Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Signage and Mr. Google

This continues  the quest to poke fun at ambiguity.  In every library orientation we warn students that Google is great tool, but it is not without its limitations.  Google uses algorithms to match the search request.  Google maps is no better.  Last Friday on a trip to St. Louis we wanted to visit Forest Park.  My daughter wanted to go to the ice skating rink.  Since Forest Park streets are very curvy and require lots of signs to navigate, I turned to Google for directions.

Google told me to go east on Forest Park Expressway, exit Kingshighway and turn right on Hospital drive. The ice skating rink is indicated on the map by the little red oval at the end of Jefferson Drive.

Going south on Kingshighway the directions said to turn right on Hospital Drive.  The only problem is that we could see the street sign marked “Hospital Drive.” (We were not using the GPS because we didn’t have one.)  The sign in huge 18 inch letters said, Barnes-Jewish Hospital Plaza.  When I knew we went to far we tried the first street that we could turn right.  It took a long time to get in to Forest Park because we couldn’t just turn around.  When we entered the park we followed the signs to the ice skating rink.  Soon we saw signs indicating street parking for the rink, but we couldn’t see the rink.  I saw a sign the indicated a parking lot, but did not say enter her for the skating rink.  The sign indicated that there was a dead end.  I thought entering would be a mistake.  We found ourselves back on Kingshighway and entering the hospital grounds.  I turned around and crossed Kingshighway and then saw the tiny “Hospital Drive” sign.  We went down the dead end street and finally found the parking lot and at the end of the parking lot was the ice skating rink. 

Google was absolutely right in the directions, but the directions combined with the confusing signage wasted more than 20 minutes of our time.  Next time we’ll know the way. 

I love to make fun of signs when they are not helpful.  People who make signs should test them the verbiage on neophytes, people who have no prior knowledge on the place.  On the highway on another day there was a sign that indicated the left lane was closed ahead.  It was really the right lane that was limited.  Another sign told me I need to exit on 38b, but neglected to tell us the exit was on the left.  I was in the right lane.  If traffic would not have been light, I would have missed my exit and ended up on the bridge to Illinois.

If you make a sign, make sure to test it or the signage patrol will poke fun at it and people will not get the message.