navigation path expected of modern web design. And if a customer digs deeper, they are welcomed with a simple view of the bigger picture – Metro’s projects and programs, the role of the agency, policies, Board reports, etc.
We’re excited about the new Metro site, and are confident that it will help people meet their needs, no matter what they are. But the best part is that the site isn’t a finished product. Metro is beta-testing the site until the end of the year, and seeking customer comments and feedback in its development and improvement. You can offer feedback right from the home page.