People Interact

Blog about people-centered design by Lisa Chow and Sandra Sajonas.

Tag Archives: DC

Everyday Usability: Tray Tables

I don’t take the Amtrak trains often (they’re pretty expensive compared to buses), but recently I took the train and I found their instructions for using the tray table to be confusing.

tray table

At first glance, it looks like there are 4 steps in order to use the tray table. After a closer look, it turns out there are just 2 steps to use the tray table and 2 steps to stow away the tray table.

Why would you label the 2 steps to stow the tray table as #3 and #4? It’s not like you would fold the table down and then immediately stow it away as the next step (unless you’re extremely bored on your train ride or the train is stuck for a while due to a signal/track issue – the train problem did happen on my recent trip to DC). So in most instances, you would use the tray table (2 steps – one process) and when you’re done using the table, you would stow it away (2 steps – another process).

I didn’t have any problems using the tray table. Once you lift the table out and fold it down, that was pretty much it, but I just think they could do a better job with the instructions. Thoughts? You can tell me that I’m being nit-picky about this and/or that I probably just got really bored on my train ride and decided to blog about it. Either way, share your thoughts and comments below.

Check out more posts in the Everyday Usability series.

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Everyday Usability: Pay for Parking by Phone

Pay by Phone for Parking

Maybe DC is the most user friendly city in the United States. On a recent trip to DC, I noticed this sign. You can pay for parking using your phone.

Has anyone tried it — paid for parking by phone or seen something similar elsewhere?

Check out more posts in the Everyday Usability series.

DC: The Most User Friendly City in America?

During a recent visit to DC, I noticed several things that made me wonder if DC is the most user-centered city in the USA.

Here’s a list of things I discovered:

1. Bike Share Program.  Admittedly, DC is a bit late to the game in comparison to Europe, Asia and even smaller US cities like Portland.  However, NYC and LA are even later.  For $75/year, people can bike on demand.   Members can pick up a bike and return their bike at any of the stations throughout the city.

2.  Videophone Booth.  I saw this booth when I went to the public library. Deaf and hard-of-hearing users can place video relay calls to hearing friends, family, or business associates through an interpreter over a broadband Internet connection. This allows users to communicate in their first language: sign language.

Just as I was beginning to be impressed by DC’s ability to provide for its many users, I saw something that reversed my opinion.  A green “Do Not Enter” sign.  Need I say more?

Hackspace Prototype in the Library

While on a recent trip to DC, I decided to check out the LibLab prototype.  The LibLab is based loosely on FanLab and is meant to be a “hackspace for knowledge”.

“LibLab has a modular design, with up to a dozen research and collaboration modules. Each module provides the tools and space needed to work on collaborative knowledge production, research, or learning and teaching.”

Admittedly, I was not very impressed when I finally saw it:

1.  On the wiki, it sounds very impressive and built my expectations overly high.

2.  The wiki description is a little incoherent and I’m not completely sure what exactly LibLab is.  It sounds like it’s trying to be everything.

3.  By calling it a “hackspace”, it implies that this is going to be very tech-centered, maybe beyond the comprehension of average people like me.

There are some redeeming qualities to the LibLab:

1.  The project is very loosely defined and flexible and seems open to suggestions from the public.

2.  The project emphasizes roundtable collaboration and community learning.

3.  Despite its seemingly intellectual intent, the LibLab does have workshops and modules meant to educate the general public.  On my visit I had the chance to see their Wikipedia workshop for the community.

All in all, the idea of LibLab is exciting.  The execution just needs some work.

Visit LibLab at the Martin Luther King Library in DC before it disappears at the end of December.