Quick: you’re on the fourth floor of a hotel. You want to go to the first floor, so you step into this elevator… and now which button do you press? If you’re like me, you press the big number one just below the two. It even has little triangles on either side to indicate its special status as the lobby floor. If you press it, the doors will close, but nothing else will happen. That’s exactly as the designers of the elevator intended because this isn’t the first floor button, it’s the “close doors” button. It’s also an example of bad design for usability in that it actively encourages you to do the wrong thing. I know because I stayed in this very hotel, and each time I got in the elevator to go back down to the lobby, I pressed that damn “close” button.
What can we do about making our designs more usable? One thing we can do is celebrate World Usability Day. Usability professionals (yes, there is such a thing) are always looking for ways to raise awareness about usability-related issues (and, as a not unrelated side effect, point out that they exist). The Boston Usability Professionals Association is hosting a few special events today. My favorite is the Usability R.A.C.E “where teams of researchers study the city of Boston and brainstorm solutions to issues related to signage, and other public issues.” Ha! That’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Boston could improve its signage by HAVING SOME.