I’m working on-site at the premises of a large multi-national company. The entry to the offices, where the cubicle farms are, is controlled through an access card. There are three “doors”, each “door” with three panels (or doors), 120 degrees apart, housed in a casing. (I’d have posted a picture, but I am not sure if I am allowed to take one.)
You get in by swiping your access card over a card reader (that’s almost horizontal) that has three small lights. You swipe when the light is orange. Then, the card reader makes a sound and the green light goes on for an instant. You step into the door area, push the door (panel) and move in. Voila.
Sounds simple, except it’s not, especially when there’s a bunch of people going through. The same doors are used to enter and exit. So, if there’s someone at the other end, you’ve got to watch that they’re not swiping. That’s the easy part.
When you swipe, you may hear the sound from someone else’s swipe because it’s the wonderfully distinctive, same beep sound that they’ve used. And, you may not see the tiny green light, because your card is over the reader and display. Superman wouldn’t have a problem because he has X-ray vision, but normal mortals might.
Also, if you delay in getting into the door area after swiping, or if you have a misstep, you’re locked out. If you try to swipe again, the red light is displayed and you can’t swipe again for two minutes, so you have to wait.
I’ve been locked out twice, in two days, and I dread going through the doors. I feel like a complete technological dinosaur when I go near the doors.
Why? Because the designers made it so complex.
What was the goal? To control access and to ensure that two people don’t get in at the same time with one swipe. They accomplished their goals, with one small problem.
They made it painful for the user of the door by making the lights tiny, putting the card reader a little away from the doors, and putting three doors that give identical beep noises next to each other. There go your basic feedback mechanisms. Also, the doors take their own time moving, so it’s a slow process when you have many people trying to get in or get out.
Maybe the system functions so well because no usability testing was done. Applause please.
Tomorrow morning I get to try adventures in door-opening again. If you see someone standing sheepishly near a door, it may just be me. Come and say Hello. I promise not to bite your head off.
Unless, you’re the one that designed the doors.