WSDOT Traffic Website & Mobile App 10

As a daily commuter, I often rely on the WSDOT traffic maps to understand how long my commute might take and what areas are backing up, so I can strategically determine the quickest and safest route.

For a long time I used their website (from a bookmark in my browser), that is not mobile optimized. I know the idea is that people are checking this site before they leave and not from the car, but to be honest, I only check it once I am in the car. They have recently added display advertising to their page, which makes it even more difficult to attain the information I need on my mobile phone. Since their website is not optimized for mobile, I must zoom in to get the details I am looking for and in doing so the banner ad consumes a quarter of my screen.

Seattle Area Traffic Map

Because of this addition, I decided to check out their mobile app. I hadn’t before because I had been advised by other commuters that it wasn’t very accurate. In comparing the maps over the last week, I find them fairly similar in traffic volumes. However, I am not thrilled with the user experience on their mobile app.

The most frustrating part is that I am not able to favorite a flowmap for a particular area. For example, I open the app, and I am sent to a menu that has traffic maps, ferries, mountain passes, social media and border information. I select traffic maps, from there I get another menu where I can select from 13 different cities/areas. I select Seattle Area and arrive at the flowmap, which I find the most helpful in determining my commute. This is where I ask, “Where is the favorite button? I want to put this on my flowmap on my home screen for quicker navigation!” While I have done away with the obtrusive display ad, I have to navigate through 2 menus to get to the 3rd screen that I find most helpful.

WSDOT Mobile App   WSDOT Traffic Maps Screen   Seattle Area Flowmap

I am particularly passionate about traffic because I commute over 60 miles, 5 days a week. I recently joined a vanpool (always a passenger), which has allowed me to be more involved socially with traffic than before (passenger half the time). As a passenger, I am able to photograph, retweet updates and give insight to daily commuters. With this said, I would love more social capabilities within the app. For example, I would like to tweet the flowmap or updates I see from the WSDOT instead of the app being a one way street of information to the user.

Another great idea that I found, in the app reviews on iTunes, is to incorporate the ability to report carpool lane violators, instead of calling the HERO phone line. I find myself calling the HERO line at least once a week.

Also, with the recent addition of tolling to the 520 bridge, it would be great for the app to tell the user the current toll rate, so that drivers can decide if it’s worth taking 520 or not.

It might also be interesting if they could generate a screen, where I could go as a regular I-5 commuter, to get tips and tricks for traveling the corridor from other users. They currently have a screen where you can see Seattle Area alerts, but what if I could post a tip that there was a giant pothole in the right lane at the mid-point of the Ship Canal bridge. This way other commuters could be aware of the hole before they slam into it and the WSDOT would be able to gather road conditions first hand and take the steps to fix it.

Altogether, good app, I only have a few suggestions for the WSDOT. First, optimize their area traffic map websites for mobile use. Then, add a favorite option for your area flowmap within the app.

10 thoughts on “WSDOT Traffic Website & Mobile App

  1. Reply Washington State DOT (@wsdot) Apr 5, 2012 9:28 am

    Appreciate you taking the time to provide us feedback regarding the website and mobile app, we are always looking to improve the experience. If you didn’t already know, in addition to the mobile app we have a mobile version of the Seattle traffic website. The term “optimizing for mobile” is rather vague nowadays with so many different devices that have desktop like browser capabilities, however, we created a small website: http://wsdot.wa.gov/small (and directly to Seattle info: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/small/Seattle/) that is fully mobile optimized, but hesitate to redirect people there from the regular site because they may want more information to make their decision of where and when to travel.

    Also appreciate the feedback on the iPhone mobile app, could you be more specific about how you are “not thrilled with the user experience?” Is it only because of information you see is missing or are their other ways you would structure the app to make it a better user experience? Would certainly help if you could stay constructive in your review so we can learn more about what we could fix rather than focus on what isn’t there yet. If you are only concerned about favorites and toll rates you will be happy to know that they are on our priority list for the next version of the iPhone app. We hope to have it in place by June of this year. Incorporating social to provide the opportunity to report current traffic conditions to your friends is certainly an interesting idea, we will look into what it would take to do that.

    Just to give you a more complete picture, even though we were the first DOT in the nation to make a mobile traffic application, we only have one person who is currently working on the mobile app and with our resources continuing to be dimished due to the shrinking budget, his time hasn’t been able to be focused on continuing to add improvements to the app as much as we had hoped. We certainly appreciate and welcome your feedback and are happy to report that you found things that we already were planning to add.

    Feel free to contact us at any time to continue the discussion on how we can improve our services through twitter: @wsdot, @wsdot_traffic. Or send us an email anytime at webfeedback@wsdot.wa.gov.

    Thanks again,
    Jeremy

  2. Reply SeattlePropClub_admin Apr 5, 2012 10:04 am

    Hi Amy,
    I love the #WSDOT app too but I use it mostly for the ferries. Here’s my thoughts: http://bit.ly/HhuVfw
    I would probably depend on the app more if I had to commute as much as you do! Cheers~

  3. Reply Kelly McIvor Apr 5, 2012 10:23 am

    I use the app a lot as well. I have the Android version, which automatically centers the traffic map on your actual location. I love that functionality. I pretty much only use the traffic map features.

    One of the other things I like about the app is that it loads really, really, fast.

    @Jeremy: Do you guys track which features are used the most to help you determine where to spend your time on updates and improvements? Also, the ‘small’ site doesn’t really work well on my phone at least. I still have to zoom in and pan around to get the text content to fill my screen.

  4. Reply Amy B. Apr 5, 2012 10:32 am

    Thank you for taking the time to review the post and letting me know that there are updates in the works. This post was for a weekly class project where we have been tasked with reviewing a website and or mobile app and suggest changes or improvements that we would like to see as a user. It wasn’t meant to be a thorough functionality or usability review.
    Thank you for the link to the mobile optimized site, I will definitely add that to my bookmarks and share it with other mobile users who commute with me. I didn’t see a link to the small version on your site, otherwise I would have included it in my initial post.
    The reason I was ‘not thrilled with the user experience’ is because like others (app store reviews) I want the ability to get directly to what I want and not navigate through multiple menus each time. I am happy to hear that ‘favorites’ and tolls are on the list for the summer update. Very exciting!

  5. Reply Amy B. Apr 5, 2012 10:34 am

    Thanks for the link to your thoughts on the ferry portion of the app. I also enjoy the app and look forward to their updates coming this summer.

  6. Reply Washington State DOT (@wsdot) Apr 5, 2012 11:25 am

    @Kelly, we are tracking use on the apps and listening to customer feedback, let us know if you see anything we can improve on. One thing to note is that the Android version uses Google Traffic rather than our traffic data (they use our data too but put other data with it). It doesn’t update as often as our traffic data and isn’t quite as accurate as our flow maps

    Thanks for feedback on small site, mobile device optimized sites is quite a challenge these days on a limited budget, there are more mobile devices than have ever existed before and they come in all shapes and sizes. We designed that site over a year ago and as fast as things are changing may have to consider recreating it altogether.

  7. Reply Kim Sklar Apr 8, 2012 9:57 am

    I’ve used this app before too. It has a TON of different information (which is great) although it seems like you have to go through a lot of menus to get to the information that you need to access (for instance, ferry departure times).

    One thing that I would love for this app is if you could create customize your homepage screen so that it brought up direct links to the WSDOT features that you need to access the most. When you’re on the go, or sitting in traffic, you need to make quick decisions and it would be nice to have those more readily on hand!

  8. Reply Jeff Barber Apr 8, 2012 9:08 pm

    This lively discussion inspired me to download the iPhone app! First three things that jumped out at me:
    1. No search function?
    2. No user preferences?
    3. No geolocation awareness?
    4. No Bellevue/Redmond menu option?

    With all due respect to Seattle, there are those of us for whom the Eastside is the center of the universe :-)

    I get the budget constraints…wondering if all these problems could be solved by building an HTML5-based mobile website instead of maintaining multiple apps?

  9. Reply rachaeldillboyer Apr 8, 2012 10:18 pm

    Pretty cool that the subject of the class assignment critique actually saw the feedback and responded! Kudos to WDOT for the informative replies. I hadn’t realized that the WDOT traffic map was different/more accurate than the Google maps traffic map. I’m inspired to compare them soon and see for myself. And I think I’m going to download that app too…

  10. Reply Ivan Orbegozo Apr 9, 2012 7:02 am

    Very informative comments here. I downloaded the application to track the ferry schedules. Glad to hear that ‘favorites’ is on the list for the summer update. It’s amazing to know that only one person is working with the mobile app. Way to go WDOT!

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