As I was going over the Triboro Bridge on the way to JFK on Friday, I saw a metal staircase high above the traffic that construction workers use to access the top of the bridge tower. Seeing it from a distance made me appreciate for the first time that a staircase is great design. It’s better than a ladder in that it frees your hands, enabling you to carry things with you. Every 20 or so steps there’s a landing so that you can rest. Each step is evenly spaced so that you can work up a momentum without having to accelerate or decelerate. The railing is there on the side to hold on to if you need it, but out of your way if you don’t.
In thinking about all of this, I realized just how much the design of the staircase is analogous to user experience design. The right design enables people to get somewhere that seems far away at first, but with the right structure, pacing, rest stops and support, feels quite effortless in the end.
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