At the Ref Desk (11/13/18): Beginning of finals week -- wow, we're crowded! [more...]

Usability Lessons from Real Life

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 8/11/07 (1:06pm)

We're so used to thinking of usability in terms of computing that we forget that there's a whole physical world out there where usability plays just as critical a role. Indeed, lessons from one environment can lead to understanding problems in the other.

Change User Defaults at Your Peril

The first lesson would be 'Change User Defaults at Your Peril'. We know this from search interfaces that wander from unofficial "standards" of market leaders like Google.

Well, what if you had a whole State of drivers used to going right at Toll Booths for electronic payments now expected to go left? You'd have a lot of traffic back-ups!

That's precisely the situation in Indiana as reported in the Sun-Times:

The problem is that the [Indiana] Toll Road's new electronic lane design expects drivers trained by the [Chicago] Skyway setup to suddenly veer left for I-Pass payments instead of right as they do on the Skyway.

That plus confusing signage and lack of staff to mitigate confusion results in "up to 16 percent of vehicles ... pulling into the wrong lanes".

The irony is that it's the same private company running both systems!

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