Arrows speak louder than words


Navigational signage really seems to suffer in the suburbs. During my latest trip on the Metra train system, I came across the following sign: “Passengers traveling to Chicago should wait on east side of station by the shelters.” This has two problems. First, there’s no way to tell which direction you’re facing at the station. Second, there are shelters in at least two different places. Of course, I ended up going to the wrong one and nearly missed the train.

There are much better ways to design this type of signage. The key is to drop any assumptions and make the signs totally obvious — even for new visitors. For example, don’t assume that people will know which way is which. Instead, just put an arrow on the sign that points to where customers should go. So the instructions in my example would look something like this: “For trains to Chicago, wait at the last set of shelters ->”. As long as the arrow is pointing the right way, this direct approach will reduce errors and get people where they need to go.