Bad UI II - Can't Read the Signs

03 Apr 2006|Added Value

In my last post I described my frustration with my cell phone’s interface. Here’s an example in which confusing design proved not only frustrating, but costly as well.

Example 2: Lost in the forest of signs
Challenge: Figuring out when it’s ok to park
Cost: $300

I had occupied my apartment for about four months when this incident occurred. I let a friend park in my gated spot and tried my luck in the street. I’m generally responsible and circumspect about avoiding tickets. I found a choice location in front of my building and spent a few moments studying the street signs.

Three signs decorate this particular pole on Cesar Chavez. The bottom-most reads “2 Hour Parking 9am to 6pm”. The middle sign advises, “No parking 6am to 8am Tues and Thurs” and the baby bear notes “No Stopping 7am to 9am.” It also says something about “tow-away”…

signage.jpg

In the light of day this may not seem particularly confusing. Well it wasn’t daytime, it was late, dark, and I was a bit tired. I noticed the two-hour parking, then the warning about Tuesday and Thursday. It wasn’t going to be either the following day, so I was safe. Somehow – perhaps it was the orientation – I read the topmost sign as 7 to 9 PM.

So in the morning, my car was disappointingly absent. We were reunited an hour and $300 later.

These signs do a poor job of communicating the information they’re designed to communicate. Three signs are too many. Why would one note “no parking 6am – 8am Tues and Thurs” when it is NEVER acceptable to park 7-8 am here ANY weekday? Why would one use the term stopping and the other the term parking? What is the difference? It shouldn’t take five minutes to decipher a parking sign. If you get a towed when you are TRYING to park legally, something is wrong.

I’ll take the high road and imagine the DPT is simply inept and not intentionally misleading drivers in order to pad its coffers. With that in mind, how difficult would it be to shell out a few bucks from my fines and hire an information designer? I’m willing to bet someone could create a modular system, combining text and/or diagrams in a clear and concise format. After all, the goal is to create an efficient transportation environment in the city… right?

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