Did The Elevator Need A UI Redesign?

from the who-knew! dept

Many years ago, when I was a kid running around Manhattan getting into various degrees of trouble, a friend of mine taught me a valuable lesson. If you’re in need of a bathroom in midtown, go to the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. You just head up to the fifth floor and there’s one of the nicest public restrooms you’ll ever find. It’s bound to beat any random place you walk into off the street. I’ve used that trick on multiple occasions, but apparently it’s become much, much trickier sometime recently. A lot of blogging folks are at a conference in New York at the Marriott Marquis, and it’s absolutely hilarious to read the various different accounts of what appears to be the most poorly designed elevator interface ever imagined (so bad that even Hollywood stars are swearing about it!). The details on this supposedly “revolutionary” new elevator control system are a perfect case study in pointless UI design. First off, was there really a problem with existing elevator UI design? It seemed that most people figured out the system just fine, and found that it was quite efficient. However, the folks at one (oddly famous) elevator company decided to start from scratch and basically screw everyone up. The system apparently works by requiring passengers to punch in their floor of choice before they enter the elevator. That is, instead of punching the up or down button, you’re required to give your exact floor. The elevator system then tries to schedule (not particularly well, from the descriptions) how to best process your request and gives you a cryptic symbol telling you which elevator to use. Once you’re inside of the elevator, you no longer have any control over it — you’re stuck with your pre-determined destination, so make sure you don’t get in the wrong elevator. The claim from the elevator company is that it helps process people faster and more efficiently (especially during heavy use times) by avoiding the mad rush for any open elevator. Of course, the amount of lost time and confusion from riders seems to have eaten away at any such efficiencies (especially in a hotel where the majority of elevator takers are likely to be visitors rather than regulars). You would think the hotel would realize this when they apparently needed to designate an entire TV channel in the hotel to explaining how their elevators worked. Maybe they just did this to keep the trouble making kids like myself from sneaking up to the 5th floor restrooms.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Did The Elevator Need A UI Redesign?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Jared (user link) says:

Is it really that confusing?

Or are there alot of people who just don’t want to change, so they gripe about how difficult it is?

Seriously? I figured it out just from reading this article and looking at a few pictures in the links, and I’ve never even been to NY! What is so difficult about it? Enter your floor number, then go to the elevator it tells you (logically labeled as a letter instead of a number, because the number corresponds to the floor level!)

I don’t know. It seems that there are some people that absolutely want to hinder technology just because they don’t want to read clearly labeled (and very brief) instructions.

dit says:

Re: Is it really that confusing?

What is assinine about it is that it is worse than what it replaces. That is wrong. Regardless of how smart you think you are because you can figure it out from a description, the task is to call an elevator. Do you really need scheduling and queueing software messing up a simple process? NO.

It is just some idiot’s idea that more complicated is better. It never is. KISS is always the right answer unless you are a software vendor. Then it is keep it as complicated and non-sensical as possible and wave your hands whenever you cant explain why.

Graham says:

Re: Re: Is it really that confusing?

They have one of these in our office in Taipei so they’ve spread to Asia as well. I found it very confusing first time I used it (probably didn’t help that the building doesn’t have any instructions about it either so you’re expecting a ‘normal’ elevator).

There is no reason why this complicated solution is better than the standard elevator UI. There’s a reason why it has taken so long for someone to come up with this innovation… It’s not needed!

Cloud Watcher says:

Re: OK idea, poor implementation

I don’t think this is so much a bad idea as a very poor implementation of an OK idea.
The big mistake was putting these things in HOTELS. In a hotel, guests are already feeling a bit of disorientation from travel & being in a strange environment, so confronting them with something so out-of-the-ordinary increases their existing mental burden and is simply frustrating. Almost everyone who uses the elevator system is coming to it for the first time, so the “learning curve” never vanishes. Also, in a hotel, people are generally not too concerned with the efficiency of the elevator – a few extra minutes getting back to your room… who cares?
The place for these elevators is in OFFICE TOWERS. There, you might be confused the first time or two you use it (or on your first day on the job) but once you know how it works, it’s just part of your daily routine and no more difficult than the regular kind of elevator. Moreover, people in office towers have a certain amount of anxiety over the whole waiting for/taking an elevator process (“late for work… trying to make that meeting… why won’t this thing HURRY UP!?!”) and so would be much more motivated to trade off learning something new for gaining an efficiency improvement.
The company should never have allowed these to go into hotels. Stupid stupid STUPID. But try telling that to a sales rep who works on commission.

dit says:

Re: Re: OK idea, poor implementation

no. it is not an okay idea, even for an office. it is just a stupid idea.

there are multiple problems with this idea other than the initial confusion.

1. you change your mind about which floor to get off. Too bad cant do it. you are going to your floor, exiting and recalling the elevator. That is just stupid.

2. the elevator you were designated to get into is full. So now what? you punch in your floor again and wait again? And happily watch as all the already scheduled elevators come, open and close, while you continue to wait for a new designated elevator for your destination. Stupid.

3. From descriptions, these elevators are not faster than regular elevators, and in fact the chief complaint other than lack of clear documentation, is that they are SLOW. So we add all these non-intuitive interfaces, remove all the standard useful features and for the sole purpose of efficiency – which they fail at miserably. Maybe the real purpose is to drive customers to your competition.

4. if this is such a good idea, maybe we should extend it to the automobile. Not be allowed to use the car until we plug in our destination. Then it will make a map for us and we will only be able to travel to that destination. Until we exit and plug in a new destination.

Cloud Watcher says:

Re: Re: Re: OK idea, poor implementation

Dit point #1: How often does this happen? Do you think it is better to inconveninence most people most of the time, just to provide a convenience for some people that will only be used once in a while? You must be a programmer! 😉

Dit point #2: The system is tracking how many people are in a given elevator. It won’t assign you to an elevator that doesn’t have room for you. If an elevator is full, it already knows that and sends you to a different one.

Dit point #3: Um, I’ve got no answer for this one. If these are actually as slow or slower than their ordinary counterparts, the whole thing does become an exercies in futility. But I wonder if the complaints are valid. How are people comparing these elevators to the old ones? Sounds fraught with subjectivity to me. I’d expect that the designers were doing things like studying average trip time with stopwatches, which I doubt the casual elevator rider does. (The pros are another matter. You can always tell them by their stopwatches, heavily padded elevator shoes and snazzy crash helmets emblazoned with Schindler and Otis logos.)

Dit point #4: Elevators are not cars. (well, technically they are, but…) Elevators are mass transit. This idea has already been “extended” to the bus, the subway, the airplane – even the superhighway if you want to get picky. Why should I have to drive 10 miles out of my way if I miss a turnpike exit? Oh yeah, because if there were cross-streets every few hundred feet, it wouldn’t be a turnpike – or any better than the city streets.

Mike Brown says:

Re: Re: Re:2 OK idea, poor implementation

Dit point #4: Elevators are not cars. (well, technically they are, but…) Elevators are mass transit. This idea has already been “extended” to the bus, the subway, the airplane…

But it hasn’t – the idea of these elevators is much more like radio cabs than any of these, and they only work because there are thousands of them, and they wander all over the place on an infinite number of roads.

The elevator company says the elevators are like airlines, but that’s not true, unless you think airlines run a plane just for you because when you get to the airport there’s a plane going where you want – there’s a plane because you scheduled your arrival at the airport to match the plane, not the opposite. If you arrived at random, there’s a small chance that the next plane is going where you want.

The parallel to subways would be a system where you punch “L’Enfant Plaza” into a keypad as you enter the Metro station at National Airport. The system sends a train just for you and anyone else who is going to L’Enfant at that moment. If you’re going to Archives, two stops further, you have to wait until the train drops the people at L’Enfant and returns for you, or another train becomes available. There are only a limited number of tracks (elevator shafts), so the number of trains (elevator cabs)is limited, and you have to wait until each train (elevator) drops its load at each station (floor) and returns to the Airport (lobby) for the next load. If anyone at any intervening station (floor) calls for the train, it stops for them and possibly reverses direction to drop them off where they want to go, before returning to the airport for you.

This is efficient?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...