Tags: norwich

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sparkline

Weak signal

Remember when I went off an a big rant a while back about some very badly-designed pedestrian signals? My opinion has only strengthened since I wrote that diatribe.

Those signals of insanity appear to be slowly taking over the whole country. I was in Norwich last week to talk about DOM Scripting and Ajax with the good folks at Norwich Union, two of whom I had already met at the dConstruct microformats workshop. While I was out and about in downtown Norwich during a lunch break, I couldn’t help but notice that the city was infested with the aforementioned signals.

I brought them up during the Ajax workshop—they’re a perfect example of terrible affordances and even worse feedback; both very relevant aspects of Ajax interface design. Nobody had a kind word to say about the devices. One of the attendees described how, just that day, he had managed to stop an elderly couple from getting run over by a bus; they were understandably confused by the awful pedestrian signals.

It’s quite gratifying that I everybody I talk to about this feels the same as I do. Those excruciatingly awfully-designed objects are going to cause fatalities, if they haven’t already.

I couldn’t help but feel vindicated when, walking down Norwich’s wonderfully-named Rampant Horse Street, I saw signs attached to the pedestrian signals on both sides of the road that read:

PEDESTRIANS—YOUR RED/GREEN MAN SIGNAL IS ON THE POLE NEXT TO YOU

Signs of a bad UI

Apart from providing a good giggle about what a “man signal” might be, these public-facing instructions are a damning indictment of terrible interaction design. If I need to RTFM before crossing the street, something is seriously wrong with the user interface. I’m tempted to apend my own all-caps message to the signs:

DO NOT WANT