Posts tagged “elevator”

Out and About: Steve in Tampa

Two weeks ago I was in Tampa to lead a workshop for a client. I had a bit of time to explore the area – here are some of my photos.

The ritzier area of St. Petersburg, with huge houses and huge trees.

Salt-and-pepper tofu at the Yummy House China Bistro. This place was good and rivaled Chinese food I’ve had in San Francisco.


Shampoo Me.

Houston donut fave, thanks to an airport layover.

Not sure I’m as excited about the elevator upgrade as the hotel wants me to be.

God hates swag.

Parking at the Dali museum.

Our latest article: Elevator Pitch

Our latest interactions column (written by Steve Portigal and Julie Norvaisas) Elevator Pitch has just been published.

It seems only yesterday that the VCR and its flashing 12:00 was the go-to whipping boy for the interaction field. “Gosh almighty,” the lament would rise. “What does it say about us if we can’t even make a usable digital clock, one that won’t blinkingly admonish us for our failures?” Note to younger readers: The VCR, now obsolete, was an entertainment device that “streamed” video information directly from physical media, not unlike its successor, the nearly obsolete DVD player. We’re stoked to propose an alternative that isn’t likely to be obsolete for a while: the elevator.

Get the PDF here.

Previous articles also available:

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Awful elevator panel design [Boing Boing] – [Another entrant in what is becoming a theme on this blog: how-complicated-does-it-have-to-be-to-go-up-and-down?] Robyn Miller took this photo of a poorly designed elevator control panel.
  • [from julienorvaisas] David Hockney’s instant iPad art [BBC News] – [Now that's a convincing interface and experience.] "Who wouldn't want one? Picasso or Van Gogh would have snapped one up," the artist David Hockney tells me at the opening of his latest show in Paris called Fleurs Fraiches, or Fresh Flowers. "It's a real privilege to make these works of art through digital tools which mean you don't have the bother of water, paints, and the chore of clearing things away," he says. "You know sometimes I get so carried away, I wipe my fingers at the end thinking that I've got paint on them."
  • [from steve_portigal] Doonesbury Turns 40 [Rolling Stone] – [One of the most surprising bits in this Chip Kidd interview with Garry Trudeau. As consumers, we constantly make the mistake of conflating the artist with their art, the producer with their product. We know the material – sometimes very well – and so we really think we know the maker equally well. Trudeau reminds us, once again, that in least one critical way, we don't] I'm never happier than when I'm not working. The strip is a job ­ that's why I take money for it. It's a job I'm passionate about, but it's a job I totally leave in the studio when I walk out of here, unless I'm late and I have to work at home. I never think of the strip unless I'm compelled to.

More on airplanes and elevators

Riffing on Steve’s recent observations…

I noticed this signage on a Southwest Airlines flight a couple of weeks ago (apologies for the poor photo quality). Certainly we need to be crystal clear on something as mission-critical as an airplane door. But does repetition mean clarity? In this case I think it could create some uncertainty – which one REALLY means it’s armed? The state of being “disarmed” is alarmingly de-emphasized.

And what’s this? A new concept in elevators? This calls for a new word altogether, as elevator no longer applies. Of course, this conveyance does in fact carry folks up and down in the usual manner; reasons for the whimsical orientation of the arrow are unclear.

Steve’s earlier posts on elevators can be found here and here, and on airplanes here.

Ups and downs

After writing recently about managing the adoption of a new type of elevator UI, I found a particularly bad implementation of the norm at my hotel in Austin last weekend.

Unusually, there are two elevators on either side of two rooms.

Beside each elevator is this cautionary/alarmist admonishment:

“This button” refers to “these buttons – those ones down there” despite the horizontal arrow. But we can probably figure that out. The reason for this sign – an obvious afterthought is that there’s no place where you can stand and easily see both elevators at once. You must approach one elevator to press the button, and if you stand there and wait, you are likely to miss the arrival of the elevator if it doesn’t come to that door. There is a standard solution: a light near each elevator door that lights up just before the elevator arrives and the door opens. But (other than in the hotel lobby) they’ve neglected that and instead the hotel guest must be “alert” when doing a basic task like trying to get down for breakfast.

This is a well-known and long-solved situation; why the builders would choose to put the elevators around two rooms and then create such a poor experience would be interesting to explore. What were the design and other decision processes that led to this sub-optimal solution?

Anticipatory Design: Make it Better, Not Worse

Bruce Temkin offers some good observations about the elevators at the Marriott Marquis in New York. These elevators have no floor selection buttons inside; you make the choice when you call the elevator and are assigned a specific car (presumably to optimize service time). This is a change from the normal, thought-free experience we have with elevators and as Bruce observes, it doesn’t go smoothly.

But Bruce suggests a solution that really misses the boat. It’s an approach that we’ve all seen many times before, and so it’s natural for someone to simply channel from their environment. People don’t realize the elevator works differently, Bruce says, so let’s put up a sign.

This is a great example of what I call post-design: an unsuccessful attempt to solve a problem caused by a poor design implementation. Think about a corporate lunch room admonishing people to clean up, or any visit to a health-care facility where dozens of signs direct, warn, advise, remind about how to fill out forms, what to have in your hand, where to go, etc. Often, they make something feel more complicated (e.g., 4 steps to take an elevator?).

Some other examples of post-design (click the title to read more of the story):
Don’t Steal Shopping Carts

This Screen Is A Touchscreen

No Skateboarding

No Flavors, Just Sizes

What is needed here is a forcing function – something that gets in the way of business-as-usual interactions, pulls people out of their habitual gestures and alerts them that something is different, ideally directing them on how to proceed.

Some examples of forcing functions (click the title for more):
You Better Be Sure You Want To Turn The Light On In Here

The Familiar Handle Is A Different Color For A Reason

We Want You To See Our Ad Before You Watch TV

While Bruce is right that an intervention is needed, we can look at the forcing function examples to get some clues as to what might work better than Yet Another Sign in a visually cluttered environment. The problem is an interesting one because the thoughtless act is pressing the button but the notable consequences happen a minute or so later, once you enter the cab and realize that there’s no button to press. That suggests some locations for an intervention

  • When the button is pressed/the elevator is called. How could this be different so people are aware that things aren’t business as usual here? How could the next step in the experience be flagged?
  • While waiting for the elevator. We don’t have a lot of data about what the waiting process looks like
  • When first entering the car. What visual cues would indicate how this elevator is going to work, when entering an empty or full car
  • The first moment of confusion. We can imagine after entering the elevator people will do the familiar gesture of peering around the corner to try and find the panel of buttons, first on one side, and then on the other. What visual or other cues can appear right at that moment to clarify and reassure?

While it’s not my goal to “fix” the elevator system (especially when we only have one self-reported user experience to work from, and we don’t have a robust understanding of what the problem even is), we can highlight some other ways to think about conscious and unconscious behaviors and how design can intervene to support, redirect, and optimize. If we understand what people are expecting, or anticipating, we can be right there with solutions right before they know they need them. These clean-up design challenges can be harder, trying to retro-fit against an imperfect original solution we didn’t control, but we’re always going to be faced with these situations, so let’s have a thoughtful set of approaches.


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