Monday, August 18, 2008

When the product experience overshadows the web

"I remember why I never take this thing". These were my last few words before I ended my conversation with my friend. I was near the end of my journey on the TTC. A journey that I normally avoid due to its long commute times, grimy seats, and share of odd balls. I have been thinking about this journey, and its timeliness to a conversation I was lucky to have with a user experience designer. This designer had just finished telling me about the "launch" of the new TTC website,, and there involvement with it. It was a cool conversation because of the amount of usability testing they were doing, but that's a side bar.

The more important part: the site sounded awesome, since checking it out, I would say they moved from the 1920's to the 1980's. I'm not jumping for joy, but it's a step up. For me, nothing really touches the London transport site:

But this isn't the point here. What was important, was that I realized that no matter how well the redesign was, even with its fix to the trip planner, the bad experiences I have on the TTC overshadow the improving web site. The experience on the TTC matters more to me than its presence online. My bus was crowded, it was late, and I didn't get a seat. Compare this with GO Transit's website: it is arguably now less advanced or "cool" than the TTC's, but the GO is mostly on time, it doesn't smell, I can get reading done. The "Go product" is an enjoyable experience and makes up for the sub-par site.

I thought this was an interesting problem. It made me think about its application to clients agencies choose. If the product is just a really bad experience for users, does your ability to provide them with a completely different look online matter. Aren't you just trying to provide a bandaged solution at this point. On the other side, if you can find clients that understand this symbiotic relationship. That the product experience + communication experience (here I refer to online) are both important tools in an experience formula, that they are willing to improve the product, than you have yourself a good client to work with.

It was an interesting experience aboard the TTC and it made me think about the relationship between products and what we do online.

And no, I won't be taking the TTC again unless it's a Sunday afternoon.


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