Visual design strategy: part 3



Thinking forward – digital experience principles

As we began to move towards the beta and then a main site launch we had to start to think about a ‘toolkit.’ The principle behind this idea is allowing anyone to develop services to run on the TfL site. And we want to give people the tools to do this for themselves.

So, on the one hand this means some quite detailed content, guides and examples in the different specialist areas: user experience, design, and technical information.

However, we also wanted the very first part of this toolkit to be a quick explanation of our approach – our values – if you like – that anyone, not only specialists, can understand and explains what we are trying to achieve. These are our Digital Experience Principles and they underpin everything we do. They start with a general statement of intent:

‘We help people get the best out of travelling in London’

Then, to back this up, we work to eight principles, written as calls to action, rather than ‘fluffy’ mission statements. They inform all the decisions we, or others working on TfL online take: whether preparing content, designing an interface or developing an entire service, people should start by reading these.

1. Anticipate users’ needs

Our transport services are for everyone – our digital services should be no different. Start with users – research, use personas, test often. Make accessibility a priority and don’t create anything they don’t really want. Instead, think about localised, personal solutions and only include features, functionality and content that’s genuinely helpful.

2. Make things easy

Customers expect our transport services to be quick, efficient and easy to use. Their online journeys should be no different. Work hard to make things effortless and obvious, and keep the visual language and patterns consistent – this helps people become familiarised with our services and takes the guesswork out of using them.

3. Keep it clear & simple

People expect our staff to be friendly and approachable. Our digital services should reflect this. Use plain English, get to the point and remember that, even online, we’re talking to people – real people who are more likely to view us in a positive way if we are human, engaging and easy to understand.

4. Design for on-the-move

Our customers are always on the go – and we need to be right there with them. Think about when and where they’re using our services. Are they checking their phone in a rush, at their desk planning a night out or on the sofa visiting Facebook? Consider context to keep things relevant, and ensure everything is as fast and lightweight as possible.

5. Build trust

We want everyone to get the most out of London, so giving them accurate, consistent information is key. Built on central APIs (application programming interfaces), our digital services should be integrated and up-to-date, reflecting what people are hearing from staff, seeing on screens and reading on Twitter. This builds trust and makes us London’s best source of travel information.

6. Continually improve

Everything we do is essentially a work in progress, rather than an end in itself. Start small, test early and keep refining. Be receptive to feedback and learn from what others are saying or doing. Iteration encourages innovation, reduces the risk of failure and helps us build for future needs.

7. Think beyond functional

We’re passionate about London and want our enthusiasm to rub off on our users. Our staff do this when they share local knowledge, smile hello or surprise someone with a joke. Digital doesn’t have to mean dry or merely functional. Look for opportunities to make our services engaging, fun and friendly to use.

8. Do more with less

Ultimately, we’re building services with our customers’ money and they, quite rightly, expect the best value. Be lean and efficient – focus on users’ core concerns, use modular patterns and develop with APIs. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think creatively, it just means you should use your creativity to help deliver value for money.

So, as number six states: we are in the middle of a journey – trying to gradually improve TfL’s online offering, but nothing is finished. Over the next months and even years we are continuing to refine the experience of using the site on all devices, and we hope you will continue to see a real improvement, grounded firmly in these principles.

View part one of this post here, and part two here.

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