How to mislead everybody



Visuals are great tools to reduce errors and increase speed. However they must be designed with care, because wrong visuals are worse than no visuals at all.

The picture above shows a signal in LA airport indicating the direction to the boarding gates. Apparently going either to the left or to the right is ok for anybody, but passengers soon find out that gates to the left are for business class and gates to the right for economy class. The signal is not strictly wrong but is definitely confusing. As a result, crowds of people were wandering around trying to find out were the boarding gates were, which produces waste in the “boarding process”: defects (wrong gate), waiting (queueing twice), transport (suitcases moving more than needed), motion (people moving more than needed),…

This is another example from Chicago airport:


This gate monitor showed for more than 2 hours a flight to LA, but the plane really flew to Las Vegas (as the rest of the monitors in the airport correctly indicated) . I counted more than 50 people who asked if Las Vegas was really the destination when they got to the gate. The gate crew called the maintenance department at least 2 times to repair the monitor (no success). When we were boarding, some passengers were still a bit worried about being on the wrong plane.

When designing visuals, don’t let them be misleading. A visual is a very simple and effective way of helping people. Make sure they really help.


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