Megabus: The User’s Journey

As an avid fan of travelling and exploring new places, I frequently visit Megabus for its reasonably priced bus tickets whenever I have plans to go to another city. Megabus makes it easy for me to choose from various destinations, and clearly lays out different departure times and price ranges so that I can plan my trip accordingly.

Looking at their website (which was only revamped and updated recently), we can see that they immediately try to meet the user’s needs: “where can we take you today?” Users are greeted by an aesthetically pleasing landing page with minimal distractions. The information architecture is laid out in a simple and easy-to-read manner, with helpful links displayed at the top navigation bar that doesn’t take attention away from their main purpose (choosing a destination).

A typical interaction with the Megabus for me goes like this. I start typing in my originating city — at which point the form expands to reveal input options for trip types, dates, and number of travellers. This is a clever trick to keep the landing page looking clean and minimized if the user’s goal isn’t finding a trip fare. The search input fields come up with autocompleted search suggestions to immediately let me know which cities I can choose from, saving me from doing additional guesswork.

The next steps are fairly straightforward: a small calendar pops up for me to choose my leaving and returning dates (there is no returning date option for one-way trips) and I’m ready to browse for tickets.

I’m redirected to a page that lists all the possible journeys I can take. The details I chose from the homepage are clearly marked at the top, with an option for me to go back and edit it if necessary. I’m even given an option to choose alternate dates if I don’t see anything that works for me on my preferred date. This is a simple yet reassuring method by Megabus to keep the user’s needs prioritized and make their browsing experience as smooth as possible.

At the top right, I’m given an option to sort the results by departure time, arrival time, price, and duration of travel. This is written in the website’s secondary, light blue colour so that it’s easy to find without distracting from the main search results. The search results are also laid out in the shape of bus tickets — a cute, whimsical touch that engages with the user’s emotions and showcases Megabus’ personality.

Clicking on an option expands it to include journey details and a call-to-action button to Add to Basket. There is even a link to see the full route, which results in a pop-up box listing all the stops that will be made during the journey.

All the information is organized in a clear and succinct way that gives the user exactly what they are looking for, without distracting or overwhelming them with excessive information. More options/information, if required, are easily accessible and doesn’t redirect you from the main page.

After selecting a trip, I am given the option to reserve my preferred seat on the bus for an additional cost. Megabus in no way forces the user to reserve a seat; instead they can continue to the checkout process quickly and easily. For those that do want to reserve a seat, there is a colour-coded interactive seat map according to price. This, however, might be the one problem I do have with Megabus’ design patterns.

As you can see in the chart, the more expensive seats are highlighted in green, while the cheapest ones are in orange. Green is often associated with a positive reinforcement, which is why many call-t0-action buttons are this colour. By making the most expensive seats green, Megabus takes advantage of the user’s familiar understanding of green=good. It is a subtly deceptive way for users to proceed with the more expensive seats.

Finally, there is a chance to review everything before purchasing the tickets. The trip details are laid out clearly, including an option to remove it and go back or add another trip. At the bottom of the page is a breakdown of fees. The option to pay is unavailable (as evidenced by the greyed out call-to-action button) until the user agrees to the terms and conditions. This saves time from users from attempting to pay only to go back and having to check the box again — something I’ve experienced from many websites, adding to a frustrating and time-consuming experience.

After that, everything is fairly simple and like most online transactions: entering personal and billing information, and a confirmation email sent along with the official bus ticket.

Megabus, while not perfect, makes buying bus tickets quick, hassle-free, and convenient for users like myself. Everything is clearly organized and follows common design patterns (navigation menu at top, easy-to-use search function, etc.) that streamlines the entire process.

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