UX lessons from the Paris Metro

Paris is so beautiful, it takes my breath away. There’s one overlooked beauty that no one ever talks about: the Paris Metro.

The beauty of the Paris Metro is the clarity of its wayfinding system. In two minutes, you can master this system – even if you don’t speak French. Now, that’s what I call intuitive. With 16 lines and 303 stations, the system is huge. Despite its size, it’s easy to find your way.

Each line has two names associated with it – each name represents the last stop on the route. On my last visit, I started and ended every day on Line 11 (Châtelet and Mairie des Lilas). The Châtelet station is in the heart of the city, the Mairie des Lilas station is the final stop, just outside Paris.

The signage is so clear and helpful that you never feel lost even when transferring to other lines. If you have to wait, there is sign telling you when the next train will arrive. The wait was usually less than two minutes.

Takeaway – Finding your way in a new place can be stressful. If you’re creating an app or website, make your navigation intuitive so first time users get it. This takes the stress away and sets the tone for a great user experience.


Like this post?  Share it. Written by Don Seidenberg.

Do you really need the hamburger menu?

By now, you have seen those three horizontal lines lurking in the upper right-hand corner of many websites. Since it looks like a burger, many people call it the hamburger menu.

The hamburger menu is a visual cue. Click or tap it and the navigation appears. Designers like it because it’s visually appealing. Developers like it because it allows them to add more features.

In practice, it’s an obstacle that slows down the customer journey and adds friction to your website.

Let’s take a step back and think why the navigation menu exists at all. It helps visitors find what they’re looking for on your website. Like signage on a highway, it helps them get to their destination.

Clicking or tapping the hamburger menu takes visitors to another page to make a choice. For every page they want to visit, they must return to the hamburger menu and repeat this process.

First-time visitors come to your site looking for something and you’re adding a step to their process. In a world of fleeting attention spans, you’re forcing them to waste their precious time.

While the hamburger menu is unavoidable for cell phones, it’s not for laptops and tablets. Unless you have a compelling reason, don’t do it.


Like this post?  Share it.  Written by Don Seidenberg

Make your navigation like Schiphol Airport

Web writers, interaction designers and information architects can learn a lot from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Like the airport, our work depends on good user experience and helping people find their way.

Many website navigations offer too many choices.  As a result, people get lost. At Schiphol, you can’t get lost. The signs are clear, consistent and easy to comprehend. You are always presented with information when you need it and in a logical sequence. You are never overwhelmed with choices.

Paul Mijksenaar and his team designed the wayfinding (navigation) at Schiphol to address the needs of the stressed traveler. At his firm, every project starts with an expert walkthrough. The designer needs to understand the psychology of the traveler at every step of the long journey, which begins when leaving home and ends when boarding the plane.

Each sign provides just enough information so the traveler can decide the next step in the journey. In the parking garage, you are presented with the choice of departures or arrivals. At this point it’s too early to receive information about check-in or flights.

According to Mijksenaar, a user friendly navigation has a big impact on customer satisfaction and trust. For Mijksenaar, good signage is like being a good host. It reduces stress, makes visitors feel welcome and sets the tone for a pleasant experience.

You can do the same when you create the navigation of your next website. To learn more about Mijksenaar’s wayfinding principles, visit their website or download the app: 99 do’s and don’ts of wayfinding.

Like this post?  Share it.  Written by Don Seidenberg.

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