User interface design and airports

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

Here’s a really interesting blog entry from Andy Budd* that looks at user interface design compared with airport design. Well worth a read.
One of the interesting things to come out of it is that BAA, who run UK airports, booted McDonalds out because their customer surveys found people thought they were unhealthy. The last time (first time too!) I was at Gatwick I noticed, as does Andy, that the food on offer was much better than at, say, Heathrow (I’ve also only flown from there once – I don’t get around much).

Anyway, it’s worth looking at if you’re one of those designers that thinks asking the audience what they think is a waste of 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.

However, as Andy will no doubt discover, Edinburgh airport is a different matter. Sure, healthy(ish) food options and clear signage, but a bugger to get away from, seeing as it’s built a convenient 30 minute bus ride from the station, even though the train actually passes right by the airport. And finding that bus, whether coming or going, is not the easiest thing in the world. Certainly if you’re catching it from outside either Haymarket or Edinburgh Waverley, you pretty much have to guess where to get it out of the many stands available.

*Four years I lived round the corner from him and we never met. It may be a small world but Brighton’s clearly a big town…

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