From helping us find our way around various locations to providing basic amenities in the remote villages, design has a key role to play in our day-to-day lives. It touches and influences every part of our being. So isn?t it quite strange how we UX designers limit ourselves to thinking within pixels?
This was?why a bunch of us got together to ponder over how UX principles can apply across physical spaces at the recent Open Space meetup.
While talking about ways and means in which we may enhance the experience of physical spaces, we touched upon 4 key areas ? Navigation, preparation and follow-up, environment and inhibitors.
Navigation is a critical area where many of the UX principles and rules of thumb that we know about are directly applicable. Here, we spoke of 3 key components:
- Bird?s eye view ? We must show the general position of all areas from the point of view of the user?s position. This needs to be shown early and efficiently. There are multiple ways in which we can choose to do this. A map provides the user with a spatial sense of the location.
- List view – For spaces that consist of multiple levels, it is better to provide a list view. This will give the visitor a clearer sense of areas of interest. The list view, however, will need to be supported with immediate indicators within the line of sight of the visitor at all times.
- Guided pathways ? Guided pathways are useful for exploratory settings were visitors do not have a very clear agenda. Here they are willing to be shown around via hints, suggestions or even clear directions.
Preparation and follow-up
Since events may have situations where a number of activities are condensed within a limited space and time, it may be important to recognise and implement the actions that can happen before and after the event.
Here, a well implemented digital user experience will play an active role in optimising experiences for event visitors through by making activities like ticket booking and feedback gathering seamless and efficient.
Some usability principles are often applied to design the environment in a way that it reflects the intent of the locations. Colour coding of certain areas remind the visitors of the location?s purpose. For example, the train stations in Singapore are colour coded to indicate MRT lines to which the stations are connected. This eases the cognitive load on the commuter since they no longer have to recall the name of each MRT line. They now just have to recognise the colour associated with each MRT line.
Physical spaces also have the advantage of allowing us to rely on other senses and not just the sight (as is the case in the digital world). Various combinations of smell, sound and touch is often used to indicate the purpose of the spaces.
There are times when some limitations to choices or experiences are built-in ?by design? in order to control the overall experience of the event. A guided route is an example of an inhibitor where it closes off some pathways so that the visitor follows a pre-set path. Here, while the choices of the visitors have been reduced, so have the chances of the visitor making a mistake. This method reduces the possibility of errors in exchange for limiting user freedom.
This is clearly not an exhaustive set of rules that come into play when designing physical spaces. Having said that, it was surely a good start to understand how the knowledge we have as UX designers may contribute to planning of events and physical spaces.