We all have our irrational pet peeves. Our things that are “small potatoes” but make us want to gouge someone’s eyeballs out.
One of mine is people who don’t know how to drive in a traffic circle. You know the guy. That doofus that stays on the outside of the circle even though they’re going 75% of the way around the darn thing. Everyone sits waiting in suspense at the entrances to the circle, wondering “Will this be the lucky street that this fantastic driver turns on?” No one can tell. It literally could be any exit. And we all have to stay out of Captain Doofus’ way because you just… don’t… know.
Anyhow, I digress. One day I was entering a traffic circle and there he was. Captain Doofus. I started to mutter driving instructions for him. “Stay to the inside until you near your exit, dude!” At one point, while starting to yell out, “How do you not know how a traffic circle works, doofus!?” I realized . . . a lot of people do it wrong. And if that many people don’t follow the same process that I follow in a traffic circle, are they wrong . . . or is the traffic circle itself wrong?
If like 25% of users can’t use something correctly, the design itself needs to be reevaluated. This reminded me of education (as things tend to do). I can remember grading tests and groaning “ugh, they all got this question wrong!” After further reflection, I’d often realize that either the question was unintentionally confusing or my instruction had led them astray.
That’s an oft-forgotten reason that we do formative assessment. Not just to assess our learners, but to assess our instruction and content. If a large portion of our learners are confused, we need to re-think our strategies, design and assessment.
Unsurprisingly, there are a few recently built traffic circles in my area that have signs, lanes and arrows painted in the lanes. If the drivers were using the traffic circle wrong, you’ve got to change the traffic circle . . . because you can’t change all of the drivers! And these newer circles changed to accommodate the users.
The moral of the story – Captain Doofus may not be a doofus. You may have just designed a really confusing traffic circle. Or he may have attended a crumby driving school. But your best move is to design a more doofus-friendly traffic circle.