Metro is showing off a beta version of its massively revamped website.
The people who worked on it know it’s going to be buggy for a while. They are asking riders to test it out and comment on glitches. After those are worked out — probably a few weeks from now — the new version will become the only version. Meanwhile, riders still can use the old site at wmata.com.
But for those who test the new site, at beta.wmata.com, the differences will be immediately obvious. It’s like boarding a new train after transferring from a 1000-series car.
The design of the old site dates from 2008, when goals included allowing riders to reach their information with no more than three clicks and setting the home-page screen so that all the critical menus and buttons would be visible on a laptop-size screen with no scrolling.
The revolution in mobile devices occurred since then. Today, 60 percent of Metro’s Web traffic involves mobile devices. One reason for rebuilding the site was to create a platform that has a similar look across all types of devices — desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets.
But the first thing you’re likely to notice is that the pages feel roomier while packing in more information, and this will come across whether you’re looking at the site on desktop or mobile.
Another thing viewers will notice is that the site is becoming less text-heavy, with more emphasis on visuals, including better use of maps and videos. Also, there’s less need to call up a PDF, something you will notice when checking the new site for bus schedules. Use this page to pick a bus route and see what I mean. Notice that on the top of the new home page, Trip Planner, Metro’s online scheduler, is front and center. The vertical bar at the left will appear consistently on other pages as you drill deeper into the site. Click on that bar, and it will expand to display the current bus and rail alerts.
Below, see a screenshot of a station page. I like both the clarity and the organization, compared with current station pages on Metro’s site.
The key information — including the station map — is easier to see in this new version, and again, that’s whether you’re viewing on a desktop or phone.
Design work on the new site began in spring 2015, said Eleanor Evans, who heads up the team.
I’ve had a chance to click around some. In early going, I found a lot of things to like, but I haven’t done a thorough review. Again, I’d compare this to the experience of boarding a new train. It takes a while to absorb all the features. I think the one bug I experienced in a short exploration occurred when I couldn’t get the bus timetables to display in a Firefox browser. (They worked fine in Internet Explorer.)
“We know there are things our riders are going to tell us about” during the beta testing phase, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. One way to do that is via Metro’s customer comment form.
That, too, is easier to access in the revised website. It appears in the listings at the bottom of the pages. The form itself is easier to understand and use, as I think you will see in the screenshot below.
I’ll keep looking through the new site and will update this posting. Oh, one experience that’s consistent: I had trouble getting the site’s pages to display on my Verizon smartphone while riding the Silver and Orange line trains Wednesday morning.