User centered thinking - whats the right speed limit in a garage

User centered thinking - whats the right speed limit in a garage
Photo by Josh McCausland / Unsplash

What is the right speed for driving a car in a car parking lot? What is the acceptable speed range that we should be driving in a car park?

Is it 8, 15, 22 mph?

Coming to think of it — Who thinks about the user experience of driving through a parking garage?

These questions were on my mind as I joined a line of drivers behind a person driving 8 mph in the parking lot — a bit frustrated and angry. Last night, on the other hand, a car driving at 22 mph in the same parking lot scared me as I had but a second to swerve out of its way.

Back to my thinking — Who designs the UX for the garage and why did this person decide not to put a dividing line through the entire parking lot?

Recently, the San Jose 4th street car parking garage upgraded the experience of the car park garage. There is a new fancy led gate that lights up green or red as it scans your badge.

Seemingly, the old analog gate was not good enough!

A UX person must have designed the new gate after deliberating on the best value to bring to the end users. There must have been product management involved, a business case, outsourcing to China — a long series of steps before this led gate landed at the 4th street garage. Let’s not forget, that there must have been a proposal to the car park owners about the benefits of the lit gate. The proposal convinced them successfully that this investment was a reasonable ROI.

How did everyone miss the fact that a gate need not have leds to light up red for people to know that it is closed? After all, humans have survived the last 5000 years with no led gates — haven’t they?

I am willing to bet none of these folks talked to the regular end user — namely someone like me.

Too often, you see products being designed without talking to customers. Too often, users are not given guidance on the goldilocks zone for using the product as it is meant to be used. I used to call it the “lit path” as I product managed my product. A lit path defines the guardrails that give the user the best experience or in other words sets up the goldilocks zone to use the product.

Product designers could do with customer centered focus that thinks about the needs of the customers.

So coming back to the original question — what is the right speed range for driving through SJ 4th car park?

To come to an answer, I have driven through this garage at multiple speeds and my unscientific conclusion is that 12–16 mph is the goldilocks range that doesn’t frustrate or endanger others.

8 mph is too slow and 22 mph is definitely too fast.

The California law on the other hand states

Even if a speed limit is not posted, the prima facie speed limit in parking lots is 15 mph as established by California law.

Clearly, the DMV hasn’t thought about the goldilocks zone either.