Confusing elevator buttons

“You’re on 33”

I went to the 2016 UXPA conference in Seattle recently and stayed in a hotel downtown. I’d been to Seattle once many years before and I loved it. Like the first time I went the weather was perfect. There’s nothing like a sunny and beautiful 65 degree day with a slight breeze. My kind of town. I took a shuttle from the airport to my hotel. When we arrived I got out, thanked the driver and made my way to the front desk to do the perfunctory check-in. When I was finished the woman behind the counter told me “you’re on 33”. I smiled and said thank you. I like high floors because you usually get some sort of good view. I walked through the lobby towards the elevator looking forward to getting to my room so I could relax for a while. I’m not a big fan of flying so the 5 hour flight from Atlanta was a bit stressful. I waited a minute or so for the elevator doors to open and I got in. When I turned to push the button for my floor I was confronted with this.

I froze. What in the …? Where am I? As I tried to think about where to even start I could sense my stress gauge start to work its way back up to flying level. I seemed to find the ’30 something’ area but still wasn’t sure where my finger should go. 35? No. 31? No. The hole between 28 and 29? No! Where is 33? There’s two of them! I pushed what seemed to be the correct button and the elevator doors closed. Where was I going? I had no way to be sure but I was pretty certain my room wasn’t on the same floor that I started on. Up I went with the horrible confusion of numbers until the doors finally opened to what seemed to be my floor. I looked around for my room number, found it and slid in my key card. It worked, I was where I was supposed to be! I didn’t want to do that again.

There are many reasons a design doesn’t come together. I takes work to solve a problem with a solution that is well thought out, elegant, and useful. When you encounter beautiful design you might not even know it, that’s because you don’t have to think about it. It effortlessly guides you to what you need and then confirms that you’ve achieved your goal. But bad design stands out like angry hornets at a picnic. You know it’s there and it completely gets in the way of having a nice day at the park. And you like picnics.