I am facing an interesting issue when realizing an interactive map for one of our customers - an airport.

The map is showing real-time information about the current status of the infrastructure - for example: check-in desks. Currently used check-in desks are displayed in the map using a color, whether free check-in desks are displayed using another color.

Here comes the problem: if we think about the passenger-flow point of view, I would find it natural to display "open" check-in with green color, and "closed" check-in with red.

On the other side, if we think about the terminal-availability point of view, it looks like the more intuitive option would be to display "available" check-in with green color, and "busy" check-in with red.

In other words:

BUSY = OPEN ===> Green Option 1, Red Option 2

AVAILABLE = CLOSED ===> Red Option 1, Green Option 2

Our key-users group is split almost perfectly at 50% between the first and the second option - the result is that everyone is getting confused and they cannot figure out at a glance which is the situation.

It looks obvious that we need to move further and abandon the green/red scheme, but which one could make sense?

Thanks in advance for any suggestion!

2 Answers 2


Put the paying customer over the paid employee. Employees will get into the groove but customers will include lots of inexperienced customers in stressful situations that are trying to interpret quickly without any background.

If you have a singe line that leads to many endpoints, head of line goes to next available desk, consider not having any red of any kind. Use green to show "you can go to this desk now" and absence of green (a neutral) to show unavailable/in-use/closed.

In industrial process controls some use neutral and gray to represent a nominal state and colors to draw attention. If I look at a display and everything is either red or green, it is color overload because it is all color contending for my attention. If the customer needs to know where to go then only color the "go here" indication and make the rest neutral. Green means go, red means stop and be angry.


It seems like you possibly have three states in this system:

  • Closed
  • Busy (Open, but no one is available)
  • Ready (Open and available)

You should always use more than color to indicate status, as 6 percent of men are colorblind.

The closed desks could have an X symbol in addition to red (or even gray). People don't like looking at large seas of red, as it's very dominating, so gray might be better if you have several closed desks at a time.

The busy desks could have a "do not disturb" symbol and use yellow.

The available desks could use a checkmark and green.

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