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Celebrating World Usability Day: Centralis and the RTA bring user-centered design to the Chicago transit system

November 13, 2008: With “Transportation” as this year’s theme, Centralis marked the 4th annual World Usability Day by teaming up with Chicago’s Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to gather user feedback on a new series of signs for train and bus stations.  The day’s activities were part of a three-day field test of interagency transit signs, designed to help passengers understand their transit options and make transfers across the city’s three transit services: Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Pace and Metra.

Working in conjunction with transit agencies and municipalities, RTA installed temporary prototype signage at the Davis Street Transportation Center, including system maps, schedules and wayfinding signs.  To evaluate the effectiveness of these signs, Centralis recruited passengers to complete a series of mock transfers.  Each participant was asked to use the signs to select an efficient route to their final destination, and maneuver through the transportation center to find the train or bus they needed.  Results revealed several key strengths of the signage, along with opportunities for improvement.

The Davis Street field test complemented an earlier usability test at Centralis Lab of four key interagency maps.  Findings from both usability tests are being used to refine the designs.  Centralis will conduct an additional field test at five locations this spring to evaluate the final signs.

About the RTA
The RTA provides financial oversight, funding and regional planning for the three public transit operators in northeastern Illinois: The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus and train, Metra commuter rail and Pace suburban bus and paratransit.  For more information on the RTA, go to www.rtachicago.org.

About Centralis
Centralis helps clients succeed by making their products, services, software and websites easier to use.  Founded in 2001, Centralis is a leader in User Experience, a field that integrates interface design, user research and business strategy to ensure that products meet the needs of both businesses and customers.  Our services include user research, experience design, usability testing and training.  We have an onsite research lab custom-designed for user experience research, as well as a mobile lab for studying users wherever they are.  For more information on Centralis, go to www.centralis.com.