Elevators are some of the most awkward antisocial experiences that we face almost everyday and no one seem to be doing anything about, while it could be revolutionized.

The question is: What makes the elevator experience so awkward?

Breaking it down into list of factors is a +
Referencing actual research, experiments, ideas is a ++


In case you perceive this as a none-User Experience related question, consider how interaction design plays a huge role in altering user behavior in many aspects of life, here is an example:


"User experience" encompasses all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products."
- Don Norman

  • If you mean waiting for a lift/elevator (or even Happy Vertical People Transporter) to take you to another floor, then in what way is that awkward? I have never found the process of taking a lift awkward. – TripeHound Oct 16 '18 at 13:52
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking for a list of social factors that influence how someone feels about a common situation, which is not a UX issue. – maxathousand Oct 16 '18 at 13:58
  • I think if this question can be focused on a specific design issue rather than trying to canvass a range of factors that contribute to what is a social interaction then it will create a more effective Q&A suitable for UXSE. Considering that there are certain physical constraints to the problem space, a suitable question should probably limit itself to what problems can be practically solved. – Michael Lai Oct 16 '18 at 14:43
  • Ok i'm not certain @MichaelLai if i can specify the question to more than awkward experience, the way elevators are designed right now do not support the problem which i have addressed, if you have any idea how to narrow this down i would be grateful :) – UX Labs Oct 16 '18 at 14:56
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    @UXLabs I see what you're saying, but I think the explanation for "what makes the elevator experience so awkward" is ultimately rooted in sociology, culture, and an individual's interpersonal skill set. It could be argued that all of these contribute to the topic of User Experience in some way, but I think then you start getting close to the sort of existential argument that everything is User Experience. We have IPS.SE now which I think might be a better fit for this kind of question. They also have a sandbox where you can post a question for feedback before publishing to the main page. – maxathousand Oct 16 '18 at 16:35

Let's ask some initial questions:

  1. Why is it awkward?
  2. Is it always awkward?
  3. And if it isn't always awkward what makes one trip awkward and another not?

Let's observe common scenarios:

Friendly coworkers, having a conversation, enter the elevator, and there is no one else in the elevator, is the space awkward? No. This is a clue to what is going on.

A stranger enters and the conversation stops? Why? Does it always happen? It would stop depending upon the conversation. For instance it would stop:

  • If a group of guys are talking about a hot girl, or a group of girls talking about a hot guy and if someone walks in the conversation will pause. If an unknown person of the other gender walks in the conversation will come to a dead halt. This is awkward.

  • If the group is talking about something that is work related and confidential the conversation will stop. This makes it awkward for everyone involved.

  • If the group is animated about a topic - sports, a movie. The conversation may stop as now others are included in the conversation. Sometimes people continue, not caring that others may be bothered by their conversation and other times the conversation will pause out of consideration.

Why does the conversation stop? I submit it's because the elevator puts us all in one personal space.

And, for the same reason, it's why being in a group of strangers riding an elevator can be somewhat awkward. Notice if you see the same strangers day after day in the elevator it becomes less awkward.

As a UX Designer what can be done about the following scenarios?

  • Placing a group of strangers in a small space.
  • Inserting a stranger into a group discussing something that they not inclined to share (or refuse to share).

I don't see any real life solutions to this problem.

  • Thanks @Mayo some effort you have placed in the answer, although the one thing i'm not entirely sure about is the last line you've added, your answer is truly valuable to me as it can be a strong start point to go more in depth in this topic. – UX Labs Oct 16 '18 at 14:14
  • The reason i feel the last line is not necessarily true is that imagine going into an elevator that is full of people where it's clear that they don't know each other but they are all laughing or cracking about something, the very least thing you would do is smile or you could laugh or ask what on earth is going on – UX Labs Oct 16 '18 at 14:15
  • If this statement is true, then we have definitely not given the topic enough – UX Labs Oct 16 '18 at 14:16
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    @UXLabs - The topic definitely can use a lot more thought. And the attitude and personalities of all the persons involved definitely play a large part. – Mayo Oct 16 '18 at 14:33

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