Redundancy and visual cues

08Dec08

While walking past a hotel on Sunday, I noticed a very odd setup at one of their entrances. This particular entrance was closed, and there was a roped-off area in front of the doors. To any logical person, the barricade made it pretty clear that you had to use another entrance. But despite this, there was a big sign on the doors which bluntly said “These doors aren’t open.” Why, I wondered, did they have to repeat such an obvious fact?

Perhaps without the sign, some people still tried to get under the ropes and go into the hotel that way. Even if only 1% of guests couldn’t take the hint and tried to enter through those doors, the resulting confusion may have caused a lot of hassle for the hotel staff. So, they put up a seemingly redundant sign to help that small group of people understand the situation.

Is this approach redundant? Yes. But is it overkill? That depends on whether the sign or other messaging helps encourage the desired behavior. In cases like I described above, the undesired behavior may be quite costly for the venue or the customer. If a simple modification can cut down on those incidents, then a little bit of redundancy is a small price to pay for making everyone better off.



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