When traveling to Boston or DC, I like taking a bus. Not just any bus, but specifically with MegaBus and BoltBus. It is cheaper than Amtrak and more comfortable to use than Greyhound. I also take a bus with Vamoose, but only to DC area as it is operating only between that area and NYC.
- I like the MegaBus site for their friendly design with cute icons of a bus driver and especially good color contrast. The BoltBus site, on another hand, has serious color contrast issues. One in ten males have color deficiency, and even for those not having it (including myself), it’s difficult to read content on the BoltBus site.
- Regarding navigation, the BoltBus website doesn’t have a link to their homepage from their logo which is very surprising. You have no way to go back to homepage. Sometimes their navigation links don’t work then work again. While the MegaBus uses a homepage link for their logo. Their navigation links could have been highlighted, though, on related pages.
- When testing sites for accessibility, the BoltBus site has much more accessibility errors (with a lot of nested tables, unlabeled form fields, Flash embeds, etc.) than the MegaBus site. Not just that, the BoltBus has a link to the Essential Accessibility website to download an “accessibility” tool that is not even accessible to screen readers. Actually, Essential Accessibility tool is a scam as noted by Dr. Jim Thatcher, an accessibility expert. BoltBus either was fooled by thinking that Essential Accessibility was a “quick” fix or did not care about taking accessibility seriously. Their website should be readily accessible to users with disabilities without asking them to download any additional tools.
- Another note about accessibility is that the MegaBus site has a link to the page about assistance for passengers with disabilities on every page which is great. Also, a passenger with a disability can easily go through the reservation after just checking that they need assistance during the trip. They can also call MegaBus if needed. While the BoltBus site mentions about accessibility assistance only on their homepage, and “Special Needs Preferences” is not as obvious as “Passengers with Disabilities”. When you click to edit, you would see a pop-up window which is not accessible either plus they force a passenger with a disability to enter a phone number. I explained in my article, Online Forms – Please No Asterisks for Phone Numbers, about why forcing users to put a phone number in an online form is not a good idea. .
- I like it that I can see maps of location details on the BoltBus site after I select an origin and a destination, but they cannot be zoomed and are in a pop-up window. While on on the MegaBus site I can find maps only on the Bus Stops page, but they can be zoomed and not in a pop-up window. Also, when you select trips on the MegaBus site, it lists addresses of origins and destinations for those having issues with map accessibility (which you do not have a control over if they are done by Bing or Google) – not something that is added to the BoltBus list of trips.
- When registering for an account, all MegaBus asks for is your email address and password which is a breeze while BoltBus asks for more than that – security question, mailing address, date of birth, and especially phone number. I tried to type zeros in the phone number field and it did not work. Not just that, the BoltBus registration form is in a pop-up window, too, that is not showing 100% on Firefox and also is not very accessible.
- When testing websites on my iPhone, the BoltBus mobile version is easier to use with less and more clear menu options (just 4 options) than that of the MegaBus with more options, some of which look similar to each other (instead of 7 options, they could have just 5). Interestingly, when reserving a ticket on a BoltBus mobile version, you would see the “Special Needs” area to fill in (plus more details about it on their FAQ page) while the MegaBus version doesn’t even offer it (and they don’t have the FAQ link either).
This is just a basic analysis of the bus services websites, and there are more suggestions to be discussed about how they can be improved for both desktop and mobile versions. I’ve used both Mega and Bolt bus services in past and didn’t see much difference between two when taking a bus trip with them. I cannot speak for wheelchair users or people with other disabilities about this – I’d like to know their experiences, too. However, I like using MegaBus website better as they did not force me to put in my phone number in my account. And their desktop website is more user-friendly in general, too. So I ended up buying a roundtrip ticket from MegaBus for my upcoming trip to Boston.
As for Vamoose website, it’s okay for a typical user in general, but has many accessibility issues and is not mobile friendly. Also, their visual design looks outdated as if it was done in 90s. It has information about passengers with disabilities on their FAQ page, but doesn’t announce it prominently on their pages. As for their bus services, I haven’t had problems using them, too.