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Street crossings and user interfaces in Nashville January 31, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in city planning, nashville, NashvillesNews.net, Pontification, Urban Planning, user interface.
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Street crossings and user interfaces in Nashville
by Pontiff
The study of user interface would I suppose date back to when woman or man first picked up a stick and attempted to beat some animal into becoming dinner. (..”all in all a good stick but could have been more responsive to wrist movements…” ) UI study was elevated to consciousness by the PC, circa 1980s, and gained respectability when the web and particularly the web browser caused blood pressures to rise in the 1990s. Now we see user interface design in virtually everything. Good user interface designers have to be part psychologist, part phsyologist, part gerontologist and often urologists and ever other kind of ologist. In all that We’ve gained some understanding or should have of how the disabled interact or interface with everyday things.

This brings me to discuss my own disability or what others consider my disability — left-handedness. Its hard for you right handed people to grasp just how serious we lefties take UI design. Try putting yourself in our shoes for just one day. You’ll find you can’t use scissors, mirrors, and try wielding an assault rifle that has not been outfitted for left handed sighting and you’ll see why the lifespan of a left handed person is almost 12 years less than that of a righty.

Till tonight I’d questioned the accuracy of the lifespan thing since my left-handed grandfather lived accident free and in good health till he was 98. Tonight I had an experience that brought it all home. I’m glad for a chance to illustrate just how difficult this has been form me and my left handed brothers and sisters. Plus I get to use Google Maps for more than just a . hey look at this..

I was walking home from the Green Hills Club or The Club in Green Hills (side note: see if you can find their website which is the subject of another lesson in real life user interface) when I came to the intersection of Crestmoor and Hillsboro here This is a particularly nasty intersection with several closely spaced traffic lights in the middle of Green Hills which has to worst traffic on Earth (parts of Bangkok and Beijing come close). In my left-handed confusion I look for an indication of where to cross, anything to help me navigate the street in a safe and orderly fashion (well that’s a lie .. I was looking to see if there were any cops who might ticket me for jay walking but it leads to the same conclusion so shut up).

That’s when I saw the sign – “Crossing on South side of street ONLY”. Here is the essential difference between left and right .. handedness. The street crossing is designed no doubt by the same fellow who oversees usability at the Nashville International Airport — a Malthusian right handed chauvinist. Nashville isn’t New York where I could always tell North and South because I knew which streets ran East to West and could work out the South part by standing with my right hand pointing west and left hand east. This left my butt pointing south btw.

I looked for further guidance thinking how in the world am I supposed to know which side of the frigging street is north or south in a city where all the streets ran wherever? There was no button to push, no white lines in the street , nothing logical . So how am I supposed to know? I know that Allan Funt is dead or I’d think they had a camera on me. (I still think that’s makes more sense than anything).That’s when it hit me that the damn street was designed for right handed people. Only right handed people would be so anal as to have a compass with them at all times? How could I be so stupid I thought. Another example of how the majority oppresses. And its wrong okay. There should be some kind of crossing for left-handed people who don’t have a compass up their butts at all times. Even some right handed elderly peoople might have a hard time seeing the little hands. Add to that the pressure of being nearly blind with onrushing traffic, (the worst on Earth as I said), no sidewalks and not having any idea what to do other than pull out the laptop and go to Google Maps to find out which direction is south and whether the sign refers to the adjacent street or the tangential one. So okay, there is a Starbucks across the street which should have wireless if it hasnt been sued by Bellsouth.

I’m sure the conservative bloggers are reading this and thinking oh no! here they go again. Will the cradle to grave socialist mentality ever stop? You want us to do what? Put up street crossings? Do you know how expensive that is? No. actually I don’t. I might just opt for the old fashioned . CROSS THE FRIGGING STREET HERE, YES HERE WHERE THIS SIGN IS and leave out the need for a guide or skills at orienteering and guessing in general.

Sometimes.. good UI design means CUT THE CRAP. And if this stems for some secret agenda by the Purcell administration to weed out the old and infirmred for budgetary reasons. well okay. I understand. But .. but it might cause a lawsuit if they are from out of town.. Some day soon a right handed person will be killed at that crossing and you’ll be sorry. Then you’ll put up a sign.


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