Form One Line Here

August 4, 2017

Imagine you're at a grocery store’s self-checkout one day, ready to buy all those embarrassing hygiene products—because that's why self-checkouts were originally invented, right?—and you can't figure out where to get in line.

The “line” is a just a crowd of people. At the front, they're pausing and saying, "You go," and then, "No, you can go," in a battle of polite impatience. Meanwhile, a second kiosk opens up, unnoticed. The winner goes to the first open kiosk and there's a lag before someone pokes the new front of the line to take the second.

Laying off to the side is a sign on the floor. "Form One Line Here," it says. You walk over, put the sign back in its place, and head to the back of the crowd.

Slowly, a line forms behind the sign. Order is restored. People are moving and the line is quickly diminishing.

That's the essence of user experience design. It's not always as simple as a fallen sign, but it can be.