Today is World Usability Day. I attended an event hosted by UPA at LBi, on Baker Street. The usual light refreshments were served, and the talks were interesting – on the topic on transportation. There was another event going on at System Concepts where talks addressed the topic of Global Positioning Systems, which had a more ergonomic slant.
In conjunction with the UPA event, Aquent launched a directory for User Experience practitioners. I picked up a copy and there were a lot of interesting articles contributed by UPA professionals and other practitioners. The topics seemed to be cover a lot of trends that have been impacting the usability industry lately, such as the poor economic situation, advancing mobile devices, and employable skills. There’s a lot of subjectivity with a lot of usability topics, but the articles are mostly relevant and useful, if not timely. You might be able to get a copy from Human Factors International, UPA, or Aquent as they were the main sponsors.
I couldn’t remember all the names of the speakers featured today. Scott Weiss from Human Factors International opened up the session with a brief introduction to the transportation topic by sharing his own gripes about the TfL website and how challenging it was from a usability perspective for him to get from his home to the UPA event. He made an interesting point that the exemplar bus service routes displayed prominently on bus stands should be reproduced on their online variants for the same visual clarity. It was meant to be lighthearted, but it caused a bit of stir in the crowd as it was only scratching at the surface of both the merits and the pitfalls of the complex government-linked organization and its services.
Nevertheless, it got us thinking about transportation.
The next speaker then got us thinking about online airline ticketing websites, and how that has fundamentally changed the way people travel. A bit of historical backdrop reveals how the early ticketing websites were a far cry from the large computers that were used in traditional ticketing systems – surfacing from three months’ worth of three guys hacking away at computers in a garage, and ended up being sold for millions of dollars. There were references to EasyJet’s online ticketing system, which led to the next talk about a prototype future ticketing system, presented by Peter Otto from Flow Interactive.
The exciting part about this “EasyJet 2.0” system was about how it also deals with users’ questions of “I want to go somewhere but I’m not sure when” and “I’m not sure where I want to go” – rather than the buyer’s method of dealing with flight tickets. EasyJet 2.0 identifies pricing options for tickets on various dates in the year, giving users some idea of planning for a trip.
Also, for the case where users wasn’t sure where they wanted to go – they could browse major destinations from their home starting point, based on a specific budget. This was produced on a slick visual interface using charts and maps, that showed immediately which slots in the month were most cost-effective, and which places were best to visit at a certain price.
There’s an interactive page that shows how the whole thing works.
I’ll be attending the last UPA event for the year in a few weeks, hopefully.