Content Shape – Travelling With The User – Part I

We often forget that the content shape matters. And to illustrate what I mean exactly, I will tell you a short story.

Just before Christmas 2012, I took a day trip to Innsbruck, Austria – a wonderful place offering an amazing Glühwein made from white wine. At the end of the day, I found myself at the train station trying the figure out which platform my train will arrive on… And then I saw the only info panel available with three people standing in front of it and me not being able to see. And I am tall!

Content can be moulded into different shapes. They need to make sense to the consumer much more than to the people behind their creation.

Think of the content shape as a vessel! Vessels come in a variety of structures and forms. And nonetheless, they have one single purpose – transportation. Content needs to find its way and reach the consumer.

Additionally, to that, however, these vessels need to be taking a form that allows being used in the most frictionless way possible. And judging by the picture I took in Innsbruck, the last requirement was not met.

Creativity is important. However, its application should not be coming at the expense of the content’s purpose.

What could the designers at Innsbruck Central Train Station have done better?

The main idea of an info panel at a public estate such as a train station is to be visible.

Innsbruck Hauptbahnhof Info Panel - Content's Shape

Innsbruck Hauptbahnhof Info Panel – Content’s Shape

It is not visible in the photo, but the walls in the station main hall have these beautiful ornaments. This could be the reason the architects opted for the info panel to be placed right in front of the main entrance and in the middle of the main hall close to the elevators.

However, the block structure is big enough to feature at least a three times bigger LED panel that could feature the information in a way bigger and much more visible font. The directions at the top corners could be brought down a few font notches and give space to a bigger screen. This will allow the focus to be placed right on the first task people wish to perform – On which platform is the train I am looking for? Localising the platform and how to get there is a secondary task.

Whenever you have this kind of dilemma, always ask yourself which tasks the user is likely to take and in what order. The content shape does matter.

This post is part of a talk I gave at Bulgarian Web Summit on “Travelling With The User”. You can find the slides here

Copyright © 2017 Borislav Kiprin. All Rights Reserved.