The UX Critic: SoundTransit – Exit on your right. No, your other right.

In the mid 90’s, I spent a lot of time using all forms of mass transit in Europe. I can’t tell you how many times in Germany I heard the phrase telling passengers to be careful while boarding, the doors close automatically. The choice few words varied by country and for some reason the phrases have always interested me. It’s somewhat like a call to action on a website – you’ve got just a sentence or two where people are going to pay attention, so you choose your words with great care.

I don’t ride light rail in the US very often. In the Seattle area, it’s fairly new. Recently I was on the SoundTransit light rail system and was comparing it to my experiences in Europe.

The first issue was pointed out by visitors who were confused as to what stop they needed. I didn’t notice this at first, and then a local pointed out to them the sign listing the stops was backwards. The train travels North and South. The graphic they used on the West side of the train was the same as the one on the East side of the train. This is the first time I’ve ever run across a train or light rail map on a car that was not reversed based on which side of the train car it’s on.

Tip #1: Light rail station maps should have correct left & right orientation. For example, if the train is going to the right as the user is looking on the map, then the next stop on the map should be the one to the right of the previous stop.

That one is so painfully obvious, I’m disappointed I have to mention it. SoundTransit does show stops in different order on their website, depending on the direction of the route.

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