Joking about lift button design with my colleagues today I recalled that internet usability guru Jakob Nielsen recently admitted to a contract for just such a task (though doubt he contributed to the Random Lift Button project from Chris Speed, where you press a button marked ‘R’ and it takes you to a random floor):
Have you been asked to do any weird or interesting projects recently?
JN: Well, we had one where we worked on elevator control buttons. It wasn’t something that was crying out for usability, but it’s an example of the fact that anything can be made a little easier to use if you bother to look at it with the right mindset.
What did you recommend?
JN: Well, that’s confidential from the point of view of the client. I wouldn’t say we made these elevators twice as easy to use, which we typically say about a website. But if you think about the amount of time people press an elevator button a day, even a few percent better would be worth doing.
Funny really as I was once in a lift with my mother and two brothers as a teenager and saw the lift had an off switch and of course flicked it. Never seen someone lose their cool so fast.