HERE Transit: designed for purpose

52° 30' 57.852" N, 13° 22' 37.128" E
15th Jul 2013

HERE Transit - Panorama View

Using the public transit system in a new city, particularly in a different country from your own, can be an incredibly daunting experience.

Riding a bus, train or tram in familiar surroundings is so simple we take it for granted, but in unusual surroundings, it can and does put a lot of travellers off: you often end up walking for miles or spending a fortune on taxis.

HERE Transit helps you get around and find your way in a new city using public transportation. In our latest version of HERE Transit, we have significantly redesigned the user experience and added a ‘panorama view’, which makes it easier to start using the most important features (plan your journey, check nearby stops) and to see the new ones (look out for favourites and history). It’s a compelling solution that our testers immediately loved.

‘I love the layout.’ said Scott ‘Simple, effective, and like nothing else out there. It makes planning a route much easier and the look and feel is so clean.’

Simplifying transit maps

Transit Maps

While the basics of different transit systems are fairly universal, the use of different colour coding or different icons combined with the unfamiliar layout can have the effect of rendering them indecipherable from one another!

On reflection, the reason for differences shouldn’t be that surprising: every city has its own unique urban structure which, with larger cities, has taken hundreds – sometime thousands of years – to evolve. They all have own hot spots, and they have all developed their own approach to rapid transit and hence transit maps.

A common trait among transit maps is the tendency to simplify views, to remove unnecessary clutter. The original London Underground map is a case in point. The rail companies developed maps based on standard city maps, indicating the directions of lines and the locations of stations, overlaid on geographic features and main roads.  These quickly became confusing even for the locals.

It took the eye of an engineering draftsman, Harry Beck, to redesign the map based upon the concept of an electrical schematic, rather than geography. The result is a map that often bears little resemblance to the outside world in terms of distances or relative locations, which for someone new to London can be deeply confusing.

This approach to clarity through simplification is widely used by map makers everywhere and results in a design process which shows lines, stops and the occasional landmark for better orientation, everything else is left out.

HERE Transit

Designing HERE Transit

HERE Transit has also been developed and designed with the requirement of simplicity and clarity in mind.

When we design our location experiences, we go through a tough validation process with user testing, involving not just Nokia employees outside of the HERE Transit team but also teams of testers external to Nokia. We observe how people behave with our products and try to understand when features are either not found or not used. With that understanding in hand, we go back to the design board.

We realized that quite often people would be on the go while they were checking their phones, so we needed to keep the user interface as clear as possible. We also use legible characters and iconography to allow people to keep their heads up as much as possible.

Perhaps most important of all, though, we need to design for a global audience, because HERE Transit is being used in 740+ cities in 50+ countries. Some countries strongly rely on departure schedules, while others have only frequencies, others don’t even have bus stop names.

The system and cultural differences from place to place are so strong that we spent quite some time to understand them all, before designing HERE Transit.

HERE Transit

HERE Transit is available for millions of people with Windows Phone 8, with a unified experience that makes it easier to decipher unfamiliar transit systems but takes into account official local colour codes to enable people recognize much more quickly which lines they have to use.

Designing software is a learning process, a never-ending quest for the most intuitive features. We love to put users at the heart of our design process and learn from them.

Let us know what you think about the latest version of HERE Transit and we’ll carry on learning!

Illustration credits: Transport for LondonMetropolitan Transportation Authority and Moscow Metro.