Underground stations can be confusing at the best of times. Our nearest station, Old Street has recently had an experience upgrade. Showing that simple things can make a big difference.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Old street underground station, it’s a relatively small station serving the Northern line and some mainline train services. It has 2 sets of escalators, with only 7-8 barriers. From this point you walk out into no-man’s land and you’re faced with a choice; 8 choices to be exact.
This is because the station is situated under a large round about. With 8 exits taking you in any direction at the 4 main roads. If you’re anything like me, and rely on Google maps just to get you down to the corner shop, then your first experience of Old street station can be a little frustrating: Exit 1 or exit 5? Is that the right road for where I’m going? Even though getting it wrong isn’t the end of the world and you can go back in and try again, it makes your experience of the underground just a tad more annoying, and it creates congestion and extra traffic in quite a small space.
Travelling through Old street every day I have long past the time where I had to choose between 8 different exits, not really knowing which side of the round about it would take me to. I now walk along in auto-pilot as most commuters do. However, Old street have recently embarked on a station revamp. I really love what they’ve done and really think it makes the experience of their station so much better.
From a dark grey station rebuilt in the 1960’s , Old street station has been transformed into a bright, colourful space.
Each group of exits have been split into coloured zones, which, so long as you aren’t colour blind, are easy to see as soon as you exit the barriers. Now instead of telling someone to look for exit 7, you can tell them to go for the yellow zone and turn left (not sure if that’s accurate, but you get the point).
Not only that, but the walls leading into the exit tunnels have been used to clearly highlight street names. So if you have a clue what street you need to be on, then you can figure this out before you’ve reached the exit itself. These street names are even repeated in your line of sight as you walk up the stairs. Nice touch, Old street.
And for those who are really lost, there’s a clear map explaining the zones and how they relate to the real world outside.
All in all, I think this is a great example of how small observations of behaviour can inspire simple ideas to improve user experience in any space.