Focus on usability when designing traffic information Web sites.
Experience from the nation's top traffic and transit information Web sites.
Made Public Date
12/13/2006

326

Houston
Texas
United States

140

Atlanta
Georgia
United States

1004

Louisville
Kentucky
United States

961

Washington
United States
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Identifier
2006-00320

Best Practices for Traveler Information Websites: Lessons Learned From Top Traffic and Transit Website Winners

Background

Section 1201 of the SAFETEA–LU requires the establishment of a Real-time System Management Information Program. This program consists of the development of systems that provide real time traffic and travel condition information on the major highways of the United States. The information provided by these systems should focus on: improvement of security of the surface transportation system, congestion issues, weather events, incident management, and to facilitate national and regional highway traveler information

In 2006 the Office of Operations of the Federal Highway Administration commissioned a report on the Best Practices for Traveler Information Web sites. The report provides information on the current state of the practice for traffic information Web sites and describes best practices highlighted by the developers of such Web sites in the United States for the past five years.

Agencies planning to upgrade their Web sites as part of the Section 1201 program have additional resources available to them, including the following sites:

Lessons Learned

Based on interviews with developers of top traffic and transit information Web sites, recommendations were made on how Web sites should be developed, including the usability component of the Web site. The best information will not get used if it is difficult to find or interpret. Developers should think in terms of audience, design with accessibility in mind, enable information to be presented in multiple ways, consider allowing customization, and be persistent in quality control so information is always current.

  • Think in terms of audience. The Washington State Department of Transportation (www.wsdot.wa.gov) Webmaster thinks in terms of audience and usability. There are functionality standards for Web pages, developed for use by different functional units of the agency so that all parts of the Web site look and function the same way, no matter who is the source of the information. The site was originally designed for Web-savvy users based on usability testing. The department redesigned the site for more basic users, allowing people to start with a statewide view and drill down to local areas.
  • Design with accessibility in mind. The Louisville-Southern Indiana traffic information Web site, TRIMARC (www.trimarc.org), views ease of use as very important, so they gather information and ideas from other good traveler information Web sites and make its Web site as compliant with accessibility standards as possible, even providing interactive maps. The Virginia Department of Transportation integrated information provided by various sources and organized it such that the user could get to the information they needed as quickly as possible.
  • Use technology to enable a broader range of information to be presented in multiple formats and on multiple devices. Houston TranStar restructured their Web site’s map display to zoom so that it can include arterial information, originally only in text format, and work on mobile devices. In the long run, the map will be made available for display in properly equipped automobiles.
  • Consider providing personalization and customization. Georgia Navigator (http://www.georgianavigator.com/), the Georgia Department of Transportation's intelligent transportation system, includes customized information on travel times, "My Navigator" personalized home pages, and sends information automatically to mobile devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cell phones.
  • Be persistent in quality control. Keeping information current is critical for maintaining credibility and usefulness of the information. The San Diego Metro Transit System technical staff focuses on the technology and business processes to make the Web site quick and efficient, and to ensure the Web site content stays current. The Web site is designed with templates to allow staff providing content edit information faster.

This lesson suggests that when traveler information Web site developers focus on usability of a site, it can lead to good quality Web sites. To enhance the usability of the site it is important to keep in mind a range of issues: from basic reliability and presenting information in a well organized format to expanding ways that people can access the information. Thus, to ensure designing a successful and user friendly traveler information Web site, it is imperative that designers conduct a thorough assessment of how their customers will utilize the Web site.

Best Practices for Traveler Information Websites: Lessons Learned From Top Traffic and Transit Website Winners

Best Practices for Traveler Information Websites: Lessons Learned From Top Traffic and Transit Website Winners
Publication Sort Date
06/01/2006
Author
Economic and Industry Analysis DivisionJohn A. Volpe National Transportation Systems CenterUnited States Department of Transportation
Publisher
Office of OperationsFederal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation

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Focus Areas Taxonomy: