Observation: Crosswalk Button

The Task:
The intended task associated with this device is “to cross the road”. The Crosswalk Button serves one purpose: it allows for the pedestrians to appeal for the motor traffic to stop so that they can cross the road. The user presses the button and waits for the ‘walk’ sign. In some ways the expectation a user has from the device is very similar to that of an elevator button.

User Behavior:
In theory, this is very logical. Press the button – and wait for the light to switch to ‘walk’. However, a common behavior I noticed, is that people pressed the button several times. In some cases it seemed like a sign of restlessness and in others, the user just wanted to make sure he/she pressed the button and that it is working.

Advantages:
The Buttons are very appropriately placed as they are accessible to users of all heights and are very clearly visible. Their position and some of the signage too is indicative

Drawbacks:
One of the major drawbacks that the crosswalk buttons have, is that they lack any instant feedback to inform the user that the button is activated – visual, auditory or tactile. In India, most traffic lights in big cities have a countdown visible to the drivers and pedestrians. This gives the user an assurance that the device is constantly responding to his/her appeal.

Some of the posts had a small signage that gave usage directions like.. “Press the button, Wait for the walk signal, then cross the road”. These signages also fail to communicate the amount of time one would have to wait till the Walk signal appears. Since the interaction occurs while the user is in the process of commuting, time is one of the key factors to consider.

Crosswalk-button_jerseyCity
Crosswalk-button in Jersey City

Going by Crawford’s definition, this activity is in no way interactive. The user assigns a task and the automated task is fulfilled by the device. In this case, the device reacts to the user’s input.

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