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Mindgames at Toys’R’Us

Posted on | September 3, 2010 | No Comments

In what appears to be an attempt to speed up the lagging evolution by weeding out the slow-brained, Toys’R’Us store in Redwood City, CA put this sign on its automatic sliding glass entrance door. David graciously took this photo for me as my camera was showing no signs of life.

Entrance Only sign at Toys'R'Us

Entrance Only sign at Toys'R'Us

What a fine example of a GUI twilight zone! Expertly blending the internationally recognized STOP/DO NOT ENTER icon design pattern with, essentially, an invitation to enter the store, Toys’R’Us caused my brain gasping for air while trying to reconcile the two. When we approached the glass door, the first reaction was, obviously, to not enter. After all, we all know what a red circle with a white brick across means. In any language and in any country. So, I started towards the other set of sliding doors. Turned out they had a similar (except yellow with a black brick) sign that said “Exit Only”. Which caused me to re-examine the original red sign and this time to actually read the words. Cautiously, we approached the door, still not completely sure if this was, in fact, the entrance (only). It was – the doors slid open.

Fascinating. Being a designer, I come across usability issues on the web all the time. I am used to it. But even in the virtual world, I rarely see something so disconcerting for the brain! When a person going through a sequence of actions on the web, an unclear next step makes a difference between a happy user (bought product, signed up for service, etc.) and an unhappy user (left the website unable to accomplish the goal). If I faced a similar navigational problem on a website, I would have abandoned it and looked for what I needed elsewhere. But in the brick-and-mortar world, we already drove to Redwood City, dealt with the weekend shopping traffic, found a precious parking spot… We weren’t going to leave so easily.

One is left to wonder what made the store managers decide to slap this sign on the door instead of a plain and simple “Entrance”. What bizarre occurrence or faulty logic led to this decision?…

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