Elevator Usability FAIL

After months of construction the downstairs lobby in my office building is done. They've gone with a slick minimalist style, marble and glass. First day it's open I go to use the elevators, there’s four of them. I hit "up", another person hits "down". An elevator shows up, dings, and we are confronted with this:

 It appears the light is saying "Hi, I'm here", but refuses to tell us which way it's going. The stranger and I look at each other with quizzical looks on our faces. We both decide to take a chance and get on. Elevator starts going up, the stranger sighs. A few days later, several people are waiting for the elevator, the elevator shows up, it dings, and then it looks like this:

Ah.. a red light and a white light. So, red is down (hell?) and white is up (heaven?). A person would have to use the elevators more than once for it to be blatantly obvious what was going on. Luckily on my second use, the red light appeared. So, in their effort to be slick and minimalist they violated simple usability rules. They haven't followed the convention of arrows, something that people are used to. You have to use the elevator more than once for it to dawn on you that white means up and red means down. The first time you see the light, there's no context. I've been observing people's reactions to this high use bank of elevators and as expected there's a ton of confusion and people getting on the wrong elevators. With an elevator there should be zero learning curve.

Impermanence & Sushi

I was on a business trip in Japan years ago. Some co-workers and I were waiting in a lobby at our parent corporation. I was looking out at a beautiful, meticulously designed rock garden in a courtyard. One of my co-workers who was from China saw me staring and came over beside me. He said "See how much work went into this? Did you know when there's a storm this will get messed up?" I said "but so much work went into this, and it's so beautiful, it's such a shame." He said "this is one of the main doctrines of Buddhism - impermanence. Nothing is permanent, everything changes." He went on to talk about how you can see this in Japanese sushi. "Think about it, how long does it take for a sushi chef to make sushi? 5 minutes? 10 minutes to make this involved little piece of art and then you eat it in less than a second and it's gone."

"You've gotta be willing to make a whole lot of crap"

Had a conversation with a very talented, successful musician/composer on the west coast once. He wrote scores for movies and TV shows. Played live with other musicians. Was able to comfortably support a large family. This is not an easy feat, usually with music it's feast or famine, poor or famous. I asked him how he did it. He said "you've gotta be willing to make a whole lot of crap first. I'm talking years and years of terrible stuff. It's not easy, you have to be pretty courageous to put a lot of bad material out there. You can't get good just sitting around thinking and planning things, you have to do it. You can't be too 'precious' about your work." This is particularly hard for the perfectionists out there. We want to make a 'Star Wars' right out of the gate. As a person who often get's stricken by paralysis by analysis, I can definitely relate. Think about how creative kids are. When we're kids we're kind of fearless. We don't care about producing crap or what people think of us. As we get older we start picking up all of this baggage and all of these fears.. what if I fail? I'll feel so bad. what will people think? This inhibits our natural creativity. Kids don't think like that, they create with reckless abandon. In order to be creative we have to reclaim our childlike nature.

How I repaired my own heart | Video on TED.com

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Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Kitchen Nightmare”

The strange tale of Leonardo’s “Kitchen Nightmare” plays out like a Shakespearean “comedy of errors” where a visionary designer’s experiments all work perfectly to extremely disastrous results. Brian Sullivan of Boxes and Arrows writes how Leonardo's story offers three lessons for designers.

"Email is not Broken, We Are" (LifeHacker)

In “Email is not Broken, We Are”, Joshua Lyman writes that there are many articles about how email is broken and propose making faster, better email programs. He thinks the real problem is we are overwhelmed with it. We use it wrong. It’s silly that we allow email programs to check for mail every five minutes. It’s killing productivity. Segmenting email usage to 2, 4, 8 time a day has huge benefits. Some suggested solutions: stop checking constantly and disable desktop alerts. Set up a “social contract” with your coworkers. It's hard not to check email (as well as twitter, text messages, etc, etc) constantly. We are wired with that Pavlovian response, our brains get that little reward of endorphans, but it's really causing problems.

When I’ve broken up email usage to a handful of times a day, and turn off instant messaging, I notice a big difference in productivity. You definitely need to give coworkers a heads up when you start doing this. At one office I worked at, everyone was forced to use instant messaging. When someone messaged you, if you didn’t answer within a few seconds, they were at your desk. This caused constant distractions all day long. It was almost impossible to focus.

What are your thoughts on this?