UX Writing and Travel

My husband and I both work in UX, which means that every experience we share gets analyzed. Even more so when we're travelling. I often quote one of my favourite memes when we're abroad: Not sure if stupid, or instructions unclear.


In Don't Make Me Think, one of the top design books, the author argues that there's rarely a reason to blame the user: 9 times out of 10, the design (layout, copy, etc.) is at fault. Or, at the very least, there aren't sufficient error prevention safeguards. And each trip seems to confirm that theory at every step.


At the airport:

  • Security signs with contradictory directions and instructions

  • Having to upload COVID documentation, despite countries no longer requiring it

  • Bag requirements listed as "small," instead of clear measurements


On public transportation:

  • Tickets needing validation before hopping on a bus or tram

  • Doors requiring a specific signal to open

  • Cash machines not listing which bills are accepted


On the streets:

  • Crosswalks changing from green to red immediately with no sound, flashing, or yellow indicator (Looking at you, Zagreb)

  • Crosswalk buttons providing no feedback after pressing

  • Bike lanes that intersect with busy walkways


At restaurants:

  • QR code menus with slow-loading content

  • ATMs not clarifying the conversion rate and added fees

  • Restroom locations not clearly indicated


In hotels:

  • Electricity that won't turn on without a keycard

  • Showers that require an engineering degree to turn on

  • TV and AC remotes with dozens of buttons


In tourist traps:

  • Museum plaques with nonsensical translations

  • Tickets available for purchase only to those who have a smart phone

  • Exhibitions arranged with multiple entry points, making you feel like you're missing rooms


Listen: we can all be dumb sometimes. Jet lag and being in a foreign place are already enough to kill a few braincells, but good UX writing and design takes those extraneous circumstances into account. It's not enough to ruin a trip, but imagine the frustrations that could be avoided with clearer content and thoughtful design. Next time you can't figure out how to buy a bus ticket or turn on the shower, don't automatically blame yourself. Maybe it's just a case of instructions unclear.

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