After TfL's bloggers' briefing, and your comments I've been thinking a lot more about the London Underground's online offerings and how the Tube map is displayed on their website. A lot of my techie mates are quite surprised to hear TfL won a Webby Award and wondered who they were up against. I'd always thought the Journey Planner aspect of it was OK, that was until I saw the brilliant interactive subway maps from China.
Thanks to my friend Ged Carroll, I was led to the following post on "intuitive chinese subway maps". It gushingly opened with "Every so often you run into something so completely wonderful, it forces you to ask yourself, 'how the hell did I never hear of this before?' ExploreMetro is one such example." They were right to be so enthusiastic!
These online maps for the subway systems in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou were designed by a British web developer, Matt Mayers and are brilliant in their simplicity but packed with useful information and cool, yet unannoying animation.
Kai Pan describes the main features:
1. Overall map of the subway systems in China’s major metropolises, including all lines in operation, stops and transfer stations, in both English and Chinese. 2. Times for the first and last trains departing from each station, so you'll never use the subway too early or too late. 3. A route-planner allowing the user to drag from their departing station to their destination station, providing approximate travel time and fare cost. Be wowed by the cute animation sequence.
4. A "pedia" that provides additional detailed information for each station in the system, including: approximate travel times to other stations along the line, station diagrams sourced from Chinese-only 51metro.com (Shanghai only), integrated Google maps, and photos of the station's surroundings. 5. Sexy female Chinese voice reading aloud each station's name (at present, only Shanghai).
Like the reviewer I loved the "extremely amusing (but otherwise useless) feature, silly loading status messages". They include:
calculating ticket prices
cleaning up spit (zing!)
digging new tunnels
filling up Huangpu river (SH only)
opening metro stations
polishing Olympic medals (BJ only)
polishing station attendants’ badges
refilling metro cards
starting down escalators
starting up escalators
Why, why, why can't we have something like this for London's Tube Map? It combines all the things that TfL are trying to aim at with their online communication. Simplicity, clarity, information (but with deeper detailed information for those that want it) and a human element.
There's much more about the Explore metro maps at their blog, and there may well be other special jokes and Easter Egg hidden online goodies inside them. Perhaps TfL ought to have a chat to Matt Mayers to see if he fancies working on the Tube map, I'm sure it'd be well received. If you've got any thoughts on this & on the loading messages we could have for London's map, I'd love to hear them.