Utilizing Real-Time Data to Elevate the Website User Experience for SolTrans Bus Riders
SolTrans is a Joint Powers Authority that provides public transportation services to the southern Solano County cities of Vallejo and Benicia, California. Since 2011, they’ve served as a primary transit provider in the region, offering both local and fixed routes, no-cost paratransit, and subsidized Lyft programs.
Page Design Group created SolTrans’ original website and has been providing print design (in the form of maps and brochures) to SolTrans for a number of years. Today, our team both designs and prints multilingual route maps for both SolTrans and Solano Express. But recently, our digital work for SolTrans challenged us to utilize both our tech-savvy skills and creativity to build a new and improved website that served the unique goals of SolTrans online users.
Using Data as the Foundation for a Functional Design
In 2019, SolTrans met with the Page Design team and expressed their eagerness to update their website. After hearing more about their goals for the new site, we were excited to integrate real-time data in the form of features that would help riders locate their bus and see transit alerts in real-time. Beyond simple functionality, we wanted to incorporate a series of highly intuitive features that enhanced the overall user experience. Ultimately, the vision was to provide riders with easily-accessible information that would help them achieve their travel-related goals.
Prior to the Redesign
Before beginning the redesign process, SolTrans was utilizing four different sources of data to present information to the public:
- Twitter feed (displayed on the homepage): At-a-glance bus and route-specific alerts
- MyRide app: Updated bus times and specific bus locations
- SolTrans web pages: Bus timetables and static maps
- Google Maps: An interactive tool for riders to plan their trip across multiple routes and transit providers
As you can imagine, juggling all these data sources created a huge headache for the client and for riders. While all of the data was important, SolTrans was hoping to find a more effective way to present it to online users. With the redesign, they wanted to accomplish two key goals:
- Pull all four sources of information into one place
- Improve the overall user experience
After evaluating the client’s vision, we opted to create a website design modeled after an app. Using a “mobile-first” mindset as our guide, we stripped the site of its timetables and static maps in order to create a more streamlined and convenient user experience.
On the back-end, the Page Design team created a content mesh and aggregated all the sources mentioned above. However, we omitted the Twitter feed and instead designed a feature that would display alerts on the homepage. Now, the new site allows riders to locate their bus and monitor alerts in real-time – which is particularly useful for users in a hurry. In addition, we also built out pages that featured full route maps and timetables for those who like a more traditional approach to planning out their trip. The resulting website is one that suits a wide range of users and their needs, ensuring that virtually every user can enjoy their ideal SolTrans website experience.
The signature Page Design methodology was a critical factor that made this process successful. Throughout the project, our web department didn’t work in silos; instead, they moved through each stage in tandem. Too often in the industry, one role waits for the other to finish, which causes delays in the overall progress. But for this project, the client, designer, and engineer worked simultaneously together for the duration of the project, rather than in sequential order. The result? A more effective and efficient means of collaboration and ultimately, a final product that everyone was extremely proud of.
Another notable aspect of this project was that SolTrans’ involvement with the project also took place in “real-time”. Communication with the client was fluid, and the team even had weekly meetings to resolve issues and answer questions. Because the client was involved every step of the way, the project was able to continuously move forward without any major delays.
A Transformative New Design for Both Client and User
After completion, this complete website redesign for SolTrans accomplished several things. It eliminated redundancies across the data sources, solved internal pain points by streamlining the client’s workflow, and drastically improved the day-to-day riders’ experience on the website. The final product was a much more functional, data-driven website for both the internal SolTrans team and users. Both the client and our Page Design website team were thrilled with the results – and at the end of the day, we consider that a big win.