When you are very late to the airport for your flight, the information that is critical and that which is ‘nice to have’ becomes very clear. Yesterday, while racing through Heathrow and then again through Brussels airport for my connecting flight brought this home to me.
Going through security, I scanned my boarding pass, it took a few seconds before it let me through. Felt like an eternity. Then it green check mark appeared with a message to go to gate A18. Super useful.
If you’ve been to Heathrow’s terminal 2 you’ll know why. Terminal 2 has A and B gates. To get the B gates, you need to descend some of the longest escalators around, then walk through a super long tunnel, then ascend escalators again. The tunnel itself is good 5 minutes if you are full on sprinting. Thankfully I didn’t need to navigate the tunnel this time.
Weirdly, airports are not designed to get you quickly to your gate. They are designed to make you meander past as many shops as possible. Flight status screens are not easy to read when you are running passed, anxious, and late. In many ways, airports are designed to slow you down. I also couldn’t find out my gate number until I got to Heathrow; nothing was online.
The requirements for design look different depending on the story we view them through. My information requirements from an airport looked radically different yesterday then they do normally where I am not late. The more stories we hear the better we understand the problem we are trying to solve and the better we can make the experience.
The flip side of this is once we hear lots of stories, we’ll need to make choices on who to serve as some requirements will be opposite of each other.