Water Park Ride Design: Setting Expectations

The scene: Legoland California.

On 6 August 2013, my wife convinced me to take a ride on Pirate Reef. It’s a ride that straddles the water park and regular Legoland. Signs all over say that you WILL get wet. I hate getting wet, at least in full clothing. But I didn’t want to be a kill joy and relented. Here’s the set up:

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 3.06.26 PM

video loop here legoland

The ride is pretty straightforward. You board the craft go up, then down, and everything gets wet. What the video doesn’t show is that they have plastic bins on the dock where workers will place items you don’t want to get wet. I gave them my T-shirt, wallet and cell phone.

I did the ride, got as soaked as if I’d gone for a swim, and retrieved my dry items. The design flaw now comes into play. To leave the ride, you need to exit over a bridge that connects the two boat structures. The problem is this:

little shit


See that guy? There were three of them and they all had full range of those water guns to the bridge.   I saw what they did to the person  in front of me, aiming for the head, laughing maniacally and soaking her. The only way for me to get to safety was to dodge the guns by running to the other side.

I wrapped my dry things into a tight ball and then ran like hell.

In an instant, my legs came out from under me, I was air bound and then landed square on my back. I got up as quickly as I could, the wind knocked out of me. As someone who experienced broken ribs before, it sure felt like that’s what I had.

So – what’s the design issue? Two fold:

1) The plastic buckets gave me a reason to believe I was going to walk out of there with those items free from water. Because of the exit path, that didn’t happen. In other words, the users expectations were set-up and they were wrong.

2) Don’t underestimate my hate of getting wet. Yes, there were signs stating that it was a “no run zone’ or such crap. But why not a non-stick surface? I slipped on a slick, hard cement path. As we know in the UX field, signs and labels are usually covering up a bad design. If your customers shouldn’t run because the surface is slippery when wet, get rid of the slippery bit.

So, a week later I’m still in pain but today’s visit confirmed, no broken bones. I just need to do some heat treatments and make sure to use this stuff regularly: