Saturday, 23 March 2013

Air Traveller User Experience (UX)

Air travellers are faced with conflicting stereotypes for document scanners; face up or face down. The check-in machine shown here expects my passport face-up.

The e-passport reader expects it face-down (which matches my expectation). This article says the future for boarding card readers is face up. Glasgow Airport has just installed face-down readers. It is clearly going to be a confusing mess for the next decade. Not life-threatening, but  along with the security theatre, a signifier of the clueless authoritarianism that lurks behind the functionalist aesthetic.

A collection of recently-collected confusing iconography above (not air travel, but while travelling). The first sign does NOT mean that you are safe from flames in the lift. It is very unclear what the sign adds to the text in the second one. The bottom indicator was clear to the designer, I'm sure..

The picture above is from the Hamburg Metro at the airport. A true gem. To go to the city centre, you press button 3. Not that button 3 - the one on the screen.

UX is about more than just functionalism. Going through Heathrow, I was delighted to see this picture of Herne the Hunter.

The celebration of local mythology is to be welcomed , but does it have to be so functionalist? A more evocative image is this one:

The UX of air travel is affected by the sense of place. For British airports, it is adversely affected by a complete lack of any sense of place from a combination of soulless functionalism and relentless mercantilism. Glasgow Airport was (properly) designed by Basil Spence, who ".. wanted a design which helped the traveller to feel the adventure of flying from this particular airport”. Well, the feel of adventure has gone, and the design has been buried in extensions. It is still possible to see the back of the original terminal.

The good news is that Wetherspoons understand a sense of place. They have put up a poster to Spence and provided a place where you can appreciate the  canopy (originally outside the building of course).