The triumph of the human element.
To exit the UCLA family pool via the disabled access ramp (the shortest path to the parking lot) one must pass through an electric gate. There is a sign near the gate that says, "To open gate, push red button". The button was replaced recently, and the new button is black, but the sign was not changed. The button has a new metadata tag though.
I’m thinking a lot about the shopping experience these days. And as my wife just returned from a weekend in Cairo, Egypt, we’ve talked a lot about bazaars.
In a strange way, this seems related to some of the issues we ponder when creating e-commerce experiences. Findability in particular, doesn't seem to be a universally positive trait.
In the built environment – and quite apart from the cultural issues (American-style malls are sterile and repetitive) - I suspect the true value of a bazaar is that it creates an atmosphere of discovery. After all, who has ever made a good shopping discovery in a sterile and repetitive environment? That’s why people of all cultures flock to their local equivalent of a bazaar, flea market, boot sale, bargain bin, Loehmann’s Back Room, etc.
Antiquarian book collectors speak of “sleepers.” These are rare volumes that have been overlooked (and underpriced) by the shop owner. If you want to find a sleeper, you have to find a cluttered shop, plow through the teetering stacks, and probe the mildewed boxes. It is rare to find a sleeper in a posh antiquarian book shop where every volume has been perused by several experts, carefully categorized, and reverently displayed on an appropriate shelf. Dust is optional.
The Great Bazaar in Cairo is interesting. On one side of the road are shops specifically created to entice tourists. On the other side of the road, you’ll find the Egyptians. Both sections are exciting. But the south side is honest; the north side is pure fantasy.
Today, in our eagerness to promote findability, we have perhaps neglected serendipity. Not that messy design can effectively recreate the bustle of a bazaar or the claustrophobia of a junk shop, but we probably should be thinking about ways to encourage exploration and discovery as a way to enhance the user experience.