April 12th, 2007
Andy Budd wrote an article a few days ago looking at what we can learn from a well-crafted airport user experience (flight delays aside). Andy also describes how London’s Gatwick Airport employs several people who constantly perform research and contextual inquiry on passenger navigation of the entire facility. When companies fully understand users and anticipate their needs, designers can create a delightful and meaningful experience every time. I find that the airport analogy reinforces these tried and true ideas, and will stick with me for some time.
If airports were built like most modern websites, finding your way around would be a nightmare. In order to extract the most money from visitors, the airport would be littered with signs for shops and restaurants. These would take priority over less revenue generating signs for gates or toilets, which would be placed wherever there was space. The marketing department would insist on huge banners advertising their latest offers, and the maintenance men would hang them wherever it was easiest to reach, often covering up existing signage.
The problem is, this type of thinking is very short sighted. Travellers would start missing connections or get frustrated that they couldn’t find the bathroom after a long flight. People would start spending less time at the airports, or if the option was available. switch airports altogether. So by trying to increase revenue in the short term, you end up frustrating your users and potentially damaging future profitability.
Thankfully airports take a much more user-centerd approach in their design…
You can read Andy’s full article here: Airport User Experience
You can find out more about contextual inquiry and customer-centered design by reading Christine Perfetti’s Driving Innovation and Creativity through Customer Data.Tweet