Hi I’m James, the technical team lead for the API workstream at TfL Online. I am writing this post because there has been some talk in the press about our new API, and as Phil mentioned in his last post we are preparing to release our third major update to beta.tfl.gov.uk. This update (drop 3) will add significant new functionality that we hope you will find intuitive and helpful. I thought it might be useful to start by giving you a peek at some of the work that goes on here, behind the scenes.
The TfL beta website has won – twice – at The User Experience UK Awards
The User Experience UK Awards, created to recognise top class user-focused digital or service design, has awarded our new beta site its highest honour. Nominations came from a chosen batch of innovative UX offerings from organisations that aim to offer the best possible online experience to their customers.
The inaugural User Experience UK Awards is the first of its kind in the UK.
For the work done so far on our beta site, TfL won both the Best Information award (given to an app or website which presents information clearly in an easy to access way) and the overall Best User Experience award, given to the most inspiring user-focussed site, app or service, according to a judging panel comprised of leading UX specialists and digital experts.
We’re really pleased that the world class work being done here, from UX through to design, front end build and beyond, has been recognised.
Congratulations as well to all the other winners including Barclays, Bloom FM (x2), Oxfam and Manchester City Council.
A fresh batch of features has been now been dropped into beta.tfl.gov.uk.
This is a significant development which includes service status updates on all modes of transport, new service boards for roads, river, trams and Emirates Airline along with additional content.
We now have a great interactive mapping tool for roads which works nicely on mobile, tablet and desktop and shows exactly which areas are affected, rather than just points.
You can use this to check what’s happening now but also to see the likely impact of any planned events and closures in the future, over a weekend for example.
A couple examples of the roads tool as viewed on a mobile are shown below:
For most transport modes, because of our new single API, we’ve been able to get the latency (in other words, the time between an incident being logged and seen on the public site), down from around 5 minutes to less than 30 seconds.
Some might say it’s been a little quiet since the beta site launched back at the end of June, however we’ve been hard at work going through your feedback and building the remaining features of the site.
In the next few weeks you will see the next major release which features status and disruptions across all modes of transport.
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.
Answering the brief we set ourselves
As mentioned in my last post, we were working both in a collaborative and ‘agile’ project. This basically means the designers, user experience experts, developers and the client all work together in parallel: continually iterating designs, wireframes and actual prototypes together, regularly testing with users and trying to gradually get the designs right by a process of trial and error. Weekly ‘show and tells’ with the whole team and wider presentations to key stakeholders might have seemed time consuming, but it kept the whole design process on track.
How we deliver
In this post I’m going to outline the way in which we, as a team, have delivered this project to date as well as highlight some of the processes and tools we’ve utilised and hopefully give a bit more perspective on the scale of some of the tasks this project is trying to overcome.