Would you Adam & Eve it, someone’s gorn and half-inched Old Father Thames!

You gotta be having a bobble!  It seems that someone at TfL forgot to use their loaf when redesigning the map for the oxo cube.  Commuters had better kick up a pen and ink or TfL will lose them to the frog and toad…

OK, enough of the Cockney Rhyming slang (see below if you need a translation!).  However, the point still remains that the new redesign of the London Tube map has removed, what is for many people, key information about the system: namely the River Thames and the zoning information.

Spot the difference – which do you prefer and why? (click to enlarge)

Standard Tube Map March 2009

Revised Tube Map Sep 2009 with River Thames and fare zone info removed

Why does it matter?

Knowing whether you are south or north of the river can be critical for actually finding where you need to get to.  Come up above ground without knowing which side you should be on and it will prove hard to orientate yourself if that basic landmark is missing from the map you’re using.

TfL have mentioned that zoning information is still available in the stations and on the train but if you are in a rush (as is common!) you may not have time to find the map on the wall or join the queue at the ticket office.  Not knowing how much you will be charged before you sit down on the train suggests very poor customer service to me and possible difficulties at the other end if, when you get off at your destination, you don’t have enough credit on your Oyster card, for example.

This certainly looks like an example of designers applying their principles of simplicity a step too far.  I have noticed that while good design can really enhance usability of information, designers can tend towards the overall visual look (literally the big picture) and forget the user experience of the detail which may be needed. There is of course a balance, too much detail results in clutter that makes the overall information hard to understand.

I assume the designers live in London and so possibly forgot to think of the different personas needing to use the Tube.  Coming up with personas can be a great way to think outside your own user experience and see how different customers might use your product or service and what they might need to know about it. It is not usually possible to include all the information that everyone would need, neither is a ‘one-size fits all’ approach always the solution.  However by taking the information they need combined with a skilful designer you should be able to produce something of both use and good aesthetics for your customers.

Contact us if you want more help with creating personas to understand your customers better.

Glossary (with thanks to http://www.lingo.arollo.com/cockney.html)

Adam & Eve: believe

bobble: bobble hat & scarf: laugh

frog and toad: road

loaf: loaf of bread: head

oxo cube: tube

pen and ink: stink

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