I heard a story this weekend of a couple of ladies abandoning their vacation plans after they failed to find the property they had rented because they could not fathom the directions they were given. Admittedly the cottage was out of the way and in an area where there was no cell signal, so after driving around aimlessly for a couple of hours and making one call to the agency, who verified the directions they were given were accurate, they gave up and went home. They claimed the property did not exist and demanded a refund for the ‘treatment’ they had received.
On viewing the driving directions, they looked pretty much straightforward – taken from Google Maps and including right/left turns and specific road names and numbers, and distances – but then I am a natural map-reader and generally prefer maps over GPS. However this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this and a little research unearthed this article from the Washington Post – There’s a Men’s Route and a Women’s Route. In a nutshell, “Studies over the past decade have shown that women are likelier to rely on landmarks and visual cues, and men on maps, cardinal directions (such as north and south) and gauges of distance.”
Apparently it’s all to do with men having larger semicircular canals in their inner ears which help track a body’s motion, speed and direction – thus making it easier for them to understand directions lacking visual cues, which women find easier to follow.
What is the point of all this? Well, when the aforementioned ladies were asked for a few more details it transpired they had seen the house number as described in the directions, and the gate with the lockbox, but because the instructions had not mentioned they would cross over a bridge if they went past the property, they figured they were on the wrong road. They argued that since the directions did not include any visual cues or landmarks, it would be impossible to follow them.
Of course there is more to the story – it was a foul evening with driving rain and wind which probably contributed to their disorientation. But the learning point is that it’s important to make the navigation to your property appeal to both males and females. Include references to landmarks – a church or unique building they might pass by; a colourful roof, or an interesting natural rock formation. This will help those who use more in the way of spatial recognition than linear directions to find their way home.
On another note, and from one who has followed a GPS only to find herself bogged down on a snowmobile trail, only recommend using a navigational system if you are 100% confident it won’t find a rarely-travelled track when asked for the ‘shortest route’. But that’s another story…….