Bad interfaces, or how I went to Federation tower

They often write about heavy, inconvenient UI of software products. But we come across interfaces not only when working at a computer, but also in the physical world.

I am a developer of the Directum system, I am engaged in the development of applied solutions. My tasks include, among other things, the design of the user interface. In addition, I live life, I love to visit all sorts of interesting places, and professional deformation makes visiting such places even more interesting.

This will be a story about the personal experience of visiting the observation deck of the Federation Tower on New Year’s holidays 2021 and observing the UI of this very observation deck.

“Federation” is a complex of buildings in Moscow City, which includes 2 towers: East and West. The East Tower is the second tallest building in Europe. Its height is 374 meters and 95 floors. The PANORAMA360 observation deck, open to the public, is located on the 89th floor.

Where I went, having arrived in the capital on New Year’s holidays and decided to enjoy its views from above. But for this I had to overcome: misunderstanding, loss, doom, agonizing anticipation and burning irritation. All these vivid feelings were caused in me by the organization of access to the observation deck, that is, the interface. And I want to share my experience of overcoming with you.

Entrance group of the Federation Tower.  Picture from the Internet.
Entrance group of the Federation Tower. Picture from the Internet.

The beginning of the way

I bought tickets to the observation deck online on the PANORAMA360 website. Tickets are purchased for a specific date and time. Entry is possible within an hour, starting from the selected time.

Electronic tickets come to the post office, they contain a QR code, a barcode and a list of visiting rules. Of the rules, the most important information: to enter the site, you must attach the QR code to the reader at the entrance, and you can do this from the smartphone screen. The rest is about the fact that the organizer is not responsible, etc.

It seems that everything is simple, as in other places where you have to show tickets.

On day and time X. With a pre-opened PDF with a ticket on my smartphone screen, I enter the Federation building.

Being lost

So, getting into the Federation building, I go through the standard procedures for many places of mass attendance: a metal detector frame, a security guard. And that’s all. I stop, looking around: where next? Around glass, metal, futurism and fantastic. And no pointers like “To the panorama – here”… I would like to.

Hall of the Federation Tower.  Picture from the Internet.
Hall of the Federation Tower. Picture from the Internet.

I appeal to the guard. He waves vaguely towards the glass railing. “And over there to those guys”… A boy and a girl are standing at the railing behind the pillar. If you look closely, you can see their badges with QR codes. If you come up and look even more closely, you can see that PANORAMA360 is finely written above the QR codes. Yes, apparently to these guys.

A boy and a girl should catch the same tourists who do not know where to go, like me, and guide them. Okay. What if they are too busy with other tourists and miss someone?

What would help avoid getting lost? Large, clear signs of where to go and who to contact. For example, like signs in the Moscow metro or store maps in shopping centers.

Misunderstanding and doom

Having a ticket in hand, it seems that everything is clear: you go to the reader, click a QR code and enjoy the view.
But no.
From this moment on, I suggest that you calculate how many times my tickets have been checked.
The above boy and girl are asking 2 questions:
1) your ticket?
2) have you checked in?
Well, I can understand the first question. The client comes somewhere where tickets are required – the client is ready to show the ticket. But just to show when the rules say to attach to the reader? .. Well, as you say.
But the second question! .. What? What for? For what? .. How?
That’s how:
1) scan the QR code from the boy / girl badge
2) following the instructions on the page that opened on the link, send an SMS to your number
3) enter the code from SMS
4) take a screenshot of the page that opens after entering the code
It is assumed that check-in is required for every visitor.
All this information was pulled out drop by drop from the boy / girl, because the questions “What to do?” they were extremely reluctant to answer, and instructions were nowhere to be found in text.

How can misunderstandings be avoided?

Information on the need and procedure for check-in:
1) include in the visiting rules listed on the e-ticket
2) post a comprehensive instruction in text form in the Federation hall. Just below the missing PANORAMA360 pointer.

I wonder what to do if a visitor bought a paper ticket at the box office, and his phone is a push-button or, for example, is out of power?

How can you avoid doom? Apparently not.

And again misunderstanding

After the check-in, the boy and the girl are told to go down 2 floors, walk down the hall to the reception desk.

Stop. And what were we doing now, if not registration ?!

Hall of the Federation Tower, view of the stairs.  Photo from the Internet.
Hall of the Federation Tower, view of the stairs. Photo from the Internet.

At the front desk, they ask all the same questions:
1) your ticket?
2) have you checked in?

“Shaw, again ?!”

How can misunderstandings be avoided?

1) Replace the boy and girl at the entrance with a sign to the check-in counter, so as not to ask the visitor the same questions twice.

2) At the check-in counter in the visiting rules on the ticket on the posters in the lobby, convey information about what, in general, and how we should check-in. By the way, no one checked the screenshots of the passed check-in. The check ended with question 2.


Then you have to overcome the agonizing wait in the long queue for the elevator. Dozens of people winding corridors without windows do not contribute to a good mood.

After overcoming the queues, I finally found myself at the QR-code reader of the ticket. The ticket security guard gives instructions in a loud voice: “Attach the barcode to the reader!”… Well, I also apply. Barcode. As I wrote above, the ticket contains both QR and barcodes.
After several unsuccessful attempts, it still turns out that the QR code is meant, as it was indicated in the visiting rules on the ticket. But I don’t know what to believe anymore: the information on the ticket or the corrected instructions from the workers.

How can user annoyance be avoided?

1) Make an unobtrusive waiting interface. For example, give a pending briefing.

2) Do not get confused in terminology, do not confuse the user.


And here I am at the observation deck! They give free and awesomely delicious candy and ice cream. Here you can enjoy the views.

Views from the observation deck.  My photos on the phone.
Views from the observation deck. My photos on the phone.

But no matter how it is!

You stand, eat ice cream, enjoy the views. And then they come up to you and ask you to answer a few questions about your impressions. Do you know how, while using an application on a smartphone, an offer to rate it pops up, and you yourself still do not understand whether you like it or not?

Choosing to evaluate later, I continued to look at the views. But, as it turned out, this was the only opportunity to give feedback that can reach the organizer.

After walking around the site and eating ice cream, you can’t just pick up and leave. To leave the site, you also need to attach the QR code from the ticket to the reader.

What if I threw away the paper ticket? Did you delete the email with the email? (and I wanted)

How can you avoid it?

Warn the visitor in advance that the ticket will still be needed to exit. Well, or not check tickets at the exit.

To summarize

The hardships of interacting with the interface for accessing the observation deck became an interesting mental exercise for me to analyze its flaws and possible solutions. We can not always significantly influence the interfaces that we encounter in life: physical and software. But when designing your own interfaces, be aware of making them accessible.

To do this, you can, for example:

● follow the W3C WCAG guidelines (

● draw up a Customer Journey Map

● involve non-immersed people in testing

And in general, take a responsible approach to the UI.

So how many times have my ticket been checked?

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