Open Data and User Experience

Can Open Data be an opportunity for better services, with respect with user experience? Certainly so.

As noted on the Public Strategist blog, the current Bus Countdown display is not the best ever: it gives information too far in the future in a way that isn’t suited to someone already at the bus stop, unless they’re polling the display for information going back and forth from their home.

Pretty obviously, when there is just one single means through which this kind of information are spread to the public, usability is managed centrally by the authority in charge of such information. Surely, this authority might invest on usability and accessibility and let people access such information in multiple formats on different devices or by different means.

As Public Strategist suggests, if I’m at the bus stop I’ll just need to know when the next bus will come; say I’m waiting for bus number 91: I’m not interested in knowing I have three 91 buses coming in half an hour, I just need the first, maybe the second. However, when I’m at home I might want to know when all the next “instances” of a given bus will pass in a longer term.

This is exactly where the open data revolution can make a difference: by letting developers play with the data, they can propose novel solutions to the public, better interaction models, or simply a number of different ways to access the information – number that a single, resource-constrained, organisation is unable to manage.

Open Data are a liberating tool for Government transparence; but they can also empower designers and developers to create a better experience for the public. This is surely a very important, although less ideological, reason why local authorities and larger organisation should welcome this revolution.

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