I love tech. I truly do. In fact, I’ve got a severe condition called “gadgetitis”, which becomes particularly acute around tech expos and Christmas time where all sorts of new techy goodies are released. And I love beta versions, even though they’re flakier than Paris Hilton. I love sneak previews, even if the app turns out to only be worthy of the TechCrunch deadpool. It’s a terrible addiction and as far as I know, there are no cures.
By the same logic, I almost always say that the more technology, the better. Almost.
Today’s an exception. This is my plea to the RAC, once my most reliable source of up-to-date traffic news, to step away from the Flash animations and return to this old technology called text. The wonderful thing about text is that it’s clear, succint and doesn’t require any fancy plugins. It’s easy to use when on the road with only a phone at hand.
This new animation completely fails from a usability point of view:
- It doesn’t respect the KISS rule: Keeping it simple means it’s more widely accessible. Not everyone has Flash enabled. My iPhone certainly doesn’t. :S
- It’s utterly useless to someone who isn’t local. Very few cities, towns and villages are identified, no matter how close you zoom in. Why aren’t the primary non-motorway roads identified? It’s certainly not because the map is too cluttered!
- The usefulness of the information displayed is questionable, especially in comparison to the detailed alternative that used to be available. Is the slowdown due to sheer traffic density or are we dealing with a 6 car pile-up where the motorway might get closed? That’s far more likely to affect my decision of what to do next than telling me vehicles are travelling at 10mph.
- The colours, which represent severity of traffic, aren’t accompanied by a legend, so the user has to guess what the scale is!
With the holidays coming and more people on motorways driving long distances to see family and friends, it can be a lifeline, helping us make a quick decision on whether a detour is needed. I’m afraid that the RAC designers didn’t do their homework here. Back to the drawing board, guys!
[Crossposted to the Taptu blog here!]