The UX of Hiking and Biking in Switzerland
How user-friendly and data-rich iconography motivates bicyclists, hikers, and nature lovers to spend much time outdoors
Switzerland is a small country. It’s roughly the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.* But thanks to Switzerland’s topography of alpine mountains and valleys dotted with rivers and lakes, a rich outdoor culture of hiking, biking, horseback riding, and walking has become the favorite pastime of many citizens and tourists.
But how do they know where to go and safely arrive at their destination in a timely matter?
That is where the ingenious Swiss system of a most user-friendly iconography of various forms of mobility comes in. These icons animate pretty much every citizen and visitor to go outdoors and get active. A closer look at the intricate design system reveal a wealth of data.
Every time I visit Switzerland, I’m always amazed at how easy it is to understand their traffic sign system, even if one does not speak the local language. And on the topic of languages, there are four national Swiss languages, French, German, Italian, and Romansch, as well a many local dialects which are even more difficult to understand.
For an outdoor person, there are trails, paths, itineraries, and routes galore. The signs for embarking on a walking adventure do not disappoint.
Example 1: Signs for all types of mobility
When I visited a tiny village in the eastern part of Switzerland, the main sign showed a wealth of information for all kinds of travelers. Besides the ubiquitous signs for car-driving citizens, there’s a wealth of data for bicyclists, hikers, and walkers.
There is a car parking sign, very important for when you want to leave your vehicle in a safe parking zone. Then there is the bicycling lane sign, the hiking path direction, the distances to the nearby villages, and a plethora of other signs.