The interface design of the control panel for 1000 story building!

Twisha Mistry
May 14 · 9 min read

I am going to solve this design problem along with explaining my design process, so buckle up !

Assumptions I am taking for this exercise

Going far in future let’s imagine we have 1000 story building! The building is a small city and 1000s of people live and work there. There is everything a small town has, residential area, club, restaurants, offices, gym, school etc.

In that building how one would design the lift interface.

Plan to solve the problem

As we are building interface from scratch here, I would do this activities to successfully uncover the solution.

  1. UX questionnaire to stake-holdersf
  2. Analysis of Existing technology
  3. User Research and discover their needs and pain points.
  4. Defining concrete requirements
  5. Ideation
  6. Refining Solution
  7. Evaluation

UX Questionnaire

First of all I need to get my brief clear from stake-holders. I use a simple document and fill it. Like this one.

Goal of this document is to understand user and business goals along with technical constraints.

In this first phase I try to collect all information which are known for this problem.

Analysis of Existing Technology & Solutions

Analysis of existing solutions helps to see how people out there has solved the current problem and to discover that what works and what does not. This aids into taking decision while designing our solution.

(Keeping the defined users in mind I further evaluate the solutions)

Currently, we use just buttons for each floor but, we cannot obviously put 1000 buttons! One would reach the 1000th floor before they find the correct button.

I looked Burj Khalifa’s(tallest building right now) lift system.

They divided the entire building into different decks and areas. So express elevators take to the deck or area where you want to go. From there you can get a local elevator which takes you to the floor you want to go on. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/article/20100101/ARTICLE/301019919/1002

There also exists the solution concepts on the internet for the same problem.

Keypad

Using keypad data entry becomes easy to enter also it remains accessible since we can have brail engraved. In here it also shows the status about how many floors to go and where currently lift is as well as how much time it will take. This works for if all floors are similar, but here I am taking my imagination on run and assuming that there could be entire city in the building which means it would have school, park, shopping center, hospital in it.

There this solution will need to augment and have to display certain indicators about places in building.

Using Sliding interface

Using sliding interface has advantage of having no data entry and it also makes it more or less fast. Although, we have to reply of voice recognition to make it accessible for blind and handicapped people which is not good to 100% rely on as there could be change of accent, language issue because of which user may not be able to use lift properly.

Visual indicator about lift’s position is good to show status, however again this does not serve my problem of living entire city in. There are no indicators for special places in building.

Voice recognition

This solution is good for residential area, where generally person knows the home owner. To make this solution accessible one may have to add hard keypad. This again does not show any indications of areas in building.

It is also difficult and time taking for people with different accent.

User Research

I generally start my user research after my evaluation of current solutions because, it gives me idea about the problems people face and that gives me direction that where to ask questions and about what, what might be the pain points and what works.

After user research I make empathy map.

Making empathy map for each persona helps me uncover the small details and needs which I may have forgotten to serve. It helps to keep my solution more emotional and humane.

I also try to understand current pain points & goals, which helps me to understand requirements better.

For This exercise, I know certain things from my own observation of lifts with bad lifts interfaces. My daily commute to 28th floor of my building, and many more lifts exposures have served my quick & dirty research.

Lift panel should be placed at half way the maiden height of human so that anyone can access it. From a man of 7ft height to person in wheel chair should be able to access the lift.

Defining the Requirement

Using the evaluation of current solutions and User research findings we can list down the requirements.

In case that we have too many of them in the list, we can prioritise them, after that we can match our solutions with this requirement document to check how much it satisfies our user’s expectations.

Easy and Fast data entry (5)

Ease of Navigation in entire building (indicators of areas) (4)

Accessible (5)

Emergency Help (5)

Entertainment for longer travels (2)

Cleanliness (4)

Cozy Seating (3)

Ideation

Here I generate as many alternative ideas as possible for solution.

Idea 1

First I thought to keep the general elevator with digital interface. The lift would have entertainment system and sitting area as it might take quite some time to reach up.

I discarded this solution because it is not efficient, because if in lift there are people travelling to floors which are far apart, it will take really long time.

Hence I thought to divide the building in parts like Burj Does.

Idea 2

Divided building into different regions and designed two kind of elevators.

  1. express elevator which takes to desired area
  2. Local elevator, to explore that area.

This solution also works because it would be easy to segregate areas based on their function in the building. Assuming that building would be organised well and not the random clutter of different kind of business, residents & outlets.

Although, even if we divide buildings in 20 areas we are still left with 50 floors and lot of people to travel by local elevator. That too creates congestion.

Dividing floors further will only take us back to multiple stops issue with lift.

Idea 3

What if people give info about where they want to go before boarding the lift? Like we do while travelling by train.

I thought, for large building exploring it is like travelling in city. We can decide where we want to go before hand. We can have multiple panels from where a person can give input that where he /she wants to travel to. Lift system then calculate the fastest travel to the destination and give lift number and ETA to person. A person can track ETA to his own station from his app as well. ETA of lift coming there would be shown outside of that lift door.

This way we can handle congestion and mismanagement of lifts as well.

Shortcoming is that, we will need too many lift control panels outside and there would be lot of crowd going back and forth to their lift location.

(Imagine a big metro station with lot of crowd)

A successful solution will save people from congestion and wasted time.

Final Solution

Combining the idea 2 & idea 3, I thought that would make it easier to travel by lift and congestion would be less.

We can divide building in 10 parts. People can take express elevators from origin and destination floors. (0,100,200,300,…,1000).

Upon arrival on the floor there is left travel between just 100 floors. Still a lot, considering Burj Khalifa has 163 floors & 55 lift cars.

Now from here a person can take an access token (having number of lift he has to onboard) by adding the floor he wants to go on. Lift panels would be placed by every local lifts. Control Algorithm will calculate travel time and consider co-passenger’s stations and allocate the fastest lift car.

A person will drop the token to onboard the lift car.

Token —To avoid overload problem & help to remember lift car number : Token will not only help person to remember which lift car to onboard but will help lift control algorithm to avoid congestion, because everyone will need a token to access the lift car. Say, if a group of 5 is travelling. Each will have to take a token, hence lift control will be able to allocate lift based on total traffic, avoiding awkward situation where one person takes token and overload the lift by 5 people bugging whole system of lift.

User will follow these steps to travel

Case 1 : traveling from ground floor

Step 1. Take express elevator to desired floor’s area.

Step 2. Take an access token to lift for that floor.

Step 3. After reaching that floor use access token to get in that floor.

Case 2: traveling from a floor in one area to another.

Step 1. Take access token to take lift to reach express elevator lobby floor.

Step 2. Reach to express elevator lobby floor and take express elevator to desired floor’s area.

Step 3. Take an access token to lift for that floor.

Step 4. After reaching that floor use access token to get in that floor.

Case 3 : Emergency

Step 1. Press sos button

Step 2. Press it again after a small instruction to confirm it.

Elevator will take you to express elevator floor where floor assistant will take you to emergency room or help you to solve issue.

Evaluation

Here I am breaking the habit of entering floor number after onboarding a lift. That part needs usability testing that how easy or hard it is for people to treat lift as a railway.

In emergency person must come to express floor first and then he or she will be able to go down. Which might slow a person down as there is no direct route to floors apart from those areas. In case of medical emergency, This creates need of putting emergency room on each express floor, as we cant wait sometimes to reach to hospital in case of medical emergency. Hence we need to calculate data of emergencies and actions and see how much support we need to provide.

Panels are accessible, although token panels needs testing as people are not used to them. We can try iterating that.

Future Improvements

This solution requires improvements in emergency help and entertainment center of elevator. As it is a very long travel up, people may need entertainment, resting area in between.

Twisha Mistry

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A holistic designer, writing about her product design adventures and learnings.