Observation task – Pick a piece of interactive technology in public, used by multiple people. Write down your assumptions as to how it’s used, and describe the context in which it’s being used. Watch people use it, preferably without them knowing they’re being observed. Take notes on how they use it, what they do differently, what appear to be the difficulties, what appear to be the easiest parts. Record what takes the longest, what takes the least amount of time, and how long the whole transaction takes. Consider how the readings from Norman and Crawford reflect on what you see.
Surely there are many devices and technologies we interact with every single day, however I would like to provide my feedback on the observation of traffic lights. First, I would like to separate the topic into two parts – traffic lights for drivers and traffic lights for pedestrians. Both of them have much in common, though the end users are different. In fact, traffic lights are one of the most important devices that are used in big cities as it solves transportation problem. I see it as a communication system between users (such as drivers and pedestrians) that controls the traffic flow. Traffic lights is a set of different signals, which are perceived as a call to action. Different countries has slightly different implementations, however the main idea is the same – ensure safe traffic control. In big cities there is a centralized system which provides additional tools to be able to remotely manage the device in real time. This is used to solve optimization issues as well as in emergency situations. In case of usability, it is easy to interact with. Only a simple guidance is more than enough to understand how it works.
Drivers: The most common traffic light signals for drivers consist of three lights following a universal colour code. Red light means STOP, green one GO, yellow one ATTENTION. The visibility depends on implementation, however it is believed that it should be always in front of the sight. Also, the lights are made big enough to be noticeable from very far. The context is simple – safely pass the crossroad. With the same traffic light interact different kind of people, with different behavior. They all the same set of conditions, so the rule of the game is same for all users. A duration of a single transaction varies, as the interaction starts and ends at diverse moments. Start of the interaction is considered to happen at the moment driver is approaching to the crossroad. Whilst, the interaction ends as soon as he/she passes the crossroad. And this cycle happens on every road enriched with traffic lights. Usually, the interaction should not take more than a minute – starting from STOP command and finishing up with GO.
Pedestrians: Traffic light signals for pedestrians usually consist of two lights. The color coding are different from country to countries. In New York City, there is a Red stop sign and white Go sign. For pedestrians some crossroads are enriched with sound signals prepared – so as soon as crossing street is allowed you hear sound beeps. This solves accessibility issue for blind people. However, people are interacting with the traffic lights in different manners. When in a hurry, people try to cross the street even when it is not allowed, so at their own risk.
I noticed the waiting time sometimes an issue for both parts drivers and pedestrians. I assume there could be an alternative way to calculate the optimized waiting and crossing duration, for example, depending on the traffic, rush hour, etc.