For this assignment I had to pick a piece of interactive technology that is used in public by multiple people and observe the way people interact with it, preferably without them knowing they’re being observe.
Not long ago I noticed a few help kiosks in some of the MTA subway stations, so I thought it could be interesting to check that out, as they are fairly new (and are on my way back home).
So what does this kiosk do?
It show you the trains schedule:
It gives you service alerts:
It just being a kiosk out of order:
It suggests points of interest:
And it gives directions (with the added value of some ad brainwash):
I decided to have a go and try it out for myself to see how it feels.
This huge touch screen invites people to tap on the bottom part of the display to start, and I noticed that some people skip reading the direction and tried tapping on the upper right corner, where the screen actually notes the time.
For me it was easy to start using it, but once I tapped on the ¡ for “map and directions”, the display showed a map of Manhattan from which I was supposed to choose my destination from and tap on it. Automatically I tried using it as I use my phone, but when I tried directing the map to Brooklyn with my hands, it marked the wrong stop. I learned that I was supposed to use the circle button with the arrows on the lower right to move around the map, that was not intuitive and threw me off.
I noticed that the ¡ for “maps and directions” is the same exact icon as for “points of interest”. I found it confusing.
Then it suggest optional routes, which I thought was great!
When I searched for directions it took about 30 seconds by the time I found out the route options, and it was difficult to go back to the previous transaction, which can get very annoying, especially if you’re in a rush.
I was hanging around the kiosk a few times, waiting to see people interact with it, only to find out that most people kept some distance from the display and just starred at it without interacting with it. It seemed that some people approached the display because they didn’t have internet connection on their phones, but then they just alternated between staring at the display and then back at their phones. There were very few people that actually tried tapping on the kiosk display.
I observed the kiosks after reading Donald A. Norman’s ideas Design of Everyday Things (ch. 1). I thought that the designers who planned out the kiosks should have probably tried it out for themselves under some time pressure, as the people who are waiting for the subway are usually in a rush to get somewhere. The kiosk display is a lot more useful then no information desk at all, but it does not suggest a quick and on the fly sufficient interaction. It seems to be confusing people as to how they are suppose to interact with it and so it throws them off.
Sometimes people don’t want to try something new in front of other people and since the display is very large and attracts attention, it puts the user “on stage”, and the people getting closer to it looked more self conscious. Norman asked ” why do we put up with the frustrations of everyday objects, with objects that we can’t figure out how to use? ”
I hope that the kiosk will be used more often then not.
more about the kiosks here