— 15 December 2006 —
When I was looking through the MBTA site while writing the post below I noticed some slowness but nothing too bad. Now the site is basically crawling. According to a short entry on Boston.com MBTA posted a notice on the site:
The MBTA apologizes for the slow response-time users experienced this afternoon on our website. We are currently doing everything we can to improve performance, and the new site will be re-released soon. In order to give customers the content needed, we are offering our former site while we work out the problems. Again, we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.
I went to the site on reading this and (when it eventually loaded) I didn’t see this message and found myself viewing what I had seen earlier in the day. Now, I am not a regular MBTA rider so my view will likely be different than those who rely on the site more than me. I still believe what I wrote below. Hopefully those responsible for maintaining the MBTA site will be able to fix things quickly.
When I moved to Massachusetts I tried to figure out how to get around the Boston area. Going anywhere near Boston-proper was not something I wanted to do in a car since the roads here are constantly packed with seemingly unemployed people with nothing better to do than drive in front of me.
So I turned to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) web site.
Out With the Old
Not all the images loaded since I grabbed the screen shot via the Web Archive. But it gives the general idea of what the site looked like. The functionality I needed was there, but often buried two or three pages deep from the home page. And I didn’t always know what the results of my search meant, likely because I was new to the area.
One of the biggest issues I had was, for example, finding my way from my home to the Museum of Science. According to the site I would have to take Commuter Rail, then the Subway, then walk. They do provide walking directions, but I still found it difficult to understand since I didn’t know the landmarks used in the descriptions.
In With the New
You might see a site that looks like the above if you go to the MBTA web site today. I have been seeing the old and new versions as I wander around the site this morning. Some things don’t work quite right, but I suspect that will all iron out by tomorrow at the latest. For example, the Trip Planner fields offer Intellisense-style input (possible options display as you type) but they work sporadically right now.
Big, big, big improvements. First off, it just looks so much better. Granted it has its share of gradients, diagonal lines, and drop shadows but I think it does look good. Next, and most importantly, one of the primary tasks in using the site is right on the home page: the trip planning form.
Right away I can figure out which transportation I need to use to get from A to B and back. And to top it off, for me at least, I now have a better understanding of there I am in the MBTA world compared to the city. Thanks to some Google Maps integration, I can see how to get to the Museum of Science. It looks very straight forward now and I don’t have that feeling like I will get lost.
This redesign has been in the works for the past few months at least. When I first started using the site I got a little pop up asking me to take a survey on the site for the coming redesign. They asked some great questions about how I used the site, what I liked, what I didn’t. I told them to use gradients, diagonal lines, and drop shadows so I am sure that’s all me baby. :) Seriously though, I will likely find things that annoy me but this redesign is a big win in my book.
Anyone know who designed it? Was it in-house MBTA? I looked at the code too and it looks pretty good. Not a table in site. Ha, “table in site.” I meant to type “table in sight.”