TfL website – Analytics insight one year on

With our new website having launched just over a year ago, the Analytics Team within TfL Online have been looking over the traffic stats for the new site. This post offers an insight into the usage of the site, the traffic peaks and troughs, and how we can use this information to help us.

What is our average daily traffic to tfl.gov.uk?

We get about 715,000 visits to the site per day. These visits are made by 575,000 unique visitors and over the course of a day about 3,100,000 pages are viewed. A visit is like a user session and it’s the key metric we use to measure customer traffic. Unlike the unique visitors metric, if you come to the site more than once a day each separate visit is counted.

Average Daily Visits

Our average daily visits stats show that Friday is the busiest day for traffic to our website.

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TfL website – One year on

This week marked the first anniversary of the launch of our new website. The new site, which works well on mobiles, tablets and desktops, replaced our previous website dating back to 2007.

The site, used by 81% of Londoners, brings together live data about all forms of transport in London and is a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about public transport and roads.

Since launch customers have made over 250 million visits and viewed 1.2 billion pages and our most recent survey shows satisfaction at 90%, the highest ever.

We have also seen usage on mobile phones overtake desktop computers with 120 million visits on mobile and 107 million on desktops, with the remainder coming from tablets. This reflects the fact that the site is much better suited to mobiles and customers are increasingly using it on the move.

TfL, Home Page, New Website

TfL home page at launch in March 2014

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Bus Strike – Tools to help you get around

As many people will by now be aware, members of the Unite union have proposed the first of three 24-hour strikes on London buses from around 04:00 on Thursday 5 February. Two further 24-hour strikes are planned by Unite for Friday 13 and Monday 16 February. We will be working to keep London moving during the disruption and the intention of this post is to point you in the direction of our most useful digital tools to help you plan your journey.

On our website, you can find travel advice and further information on the strike including details of bus routes that are not affected and should be running a normal service. We also have a range of other tools on our website and social media channels that you can use to help you get around during the strike.

Nearby Tool

Using our Nearby tool, your current location can be placed on a map showing you Tube, bus, river, Overground, DLR, National Rail and Cycle Hire locations around you.

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How we make our website fly – Part 2

Part 2 – Auto-scaling and elastic load balancing in the cloud

In Part 1 I looked at the front-end (presentation layer) high availability cache (Varnish) that helps us deliver web pages quickly from a cache (memory). However, there are situations when there are a large number of queries also reaching our back-end, as Varnish hasn’t or can’t cache those queries – during adverse weather or industrial action, when our website traffic can spike at up to 20x usual volumes for example.

Events such as adverse weather or strikes can lead to huge spikes in web traffic

Events such as adverse weather or industrial action can lead to huge spikes in web traffic


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How we make our website fly – Part 1

Part 1 – High availability cache

This is the first of a two-part blog, giving an introduction to the high availability cache at the front-end of the website.

The new responsive TfL Website is not just a mobile make-over, it has been re-developed from the ground up. The site is a fundamentally brand-new, structurally re-designed, responsive website for the modern needs of the travelling public in London.

High availability cache

Varnish is a web accelerator which allows our website to sustain very high traffic and load many times faster by caching static & dynamic content.

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Location services

I’ve received a number of questions asking how best to get location services to work on our website.

There are various features in the site which can make use of your location to save time and help you find your way around;

  • Journey Planner – Has a ‘Use my location’ option when you start to enter a ‘from’ or ‘to’ point as part of planning a journey.
  • ‘Nearby’ – Starts by trying to use your location when you select Nearby from the homepage. It can then show you all forms of transport around you with live arrivals and status.
  • Find a bus stop – This offers a ‘Use my location’ option when you try to find a bus stop from the Buses landing page.

There are various other places where this is offered, for example in the Maps area.

What do I need to do to get location services working?

The website uses the location services of your phone or computer. Typically this requires you to be using a mobile phone connection or wifi. It will not normally work well (or at all) on a corporate office network.

The device needs to have location services enabled. In the case of Android devices and iPhones this can be done in the phone settings.

Once that’s done selecting ‘Nearby’ on our website should bring up a message in your browser asking if you will allow your location to be used. On iPhones this appears in the middle of the screen.

Location message on Nearby

Location message on Nearby

 

On Android devices it appears at the foot of the screen and can sometimes be obscured by the keyboard. If it is obscured then select the ‘back’ button and the keyboard should disappear leaving you to respond to the message.

‘Nearby’ and other location elements should now work. You may get asked for permission again from time to time depending on your browser.

What if it’s still not working?

On some browsers we’ve seen a problem where accessing the site over https (an encrypted connection) location services (and some other mapping elements) do not work correctly.

This can be resolved by accessing the site over http (unencrypted) – using the link http://www.tfl.gov.uk.

From time to time stored website pages and cookies can cause a problem. You can clear these through your browser settings on an Android phone, within settings choose ‘clear browsing data’. On an iPhone you need to go into the general settings of the phone and find those for Safari to ‘clear history and website data’.

Clear history and data from Safari

We really value your feedback – particularly if you have issues using location services within the website. You can leave your comments on this blog.

Live bus arrivals

You will see a change shortly as we migrate from using the older bus arrivals service at m.countdown.tfl.gov.uk to the new one.

When we launched the site we had some reliability problems with the new live arrivals service. We decided it was best to revert back to the older version until we had ironed everything out. It’s now ready to be switched on and this change will happen very shortly.

How will I get to live bus arrivals now?

There are many ways to get live bus arrivals in the website, here are the main ones;

  1. Homepage ‘Live arrivals’ button – This will take you to a page where you can enter any route or stop and get live arrivals. It gives live information for Tube, Trams and River services too.
  2. Buses landing page ‘Find a bus stop or route’ – On the buses landing page, once we’ve switched over, you’ll be able to enter a route number and choose the direction to get a list of stops. Selecting a stop gives you live arrivals.
  3. ‘Nearby’ button on homepage – Hitting the ‘Nearby’ button will look up your location (you may need to allow the browser to use your location). It will then show you all the stops and stations around you on a map and in a list. By selecting any of these you will get the arrivals and status. If the device can’t recognise your location then you can type it in.
  4. Homepage favourite stops (shown below) – On each bus stop page there is a favourites icon (a star). If you select this it will pin that bus stop to the website homepage on the device you are using. If you scroll down on the homepage you will see these favourites and can get to that stop with one click for live arrivals.
  5. Homepage recent stops – The homepage keeps a record of recently selected stops, you can then reach them with one click.
Homepage with favourite bus stops

Homepage showing favourite and recent bus stops

What happens from here?

One of the strengths of the new site is that it is a one stop shop for information, bringing together different forms of transport. This brings a constant challenge to retain the simplicity and directness of each individual tool.

We are looking at how we can make things simpler and easier for the most common user journeys such as checking a bus arrival, planning journeys and checking fares. The site is a living thing and we are constantly adding to it and making improvements.

We’re really interested to have your views on these services. Feel free to comment on this blog to let us know what you think.

Don’t forget you can also get live bus arrivals on one of the numerous smartphone apps which are powered by our open data, available from all the popular app stores.