Good and Bad Design on the Streets of Berlin

Today, I’m featuring two user interface examples outside of software. The first is great, the second is difficult to use.

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The first design is the placement of maps on Berlin’s subway cars, which are located on the ceilings of cars. This is a terrific idea! If the designer had put maps on the walls or floor, passengers standing near maps might prevent others from reading them. I feel that this is an enormous help to riders.


The second example is this device. Do you know what it does by looking at it? How do you operate it? I’ve tried pressing the top piece and the circle with three dots, but nothing happens.

This device is a crosswalk switch. The button is located underneath the device; users have to press upward to activate the crosswalk. I think this design is unintuitive, since there are no signifiers or affordances. The icon is similarly confusing. I have no idea what it means. At least the device is painted a bright shade of yellow, which helps it stand out from the gray metal and concrete.

To improve this crosswalk button, I would replace the icon with an image such as a walking person. Additionally, I would move the button to the front of the device to make it visible. Finally, I would avoid adding any language-dependent labels. That should make it easier for people to use, no matter what language they speak.

What good and bad designs have you seen on the street?

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