The story of a warning sign at Farringdon station

I noticed a big yellow sign warning at Farringdon Station, giving drivers an important message to do something. When there’s a message added after the fact, whether it’s hand written on a dashboard, a post-it note on a computer monitor or a big poster at a train station, it’s a usually sign there’s a design problem.
farringdon_station_warning_full
After some research on Wikipedia, the Pantograph is pretty important element of the train as it provides power. In this case, it provides power to the train outside of central London where there’s not a third rail powering the tracks.
pantograph (or “pan“) is an apparatus mounted on the roof of an electric traintram or electric bus[1] to collect power through contact with an overhead catenary wire.
So why is there a warning telling drivers to lower it? What happens if they forget to lower it? After a quick google search, I found an incident at Blackfriars in January 2014 which caused major delays after the holidays and guess which station they were coming from… yep, Farringdon!
‘Today at 10am a Sevenoaks-bound service broke down at Blackfriars railway station after one of the pantographs, used to collect power from overhead lines north of Farringdon, hit the ceiling.
Interesting that a simple warning sign at a station has a much bigger story.
With thoughts of designing experiences and users not reading anything, I question the effectiveness of a sign and trusting that the train driver will read and respond to it every time. It may provide a short term fix but ultimately this needs to be incorporated into the design of the trains and the platform to prevent the train from continuing when the pantograph needs to be lowered.
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The coffee mug experience AFTER you’re done

I received a Guinness coffee mug as a birthday present and I take to work in the morning and get it filled at Moh’s Coffee truck at Hackbridge train station. He makes a great coffee and even tailors it to my taste. I like using the mug because it doesn’t waste a paper cup and I don’t have to find a bin when I get off the train.
guiness_mug
The one problem I’ve encountered is that the coffee mug is designed in detail for coffee drinking (a must!) but not for after you’re done with the coffee. It could do a better job of handling the post-coffee drinking experience. Here’s my observations:
What I Enjoyed – the mug does well to optimise the drinking experience
  • Slider on the lid to prevent spillage
  • Insulated material to keep the coffee warm
  • Tiny air hole on the lid to help the coffee flow better
  • Lip on the lid to making drinking drip-free
  • Plastic insulation avoids the nasty metallic taste of metal lining
What annoyed me – post coffee drinking experience
  • The mug HAS to remain vertical – on its side, coffee leaks out the air hole and slots in the lid slider. On a train or tube journey, it’s almost inevitable that a mug in your bag, on your lap, or in the drink holder of your rucksack is going to go horizontal at some point. It could be on a busy train trying to balance the things in your possession or when you get to the office and put your bag down or arrive home and place it on the floor or counter. There are a lot of scenarios. My point is, coffee drips in your bag or on your clothes are annoying!
  • Cleaning – the lid is difficult to clean and requires scrubbing around the slider part of the lid where coffee congregates and hardens.
Observation: I don’t see many people using coffee mugs
With that being said, I’m a big fan of my coffee mug. When I look around, I don’t see a who lot of people who bring mugs to get coffee in the morning, at least not on the train. The vast majority are holding a cardboard cup from their favourite shop: starbucks, nero or costa to name a few popular choices. Why aren’t people using them more?
How do we get people to use their own mugs more?
A few ideas:
  • Incentivise – bigger discounts (most already have small) and advertise mug reuse more
  • Make people aware of the damage
  • Make them dead easy to clean – nobody likes a stinky coffee mug
  • Reminders – people forget to bring their mug into the shop

Sainsbury’s self-service checkout is aware but not helpful

I was buying a few things from a Sainsburys local at lunch time. I used the self service checkout stand and scanned my items in. I then “used the touch screen to complete my purchase” as the voice said out loud to me. I inserted my card but didn’t press the “debit/credit card” button. I got an error: “please press the card button”. Clearly the machine is aware that I’ve inserted my card because it’s giving me an error message. The question is, what does it need to give me an error? When it detects that I’ve inserted my card, it should jump to the card payment option automatically and allow me to enter my PIN. There are unneeded steps in this process.