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Stupid Usability #43

Road Sign Madness

Written By: High Monkey
Posted: 4/14/2014

From the mind of Joel Baglien, VP of Business Growth at High Monkey:

Being proud of well marked roads may seem silly to some people but it is a source of pride for those of us who live in Minnesota. If you have driven in other States, you understand what it's like to navigate on poorly marked roads. Last October, my son and I went on a 3,300 mile motorcycle trip from Minnesota to Georgia and rode through 15 states. That trip gave us a greater appreciation for MnDOT and how most Minnesota roads are well marked. Our favorite bad road signs from our trip were the ones marking a "Y" split for two different roads at the apex of the "Y" - not before.
No one is perfect - road sign namers included. Maybe what prompts this stupid usability post is MnDOT, probably the county, and several cities. Don't know - Don't care! All I know is the sequence of road sign photos that follows is road sign usability at its stupidest - I just prefer to call it maddening.
So . . . You are driving along and see a typical Minnesota road sign for right lane exit.

I can deal with a sign that calls out two county roads (81 and 109) as well as Bottineau Blvd, and 85th Ave N. I get the whole multipurpose thing and that with construction over time lots of roads intersect. Four road names on one exit sign? Not good usability but manageable when you are driving at 55 MPH.
For arguments sake, let's say I need to get to County Road 81 heading North. About 100 feet into the exit I see another sign on the left that calls out three ADDITIONAL roads; County Road 130, Brooklyn Blvd, and 77th Ave N with an exit for the right lane only. It's a little confusing since I'm now on ONE exit for SEVEN different roads. Usability for this exit starting to become stupid.

I'm still looking for County Road 81 and notice there is a sign on the right side saying "Osseo Follow North 81".
I'm golden right?

So here's where the usability of this exit goes completely stupid. I have a visual cue on the left side that says "Right Lane Exit Only". I see a sign on the right for the road I want (County 81) so I assume that will be a right lane exit too. My mind has told me to stay to the right as I try to filter out the clutter of all the road names while still driving about 50 MPH. At this point, the exit widens and becomes two lanes - another visual cue that I'm still golden if I stay to the right.

For no apparent reason, about another 100 feet down the exit, is a sign ON THE RIGHT saying "North Hennepin Comm College LEFT LANE." More confusing messages and reversed visual cues. At this point my inner dialog is, "Sign on the left tells me right lane exit, sign on the right tells me left lane exit, but the road I want was just marked on the right side." I'm still thinking County Road 81 has to be a right lane exit but I'm not sure. You might be thinking that too, but . . .

BZZZZZZ - you would be WRONG! Let's do the ol' switcheroo and make County Road 81 North a left lane exit AND let's mark it right where the lane splits. I felt like I was back in Georgia for a moment at a badly marked "Y" split.  Fortunately there were no cars behind me so I could pull into the left lane in time to make the exit.
I'm still wondering what the heck happened to County Road 130, Brooklyn Blvd, and 77th Ave N.
I want to thank MnDOT, the County, Cities, all the urban planners who contributed to this mess. The example of stupid usability in this posting shows what happens when you have authorship by committee, no consistency in naming, no clear plan for placing road signs, no consistency in messages, and conflicting visual cues. Almost every rule of good usability was violated in the labeling of this particular road exit. It all adds up to road sign madness.

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More About Virgil

Virgil Carroll is the owner and president of High Monkey – based in Minneapolis Minnesota. Virgil also wears the multiple ‘hats’ of Principle Human Solutions Architect and SharePoint Architect.

Virgil is one of those rare individuals who can dive deep into technical topics while speaking clearly to the business owners of a project and never forgetting that the end user experience has the highest priority. He calls it using both sides of his brain. Virgil is passionate about leveraging technologies ‘out of the box’ as much as possible with a focus on the strategic use of content to create websites that deliver the right content to the right audience on the right device at the right time. Virgil brings high energy, an ironic wit, and a sense of grounded perspective whenever he speaks to an audience. Virgil regularly speaks at conferences and user groups throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe.

Posted: 4/14/2014 12:00:00 AM by Brian Haukos | with 0 comments