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Dublin Bus Route Finder

I was on the Dublin Bus website this evening and realised it’s gone through a redesign. I thought, “oh, this is nice… fresh… clean, but how do I find a route by number?”

Dublin Bus' new website

One of the main tools of the old Dublin Bus website was the ability (from any page) to put in a route number and find the timetable for this route. This was especially useful when accessing the website on a phone while standing at cold, wet bus stops in the middle of winter. Removing this tool is a terrible mistake and illustrates a lack of user consideration when re-designing and re-planning this website. I hope I can clarify here why.

The layout of the site has now changed dramatically, not in an un-aesthetically pleasing way, but the user and visitor to the site has not been considered (no welcome information or guide from the homepage to show where old information has now gone). As a user looking for a route number, I am given no indication on the homepage that this functionality has changed. My first thought is to stick the route number into the first field of the “Route Planner” tool on the homepage. Searching with this criteria fails. I then have to consider where this information may be. I return to the homepage and try the “Quick Links” to see if I can find an option to enter a route number. No, not there. I then go to “Route Planner” (to search for the route number I want) in the navigation. Not there either. I then go to “Timetables”. Here we are, I can now enter a route number.

I have been given no indication on the homepage that this system has changed or been updated. I am not given an option to click a link under the Route Planner tool that says “Search by route number?” Consider the users of the bus system in Dublin. Most people use the bus to get to and from work, into and out of town and know the bus numbers that service those routes. The next majority will be people visiting Dublin, maybe standing at a bus-stop with a route number on them (remember, not all bus-stops have maps) and accessing the site by phone (they may be from out of town and not actually know where they are). The final minority will use the website to find out how to get from one location to another. I would hesitate to guess that this final group is quite a small percentage.

I know this because I use the bus in Dublin. I know this because I have family from outside Dublin and Ireland who visit on a regular basis. They are not interested in where the bus should be going from and to. They want to know the bus number. If the information systems were in place (maps at every bus stop, locations, destinations and route directions) to support this new construct, then the new “Route Planner” would have some possibility of being successful. Anyone who has ever taken a bus from any stop in the City Centre, or to Firhouse, Ballymun or Sandyford (I don’t mean to stigmatise, but we’ve all seen the grafitti), knows that the information systems, even in place, do not always survive very long. The one thing that ties this information system together is the route number and on the revised website, the ability to search this has been downgraded into an unintuitive location.

I would not be inclined now to turn to the Dublin Bus website as much as I would in the past because, already, I have a number of new mental hurdles which make me think “finding this information is hard work.” I think Dublin Bus will find this becoming a trend of the Dublin populace who would normally use the website on a daily basis.

[Update: 11 November 2010] I emailed the above to Dublin Bus and the design agency at the time of posting. I didn’t get any response, but using the Dublin Bus website a couple of days ago, the first field on the homepage now allows you to search by route number. At least they listened (I’m sure I wasn’t alone in this criticism) to public opinion.