"Way Out" vs "Exit" - Signage usability and passenger experience

1 Sep 2009 - 5:59pm
5 years ago
14 replies
4995 reads
Calvin
2008

Vancouver, Canada recently opened a new subway system called "Canada
Line" (http://www.canadaline.ca). While I notice quite a few issues
in the whole passenger experience, one thing that makes me wonder the
most is the exit sign: instead of printing "Exit", they use "Way
Out". My thoughts:

- "Exit" is almost the international standard word to indicate an
exit route. I believe most ESL people can still understand the word
and recognize it as symbol even if they don't know English.

- Don't try to be clever and reinvent the experience. Using an
example from Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think", one should use
well-known terms like "home", "about us", "jobs" instead of
"Learn More about Calvin", "Wanna get hired?"

- According to Jhenifer Pabillano from Translink.ca blog, the
decision of printing "Way Out" was made by the private contractor
InTransit BC, who thought "Way Out" was more descriptive and would
be easily understandable by an international ridership. (see #link1)
I am curious what matrix or user study, if any, they used to support
this argument?

For more details of my thoughts you may visit my blog at
http://calvin-c.com/blog/way-out

#link1:
http://buzzer.translink.ca/index.php/2009/08/canada-line-roundup-even-more-pics-and-video-and-passport-stamp-info/#comment-19912

Comments

1 Sep 2009 - 6:17pm
Diana Wynne
2008

Way Out also has the disadvantage of being a pun.
It might be fun and appropriate on a website, but as you point out, in an
airport, where people have plans to catch, the error could be a problem.

Note that at least in the US, FAA language is notoriously unfriendly to
regular people, let alone those who don't speak English as a first language.
Only on an airline would you refer to "lavatories" and "illuminating" the
seat belt sign rather than using more common words.

Diana

On Tue, Sep 1, 2009 at 8:59 AM, Calvin <jeepu at jeepu.net> wrote:

> Vancouver, Canada recently opened a new subway system called "Canada
> Line" (http://www.canadaline.ca). While I notice quite a few issues
> in the whole passenger experience, one thing that makes me wonder the
> most is the exit sign: instead of printing "Exit", they use "Way
> Out". My thoughts:
>
> - "Exit" is almost the international standard word to indicate an
> exit route. I believe most ESL people can still understand the word
> and recognize it as symbol even if they don't know English.
>
> - Don't try to be clever and reinvent the experience. Using an
> example from Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think", one should use
> well-known terms like "home", "about us", "jobs" instead of
> "Learn More about Calvin", "Wanna get hired?"
>
> - According to Jhenifer Pabillano from Translink.ca blog, the
> decision of printing "Way Out" was made by the private contractor
> InTransit BC, who thought "Way Out" was more descriptive and would
> be easily understandable by an international ridership. (see #link1)
> I am curious what matrix or user study, if any, they used to support
> this argument?
>
> For more details of my thoughts you may visit my blog at
> http://calvin-c.com/blog/way-out
>
>
>
> #link1:
>
> http://buzzer.translink.ca/index.php/2009/08/canada-line-roundup-even-more-pics-and-video-and-passport-stamp-info/#comment-19912
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

1 Sep 2009 - 6:58pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

>
> - "Exit" is almost the international standard word to indicate an
> exit route.

In Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, and Korea, the standard appears to be
"Way Out". I don't recall if these signs were used *every*where, but they
were definitely used in airports and subway stations, and frequently in all
kinds of public places.

I don't know why there is a split, but I've wondered if it's because "Exit"
sounds like a *command* (as in "Get out!"), whereas "Way Out" comes across
more like a street sign, simply politely telling you where you are.

-r-

1 Sep 2009 - 10:02pm
Adrian Howard
2005

On 1 Sep 2009, at 15:59, Calvin wrote:

> Vancouver, Canada recently opened a new subway system called "Canada
> Line" (http://www.canadaline.ca). While I notice quite a few issues
> in the whole passenger experience, one thing that makes me wonder the
> most is the exit sign: instead of printing "Exit", they use "Way
> Out". My thoughts:
>
> - "Exit" is almost the international standard word to indicate an
> exit route. I believe most ESL people can still understand the word
> and recognize it as symbol even if they don't know English.

I can't comment on numbers - since I don't have the stats - but I've
certainly noticed "Way Out" used in France & Norway where there was
signage in multiple languages.

It's the label I'd look for since it's the standard one in the UK
("Exit" normally being reserved for "special" routes like "Fire Exit",
"Emergency Exit", etc. rather than normal means of egress).

Cheers,

Adrian
--
http://quietstars.com - twitter.com/adrianh - delicious.com/adrianh

1 Sep 2009 - 10:06pm
Adrian Howard
2005

On 2 Sep 2009, at 00:17, Diana Wynne wrote:
[snip]
> Only on an airline would you refer to "lavatories" and
> "illuminating" the
> seat belt sign rather than using more common words.
[snip]

That reminds me of some rather uncomfortable times I had as a first
time tourist in the US before I figured out that labels like "comfort
station", "rest area" and "rest stop" meant "toilet".

("comfort station" in particular was a _very_ close call :-)

Adrian

--
http://quietstars.com - twitter.com/adrianh - delicious.com/adrianh

3 Sep 2009 - 7:20am
Roundand
2009

I'm a big fan of the yellow arrow-out-of-a-box icon for exit signs, as used
in UK railway stations

2009/9/2 Adrian Howard <adrianh at quietstars.com>

>
> On 2 Sep 2009, at 00:17, Diana Wynne wrote:
> [snip]
>
>> Only on an airline would you refer to "lavatories" and "illuminating" the
>> seat belt sign rather than using more common words.
>>
> [snip]
>
> That reminds me of some rather uncomfortable times I had as a first time
> tourist in the US before I figured out that labels like "comfort station",
> "rest area" and "rest stop" meant "toilet".
>
> ("comfort station" in particular was a _very_ close call :-)
>
> Adrian
>
> --
> http://quietstars.com - twitter.com/adrianh - delicious.com/adrianh
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
"Tigers walk behind me, they're there to remind me - I'm lost but I'm not
afraid" David Byrne and Brian Eno: Life is long

12 Sep 2009 - 3:11pm
Predrag Koncar
2008

Well, there is one explanation (not that I am quite comfort with
it)... In case of some kind of emergency, people can get confused by
EXIT and EMERGENCY EXIT signs. Those two exits can be different
(usually the em. exit is the shortest way out - while usual exit way
is longer).

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13 Sep 2009 - 12:03pm
Anonymous

At times I think our passion clouds our judgement and impacts our
professionalism. Through this thread there seem to be a number of
incorrect assertions that I find a bit alarming. Are we an
opinions-based community?

Is "Exit" an international standard? Clearly not, from what
people have said on this thread "Way out" is common in many
countries, including in the London underground, which has been used
as a benchmark around the world.

Emergency exit is not necessarily the shortest way out! Emergency
exit route is planned with consideration to situations like fire. It
therefore directs people through a safer route out, which could be
longer, not shorter (e.g. stairs instead of lift).

While "Exit" might be an uncommon word in written and spoken
English, it is one of the more prominent words in signage and as part
of wayfinding.

There is some international consistency in the use of safety and
warning colours. Accepted use for emergency exit signs is white text
on green background, which has different manifestations in different
countries, based on local standards and local building regulations:
in some countries it just says "EXIT" In others it just shows the
pictogram of a man running through a door and elsewhere it has both.
In some countries it is bilingual. Often, the word Emergency is not
included in the sign. In many places Emergency exits are not reserved
only for emergency (some theatres, shopping malls) and in other places
they are.
What might add to the confusion regarding purpose and nomenclature is
that emergency exit sign location planning is typically done by the
architects and Wayfinding sign content is planned by a separate
consultant.

~ j

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14 Sep 2009 - 1:16am
Diana Wynne
2008

But there's English and English, and you've just asserted "clearly"
international "standards" that aren't standard in my part of the world. This
isn't an opinion, but a matter of localization and cultural sensitivity.
The fact that a term or convention is a "benchmark" in the London
Underground doesn't mean an American will recognize it, especially in an
emergency in an airport. Or necessarily a Canadian, since the original post
was regarding an airport sign in BC. And vice versa.

I'm actually not sure what a "wayfinding" sign is aside from the context in
which you just used the term, and I write that as an experienced
traveler. Mentioning a "lift" will mostly produce blank stares in the US.

On Sun, Sep 13, 2009 at 3:03 AM, jonathan <jonathan at rez.com.au> wrote:

> At times I think our passion clouds our judgement and impacts our
> professionalism. Through this thread there seem to be a number of
> incorrect assertions that I find a bit alarming. Are we an
> opinions-based community?
>
> Is "Exit" an international standard? Clearly not, from what
> people have said on this thread "Way out" is common in many
> countries, including in the London underground, which has been used
> as a benchmark around the world.
>
> Emergency exit is not necessarily the shortest way out! Emergency
> exit route is planned with consideration to situations like fire. It
> therefore directs people through a safer route out, which could be
> longer, not shorter (e.g. stairs instead of lift).
>
> While "Exit" might be an uncommon word in written and spoken
> English, it is one of the more prominent words in signage and as part
> of wayfinding.
>
> There is some international consistency in the use of safety and
> warning colours. Accepted use for emergency exit signs is white text
> on green background, which has different manifestations in different
> countries, based on local standards and local building regulations:
> in some countries it just says "EXIT" In others it just shows the
> pictogram of a man running through a door and elsewhere it has both.
> In some countries it is bilingual. Often, the word Emergency is not
> included in the sign. In many places Emergency exits are not reserved
> only for emergency (some theatres, shopping malls) and in other places
> they are.
> What might add to the confusion regarding purpose and nomenclature is
> that emergency exit sign location planning is typically done by the
> architects and Wayfinding sign content is planned by a separate
> consultant.
>
> ~ j
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=45282
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

14 Sep 2009 - 3:28pm
Anonymous

I'm curious: has any American here who has visited Europe where they
use "Way Out" had an issue? I, for one, do recall taking a split
second to think about it, then realized, "How awesome is that
label" and got it fairly easily.

I ask because: do both terms work well regardless? Not that I would
suddenly try to implement Way Out in the U.S. as the new norm
(knowing that we here are used to "Exit" and may overlook anything
other than that); however, I think the previous poster had a great
point: it's a cultural situation.

Label for your primary audience, yet use clear enough language that
secondary audiences can with minimal effort deduce meaning from.

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14 Sep 2009 - 3:44pm
David Drucker
2008

There are a number of UK/European English vs. American English
variations, and some of them are famous (like 'Lift' vs. 'Elevator'
and 'Flat' vs. 'Apartment', 'Trunk' vs. 'Boot'). There are also a
whole bunch of ones that are both less well known and sometimes will
throw an American off, if you don't stop and think for a moment:

American: Take Out (food)
UK: Take Away (food)

American (at a supermarket or grocer): Do you have any apples?
UK: Do you do any apples?

American: Shall I call you at work?
UK: Shall I ring you at work?

American: And that's all there is. Period.
UK: And that's all there is. Full stop.

Except for the third example, (which I could see if you are designing
a computer-integrated telephony system) these probably won't show up
in your work, but it could happen.

The lesson here is that famous George Bernard Shaw quote: "England and
America are two countries separated by the same language."

14 Sep 2009 - 3:53pm
Caroline Jarrett
2007

> There are a number of UK/European English vs. American English
> variations,

The one that's really important to know, if you're working UK/US, is:

UK: table an item: add it to the agenda, will be discussed in this meeting
US: table an item: remove it from the agenda, will not/no longer be
discussed in this meeting.

Opportunity for a lot of confusion there.

Best

Caroline Jarrett
www.formsthatwork.com

14 Sep 2009 - 5:34pm
Thomas Petersen
2008

It seems to me that Exit is understood also by non-english speakers
where as way out is not.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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14 Sep 2009 - 6:12pm
David Drucker
2008

>> There are a number of UK/European English vs. American English
>> variations,
>
> The one that's really important to know, if you're working UK/US, is:
>
> UK: table an item: add it to the agenda, will be discussed in this
> meeting
> US: table an item: remove it from the agenda, will not/no longer be
> discussed in this meeting.
>
> Opportunity for a lot of confusion there.
>

The UK definition (adding it to the agenda rather than removing it) is
the one they use here in Canada!

Tripped me up almost immediately after we moved here from the US.

--
David Drucker
Vancouver, BC

david at drucker.ca

19 Sep 2009 - 5:03am
Uidude
2009

Place: IxDA web
Users: English writing/speaking users
Navigation labels: in plain English words - works good

Place: Public subway station
Users: Multi lingual users? (Yes, possible!!! - tourists)
Labels: Ain't symbols along with text in whatever language work
better, than just text alone?

Whether it be 'Way Out' or 'Exit', nobody is going to complain to
have a simple pictogram next to it, right?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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