Keeping the trust of the user

There was an article this week on the BBC Magazine webpage about whether or not pressing the button at pedestrian crossings actually does anything.  Interestingly the answers was “not always”.  It seems there are a number of types of crossing, especially at junctions, where the green man  is just part of the natural cycle of the lights and the timings are not impacted by pressing the button.

There are a few interesting behavioural questions raised by this. Is there value in us at least feeling like we are having influence by pressing the button?  Arguably, it gives us a sense of having some control.

However this is quickly undermined once we start to feel like there is no genuine impact.  We start to not trust the device and, in this case, maybe incidences of “jaywalking” increase with the inherent safety issues.

The implication is that the importance of trust should be carefully considered by designers and engineers.  Another example: we’ve all experienced the VMS signs on motorways telling us to slow down as there is congestion ahead and all too frequently nothing appears and clearly the sign was out of date.

So we stop trusting them and we don’t always slow down which could be a problem when the congestion is genuine.

For the pedestrian crossing issue, one direction could be to remove the crossing control from those crossings where they don’t have an impact.  The counter-argument is about consistency and the control panel providing the pedestrian with a strong visual clue of a safe place to cross.  Any thoughts?



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