Bad Design: What’s Behind the Door?

I’m fortunate to work in a beautiful building (see below). Unfortunately, that building is also one of the most confusing buildings I’ve ever been in. The doors pictured above are a big part of the problem. These doors don’t look very welcoming, do they? In a university context, I’d guess that they lead to a large lecture hall or some other place that you probably shouldn’t just barge into. One time a group of students asked me how to get to a classroom. After I directed them through these doors, one of them said, “Oh, I thought this would be like the boiler room or something.”

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Bad Design: Instructions for Opening a Door

Multimedia doors

The picture above is of a typical keycard door: tap your keycard (to the right of the door), open the door. Lots of buildings are full of these types of doors. People use them every day, meaning we have knowledge of and experience with them. Yet, when I’ve used this door, I’ve done it incorrectly. More embarrassingly, I’ve used it incorrectly more than once. Even with the highly visible, 1st-grade-reading-level sign directly above the handle, I’ve tried pulling the door several times before finally pushing it. I’ve also witnessed several people trying to pull this door open. So why does this door need a set of instructions? And why do people still use it incorrectly? Because it breaks their expectations.
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Bad Design: How Do I Get to the Terminal?

Airport Sign

I was headed to LA to visit my brother’s family and got lucky with airport security. To kill time before my flight (and in anticipation of the 4.5 hour flight), I decided to walk to my terminal instead of taking the plane train. For those of you unfamiliar with the Atlanta airport, it has 2 security checkpoints for its 7 terminals. This means everyone enters at roughly the same point and takes either the plane train (airport subway) or the underground walkway to reach the parallel terminals. On this visit, I used the North Security Checkpoint for the first time, so when I got out at terminal T, I wasn’t sure which direction would take me to terminal C. The sign above wasn’t immediately helpful. At first I focused on only the “Gates” part of the sign assuming the other information was for the restroom or baggage claim. When that wasn’t helpful, I looked at the “Moving Walkway” and “Train” parts, but I was still confused by the arrows indicating that the gates were both to the left and to the right of the sign. It took me a while to realize that I could reach the gates (which were to the left) by taking the moving walkway to the left or by taking the train, which had a station to the right. Continue reading

Bad Design: Too Close to the Fire Truck

Sign of the back of the fire truck

As I was headed home the other day, I stopped behind a fire truck at a red light. As soon as I saw the sign that reads, “KEEP BACK 500 FEET,” I stopped. I was probably 25-30 feet behind the truck. I started to feel guilty about not following the instructions that are likely for my safety, but then I thought about how far 500 feet is.The only way I could conceptualize 500 feet was in terms of football fields. For those of you like me, 500 feet is almost 2 football fields! I wouldn’t have even been able to see the sign from that distance. Even if the sign covered the entire back of the truck, I probably wouldn’t be able to read it from that far away (and that’s assuming nothing was in my line of sight and I was paying attention to it). Continue reading