Traveler’s Tales

Traveling is always a great opportunity to discover and engage new designs.  When we’re in unfamiliar settings we often notice the subtleties of our environments more, and are quicker to spot differences between neighborhoods, cities, or countries. 

With pictures taken from my trusty camera phone, I’ll try to share as many observations from my travels where design issues effect me first hand.  Some of the best design insights come out of this kind of field observation.  Not in a lab or formal setting, not from a human factors specialist or usability researcher, but just from us, as users of the world.

"Wait - what number are you under?"

"I'm under #6. No, the other 6! Where are you?"


Take this case for example, on the first leg of a recent journey of mine across the country.  Notice the head-sign “6″ repeating into the distance outside of the Arrivals pickup area at LAX airport.  Now try telling your ride to meet you under “6,” the only landmark you can see.  I did, and was finally picked up on my rides’ third loop around the airport.  Here’s a great case for salience, for differentiation from the surrounding signs.  A better design could have been as simple as unique #’s or letter pairings with each #.  All in all a minor frustration, but one that could have been avoided.  For the record, the weather down in LA was great.


4 Responses to Traveler’s Tales

  1. reinventingcharney says:

    Do you always have to design for the lowest common denominator? Cuz, not gonna lie, I wouldn’t have done 3 loops.

  2. Hyderabadass says:

    Lies! Where is the part about the cops on bikes?

  3. RoV says:

    Dude, great observation. That same thing has happened to me a bunch of times. They should fixe that for sure. Maybe they can use symbols. You know, how they use them in the parking garages to help you find your floor. Something like “Hey Jim, meet me at the plus (+)6 or Kangeroo 12.” I’d be a fan of using animals personally.

  4. goldrel says:

    Great question charney, there’s a few differing schools of thought out there. In the end design is always contextual, as each case is different. Sometimes designing for the lowest common denominator works: the classic case involves a position of a doorknob for, which you can put low enough so your shortest users can reach up to it while your tallest ones can bend over to reach it. But now look at the case of a car seat: you can’t simply make it so that at its highest position your shortest users can see over the steering wheel, because that doesn’t guarantee your tallest users won’t hit their head on the top of the car when even when the seat is in its lowest position. But designing for the “average user” isn’t necessarily the answer either. A good rule of thumb is to design for users between the 5% and 95% percentiles whenever possible (whether that involves age, height, experience, or any other traits of your target). Of course given technological limitations this too can be pretty challenging.

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