The 30 feet rule

After my first set of reflections from my time at Disneyland, I’ve found myself going back to that experience as I think about experience design. And, as part of that process, I’ve been learning a few interesting lessons about the Disneyland approach to user experience design.

One such anecdote is about the 30 feet rule about trash cans. Walt Disney was obsessed about park cleanliness in the 1950s. So the team studied how long people walk with trash in their hands before they try to get rid of it. The answer to that, it turns out, is ~30 feet.

Ergo – the 30 feet rule – you won’t need to travel more than 30 feet at Disneyland without seeing a trash can. 

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While this is an impressive and even inspiring story on the attention to detail in crafting a great user experience, what’s telling is what Walt Disney didn’t do. He didn’t – 

  • Get frustrated about this behavior
  • Plaster signs all over Disneyland to not litter
  • Fine customers who littered 
  • Play a recording over a loudspeaker to remind people to not litter
  • Employ helpers to supervise customer behavior

I know some of these are outlandish – and I’m exaggerating to make a point. But it is telling that he simply observed user behavior and crafted an experience around it vs. attempting to change it. 

There’s a lesson in there somewhere for all of us.