Glenelg, Sunday 12th February 2006
The old trams between Adelaide and Glenelg are wonderful.
These trams leave Adelaide centre and reach Glenelg beach in just half an hour.
They are nice, old, antique trams, made of wood.
In summer passengers cool down by opening a window, controlled by a leather strap.
It is easy to request the tram to stop:
adjacent to every window is a stop button.
Press such a button and you'll hear a bell.
You'll see a "stopping" sign light up at the front of the tram too.
When the tram stops, all doors open.
Passengers disembark, doors close and the trams moves on.
A clear, crisp interface, direct feedback, well designed.
The old trams team up with some new ones.
These new trams are very modern, make less noise and...
have air conditioning.
The air co is where things get complex.
To open the door the passenger must press a button.
That seems acceptable, but the button has a few complications:
- You can't open windows, as open windows would let hot air flow into the tram.
Now that seems reasonable enough.
- The doors remain closed whenever possible.
Now that does complexes the story.
So, a passenger that presses a red button twice will be disappointed.
A passenger eager to get out, ends up with a tram skipping his station.
- The button serves multiple purposes, can serve as a stop button when the tram is in motion.
- A colour light shows the status of the button.
Red means stop request.
Green means open door.
- A door only opens when a passenger presses a green light button.
- A second push on a red light button cancels the previous stop request.
Violated design principles
The new design seems to have originated from a too theoretical drawing board, without real world testing.
||One button should have only one function.
A button on a door should open the door, as simple as that.
|Will on might
||Yes, it might happen that a passenger
But all of this is not plausible. It will not happen.
So a designer should focus on the most common situation:
open the door.
- is at the door,
- and presses the stop button in error
- and the tram does not have to stop for other passengers
- and the passenger wishes to cancel his erroneous stop request.
|Keep it simple.
||The design in the old trams was so nice:
The interface is minimal: one type of button, with one function.
- A passenger presses a stop button while seated.
The tram will probably be in motion, or else the passenger would not be seated anymore.
- Doors always open. Just be at the door to get out.
Explanation does not work
Many passengers panic when they fail to open the door.
The conductor will shout some instructions from afar and tells the driver to stop a bit longer.
It happens several times on each journey.
came up with a solution:
Information for passenger at some stops.
No passenger will read this information before boarding as the problem of the complex button is yet unknown at the time.
There is no picture of a button displaying green light.
Once boarded there is a bit of information surrounding the button.
Read the instructions top to bottom and you'll see:
- A warning about the gap.
Well, thanks you for the warning, but it is only applicable
when the doors are open.
- Information on chimes when doors close.
Nice, but passengers on board only care about
doors that open.
- Next some information on prams, which should exit backwards.
Cute, but only possible
when the door is open.
- And at last, the instruction on how to
open the door: press the button.
And too bad, the essential information about the green light is missing.
- And finally a bit of useless information to passengers that have left their seat already: how to issue a stop request, but without explanation about the red colour.
The solution to all of this, get rid of all complexity, back to basics:
The design of the old tram was not too bad.
A design is complete when... you can't take anything out.
- Get rid of the air co. Install windows that can open.
- Have stop request buttons only at the seats.
- Have all doors open at every stop.