Managing expectations with signage

02Jun08

While exploring part of Chicago’s underground Pedway system, I saw a sign pointing to a building that I didn’t think you could reach from underground. I followed the first sign and then a few additional ones until I reached an escalator to the building. However, the escalator was blocked off, and a small sign explained that the entrance was only available during business hours. At this point, my sense of discovery quickly gave way to disappointment.

Remedying this type of problem is really easy. If a sign directs people to a location that’s only open at certain times, the signage itself should disclose that limitation. I’m not talking about cramming the hours of operation into every navigational sign. Rather, you might create a special icon, write something like “Weekdays only”, or point people towards a more detailed resource, e.g. “See directory in concourse area for hours”. In reality, all you’re doing is setting proper expectations for what comes next in the journey. Do this well, and people will be much happier — even if what they’re looking for happens to be closed at that time.