Thursday, 21 January 2016

Not Very 'Appy At All! [Part 2]

But first, and thanks to correspondent Peter ...
Smart Tickets Dumb Picture
Peter writes, "Online versions of newspapers often use stock photographs, but this seems a little ‘off the wall’ for an article on Stagecoach making more tickets available as Smartcards."
Perhaps Midweek Herald, the publishers, haven't quite grasped what smartcards are for. Maybe they think they are used for road pricing?

Back to the Un-'appy App ...
... and was so frustrated with the indexing that he did not immediately pursue his quest for a timetable. In fact, there aren't any timetables, just bits of them. Tap "120" ...
... select a departure point and off you go. BUT which one? Try Arundel Gate.

 Click on an arrival point.
But there is no "Crimicar Lane". Try Sheffield Interchange ...
 ... and, once again, there is no Crimicar Lane arrival option.

Whats is going on? Yet again, the perceptive fbb has worked it out. There locations are simply the time points on the printed timetable. So, joy of joys, you need to know the timetable before looking for a timetable.

If you know that the city time point for the 120 to Crimicar Lane is "Flat Street", you can then progress.
Success in a very small part comes after grappling with the choice of time.
You swipe up or down on the numbers until your choice of hour and then minute appears between the parallel blue lines.

And, breathlessly and mentally exhausted, you have found a poor excuse for a timetable.
Even less helpful is the fact that First completely ignores journey run by their "partners", a tiny outfit called Stagecoach. This means that on a Sunday, for example, you are only offered a bus every 20 minutes when, actually, they run jointly every 10.

Partnership. What partnership?

We move to the journey planner. Planning journeys by First Bus in Seaton is not really a fair test with three buses each day each way on the X53 being the town's total exposure to the Aberdeen group. So it's back to Sheffield.

fbb's standard enquiry is to his former Upper Fulwood home on Crimicar Lane, Sheffield S10 4EJ.

Initial impressions were not good. fnn struggled to make the thinks work. Most stuff on his phone "rotates" to landscape format, which makes poking the right digit a bit easier for the old man's somewhat podgy digits. This App remains resolutely in portrait mode. But, well aware of previous criticism, fbb perservered. But the whole caboodle is not easy to use. So after several minutes of mistakes and misdirection, (Where is Ctinixar Kame?) fbb planned a journey!


Well done. Enter you journey ...
... enter transport modes ...
... and prod "plan journey". Nothing happened.
The green bar started pulsating ominously in blue. If in doubt swipe the screen.
Ah; it doesn't like Sheffield Station. Despite the fact that fbb has entered his "location" as South Yorkshire, this helpful hint is ignored by the planner and fbb is offered all sorts of Sheffields. The only useful possibility is Sheffield Interchange.
A little arrow rotated sweetly but it didn't like Crimicar Lane either.
Which one was right. The top of Crimicar Lane is at Lodge Moor, the bottom at Fulwood. fbb's destination is in the middle. And what happens if you choose a little walking man? Not a lot, it appears.
Click on any one of the journeys offered and you get useful details ...
... and plenty of useless details. Why, oh why do we have to have so much clutter. What is wrong with "walk to Flat Street" followed by "from Flat Street stop FS1" etc. If the stops are well labelled, you could manage without the FS1 and cope with a nice big "120" up the pole.

The journey is then shown on a map ...
... which can be enlarged.
Overall, the information is correct and complete. The journey planner is a cut down version of the First Bus offering on their web site and at least does show buses of other operators, unlike the Stagecoach pointless planner.

Of course, it is not easy to communicate the complexities of convoluted city transport systems withing the confines of a small mobile phone screen. Why not reduce the hassle and give folk well-indexed access to the full timetables and a route map and let them work it out for themselves?

You can either be comprehensive or comprehensible but not both. First's journey planner tries to be comprehensive and fails to deliver a comprehensible user interface. There is a high chance that it fails to deliver comprehensible answers to any except hose who know what they want before starting.

Is this really the best that technology can do?

 Final "App" blog : Friday 22nd January 


  1. If you can't find enough material to fill for a daily blog you should try going weekly.

    This one is a push even by your usual standards.

    1. I hope, FBB, you will not be even slightly tempted to heed the above advice. I'm sure most blog readers very much welcome the daily post, even if some of us find some of the blogs not quite as interesting as others (the only ones I never read are those about model railways). Keep it up!

    2. I'd echo the above. I do enjoy reading the blogs on a daily basis and whilst I don't always agree, I love seeing someone else's perspective on things.

    3. Peter - use a better alias for singing your own praises. Or at least get your mum to do it.

  2. Yes I think FBB will never be a convert to the world of apps and whilst there is some way to go, it's good that the information flow is out there and what is there is largely correct.

    It is worth noting that the decision to have a county-wide unique number for buses was dumped as this alone would solve some issues but unfortunately most bus companies these days seem to think the average punter can't cope with a bus number larger than two digits.

    Hopefully the forthcoming South Yorkshire Bus Partnership (you know it's coming) will see a welcome return to something of this standard. The wheel then will have come round full circle!

  3. If a possible South Yorkshire partnership is as awful as the Sheffield nonsense, thcar and bike sales will rocket!