TfL uses Google maps to power mobile-first web refresh

Transport for London (TfL) is revamping its web presence using HTML5 and agile development to build a mobile-first site

Transport for London (TfL) is revamping its web presence using HTML5 to build a mobile-first site that will enable the company to reduce the number of sites customers need to visit.

TfL has eight million unique users a month and two billion page views a year. However, the company provides 70 sites, making it awkward for people using TfL to find what they need.

Phil Young, head of online at TfL, said the website was in need of a refresh as it had not been updated since 2007. Speaking prior to a Google Enterprise customer event in London, he said: “We needed to create a good user experience.” The new site will use cookie-based personalisation with mapping integrated into the journey planning application.

He said: “Mapping is huge in transport. Currently we have five platforms for mapping.”

The company has replaced these tools, which include Bing and Ordnance Survey, with Google Maps. 

“By using the Google Maps API, we will have a 'nearby' function,” Young said. 

This functionality will enable the user to see what transport is located nearby, such as presenting information on when the next tube or bus departs. Mapping also integrates with London’s Bike Hire Scheme, so users will be able to find out how many cycles are available in the nearest bike rack.

Development work for the new site began after the Olympics. Young said everything in the site is new, from a new API and common data model, to the use of Amazon Web Services (AWS) for hosting. TfL has followed an agile approach to the site’s development. 

Young added: “We are using Responsive Design with iterative user testing and prototyping before cutting any code."

The agile method involved bringing a multi-disciplinary team together in two week sprints. By using agile methods during user centric design, Young said TfL was able to develop the site quicker than had it been developed using the more traditional waterfall approach.

In the next two months, the site will be available in beta for customers to test, providing feedback to help the development. The site is expect to go live later this year. 

Since the site uses a new data model and API, TfL is also planning to run a hackathon event for app developers building transport apps using its open data.

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