My User Experience with the CIT Elevators

The Brown University Center for Information Technology is an interesting place, but one of the most confusing aspects of it is getting from floor to floor. In addition to stairs (which are quite difficult to find because they are behind discrete doors in the back of the building), the building has two elevators to get from floor to floor.

Constraints: In designing these elevators, one of the main constraints placed on the designers was the cost of the elevators. Brown probably did not want to spend a lot of money on elevators, so these run slowly and are mainly just here for functionality. Another constraint was the location of the elevators. There probably wasn’t space to put them side by side, so they had to put them as close together as possible, but it is hard to look at both of them at once. In fact, there are two doorway/hallway entrances between them.

Usability: These elevators are accessible and help people who are not able to use stairs. They are incredibly easy to get to from the entrance of the building. However, they are also incredibly inefficient. Since they are not connected to one another, most users (if they have used the elevators before) hit both buttons, waiting to see which elevator comes first, which slows down the elevators for everyone. If a user hasn’t used the elevators before, they’ll probably only hit one button and end up waiting a pretty long time for an elevator.

Tradeoffs: The location placement, slow speed, and unconnected button pressing of the elevators were probably a result of a tradeoff the designer had to make between cost of making great elevators in the given space and simple functionality. The designer likely could have chosen to have one very fast elevator for the same price instead of two slow ones, but they probably chose to have two in order to accommodate the most people possible.

Proposed Design Changes: If I were to make a few critiques to these elevators (while trying to maintain the same budget), I would definitely first and foremost connect the buttons, so that when you press one, you press both buttons. I think this is the most important thing because that would allow for both elevators to effectively serve their actual purpose and pick up twice the people. I probably would have sacrificed some of the interior design of the elevators, like the nice blue panels and carpet, in order to make this change. Additionally, if possible, I would place an additional button that serves both elevators somewhere between the two elevators. I think this simple design change could make it a lot more intuitive for users to determine which elevator to take… the answer? Both!

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