User Experience Magazine: Volume 7, Issue 4, 2008
Feature Articles: Usability in Transportation
Back in the day, Audrey Hepburn chattered away in a New York taxi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Then Robert De Niro wiped blood off the back seats of his cab in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic Taxi Driver. Next, Jim Jarmusch compared fares across four cities in Night on Earth. More recently, New York has had its act cleaned up, and the filmmakers have moved over to make room on the ride for information designers. Climbing aboard, what does a user-experience advocate take away from a yellow cab ride these days, and where’s she heading?
Safer Skies: Usability at the Federal Aviation Administration
By Ferne Friedman-Berg, Ph.D, Kenneth Allendoerfer, Carolina Zingale, Ph.D, Todd Truitt, Ph.D.
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The Atlantic City Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) human factors team evaluates air traffic control systems from a human-centered perspective using traditional human factors methodologies. This article discusses some recent projects that represent the variety and breadth of work performed at our lab. We recently examined how to handle a projected increase in air traffic over the next 20 years. The “Big Airspace” concept tested in this project allows controllers to reduce the minimum distance between some aircraft. It also allows controllers to be collocated in the same facility. Reduced separation provides room for more routes and allows controllers to sequence and space aircraft further from the airport. Collocation allows for enhanced communications between controllers. When controllers utilized the “Big Airspace” paradigm, we found performance, communication, and workload benefits.
In another recent project, we examined whether the design of safety alerts unintentionally makes it harder for controllers to respond appropriately. We found that controllers receive a large number of nuisance alerts daily, and we developed recommendations for improving the human factors attributes of the current alerting systems. In another recent study we examined the use of the National Traffic Management Log, which is a tool traffic managers use like a bulletin board to keep track of traffic initiatives. We found use of the tool provided time savings, reduced the potential for user error, and decreased workload. Not long ago, we designed and tested new interface concepts for use by tower controllers that allows them to organize aircraft on a display according to their positions on the airport surface. In an initial usability test, we obtained positive preliminary results and plan to test future iterations of the prototype. We believe that with the many human factors challenges faced by the evolving air traffic system, we will be busy supporting this interesting and challenging work for the foreseeable future.
Listen Up: Do voice recognition systems help drivers focus on the road?
By David G. Kidd, M. A., David M. Cades, M. A., Don J. Horvath, M. A., Stephen M. Jones, M. A., Matthew J. Pitone, M. A., Christopher A. Monk, Ph. D.
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Driving has long ceased to be simply about navigating from point A to point B. Increasingly, motor vehicles are equipped with complex navigation and entertainment systems that shift the driver’s attention and focus off the road. Switching attention between different systems can increase driver workload and distraction, especially when interfaces and controls are inconsistent across devices.
Recently, a new wave of infotainment devices adds voice-recognition technology in an attempt to reduce visual and cognitive demands on the driver. Specifically, Microsoft and Ford have collaborated on a new infotainment device, Sync, which allows drivers to interact with mobile devices using voice commands. This feature allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
Does Sync's voice activation technology improve upon its predecessors and minimize distractions to help the driver attend to the driving task? What is the impact of introducing voice activation and complex infotainment devices to such a large demographic? This article provides detailed analyses of Sync in an effort to answer these questions and understand the true user experience.
Increased shipping at higher speeds will be the result of growing industrialization and increasing world trade. In spite of all the electronic navigation devices on a modern ship’s bridge, bridge crews sometimes lose their orientation. Reasons for this might be excessive cognitive workload caused by fatigue, short decision times due to high speed, or too many instruments to read and integrate.
An information design research project focusing on cognitive off-loading has allowed us to evaluate different ways of displaying navigational information. Traditionally, electronic charts and radars onboard are displayed in a north-up orientation. On south-bound courses, this requires mental rotations to align the chart or radar image with the real world. Research shows that mental rotations take time and are a possible source of error. This article presents an alternative way of displaying maps in driving situations to reduce errors.
The term wayfinding refers to the ways people learn, interact, and navigate in a space. People’s experiences finding their way in built environments depend on them easily knowing where they are and where they intend to go. Wayfinding studies have been conducted in cognitive science, geography, and urban related disciplines. Much of the focus of wayfinding research in public spaces is on the design of wayfinding aids such as signage and maps. This approach misses the key issue of structuring the built environment correctly in the first place so that people can navigate effectively.
Planning of spatial structure and design of wayfinding aids are equally important to reduce and solve wayfinding issues in public spaces. Wayfinding design needs to be approached in a holistic manner that includes the legibility and readability of spatial structure as well as wayfinding aids.
In a busy, fast paced, and congested city like Hong Kong and in similar cities around the world, a good transportation system is imperative to ensure people can move around efficiently, effectively, and satisfactorily. Transportation is becoming an important topic as governments, businesses, and citizens look at ways to become more efficient and environmentally friendly by encouraging the use of public transportation.
Key success factors in an efficient transportation system include the ability for people to access transportation options, find their way around a city, use ticket vending machines, and travel in safety and comfort.
The Octopus Card (a Smart Card technology) is a key component in the success of Hong Kong’s public transportation. In fact, the Octopus has been so successful that it has become the quasi standard for other uses. It can be used for purchases at convenience stores, supermarkets, car parks, clothing outlets, coffee shops like Starbucks, and pharmacies. Its use is so ingrained that the Octopus is a card and service Hong Kong people cannot live without.
This article describes how the Octopus card shines as a transport currency, serving as a showcase and example for other transportation systems around the world, and setting the standard in both user experience and service design.
While there is substantial literature on how to conduct usability evaluations, little attention has been paid to how usability evaluations lead to recommendations for change. If the wrong solution is suggested for a problem, or if the recommendations are not taken seriously, a usability evaluation may be a costly boondoggle that has little impact on the design. High quality recommendations for change help to ensure that evaluations make an impact on system development.
Problems with the quality of recommendations include recommendations that are not actionable, ones that developers are likely to misinterpret, ones that are more costly than the problems they address, and ones that do not solve the usability problem. This article discusses guidelines for useful and usable recommendations, that is, recommendations that are likely to be accepted, that can be implemented, and that significantly improve the system.
The article is based on a comparative analysis of recommendations for identical usability problems submitted independently by eight experienced usability professionals, including each of the authors. The article presents and discusses ten guidelines for useful and usable recommendations, including “Make recommendations constructive and direct”, “Provide detail”, and “Recommend the least possible change”. The article also presents six guidelines on the process of creating great recommendations, including “Understand how it works” and “Tweak but verify”.