An appreciation of a good explanation begins with noticing things around us that could use a better explanation. When we see what’s missing, it leads to asking questions about what could make it better.
The image above is an elevator panel for the only elevator for patients in a newly renovated medical building with two floors. I watched people approach the elevator and just stop, trying to figure out how to summon the elevator. Somebody on the medical staff has tried to make it easier by attaching two small white arrows by the only button that patients should use.
From a design standpoint, priority is given to firefighters and other emergency personnel with the appropriate keys. The red color and capitalized word labels make it easy for them to figure out what to do.
But what about the vast majority of people that use the elevator? There is no color or built-in arrow for direction or floor number to give any hint on which button to press.
Let’s try a redesign of the elevator panel. The window to indicate the floor is at the top followed by the button that patients need to push.
A re-ordering of the buttons with an arrow symbol by the elevator button helps a lot. A little bit of color such as green to indicate this button “goes” somewhere can also help.
Even little explanations can go a long way to making life easier.