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Public transportation information displays and usability

July 22, 2006

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Public transportation information displays and usability

The schedule information displays for public transportation in the U.S. tend to range somewhere between ho-hum to crappy. Either you have the paper schedule posted under plexi-glass or you have giant, ugly LED or OLED displays. On my recent trip to Melbourne I was totally impressed with the displays at the tram stops.

Melbourne tram schedule display

This display rocks! It is clear, concise and most importantly, real-time (note wireless antenna at top). And the unit itself is compact and not an eye-sore.

There was one important UX choice that puzzled me at first. The display is sorted by Route # versus arrival time or destination. I pondered this for a bit and the decision does make sense. If the display were sorted in descending order by arrival time, you would have scan down the list to find when your tram or bus would be arriving. This way, you can quickly skip the Route #’s you are not interested in and quickly find the time your tram will arrive.

This made me think about the sorting choices in Windows Explorer. When you are in Details view and sort columns, no matter which column you choose, there is an implicit primary sort by type (i.e. folder or file) before the selected sort is performed. I faithfully reproduced this functionality in my

Co-founder/CTO WhenHub; co-founder DNN Software; founder Edaptable; educator; Open Source proponent; Microsoft MVP; tech geek; creative thinker; husband; dad. Personal blog: http://www.kalyani.com. Twitter: @techbubble
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