Frequency: Tell me how often you do it and I’ll reveal your expertise level

Designing for a touch screen kiosk ≠ designing for a touch screen phone/tablet

Hey! This isn’t that kind of blog.

Last week, we discussed location issues in touch screen kiosk design. This week we’ll talk about how frequency of use impacts the user’s needs.

1.    Location
2.    Frequency
3.    Adaptation
4.    Applications
5.    Hardware

Expert Users

Do you use your mobile phone every day? I know I do and not just for phone calls. I keep all my appointments in it and important lists. I know all my phone’s quirks and the work arounds necessary to get it to do what I want. Through daily usage I have become an expert user of my mobile phone.

Don’t you hate the learning curve when you buy a new phone? It’s awkward at first and mentally remapping the new phone’s work arounds over the old ones takes awhile. After about a week though, you’re an expert user of your new mobile phone.

This expert user is willing to take the painful learning curve for the perceived rewards the new phone/tablet brings. Apple’s innovative approach to the iPhone and iPad depends on this type of user. Even though the buttons are too small and the interface breaks all previous mental models people line up days just to be the first to have the latest version.

Casual Users

Even business travelers that fly every week using a check-in kiosk can only ever be considered casual users. Two minutes of usage twice a week does not add up to expertise. For these users, they’re forever at the beginning of a new phone learning curve. Yeah, they’ve used a kiosk before but each time they’re guessing what to do based on previous experience with other kiosks.

Many kiosk users only approach a kiosk one time, if ever. Think about airport info directories, office building directories, etc… You have to assume that every time a user approaches a kiosk there’s a very high probability that this user has never used it before.

As a designer, you can help by sticking to well-established design patterns. This helps reinforce the user’s mental model of how the kiosk should work for them. This is no time to reinvent the wheel much (and, if you must, at least don’t make it square!).

“Do you want fries with that?”

Previously we discussed “One Unambiguous Interaction Per Screen” for the user. This is my golden rule for the touch screen kiosk interface design. The exception is the expert user of touch screen kiosk. You’ve seen them but you don’t think of them as a kiosk interfaces. Many retail stores have employee touch screen interfaces these days and many of the kiosk interface rules do still apply.

Customers as end users cannot be trained. But employees are trained to user these interfaces and they use them 8 hours a day.

One interaction rule would slow them down due to numerous server calls and waiting for the next screen to load. This would give them plenty of down time to plot my grisly death, so let’s not go there!

The employee user wants to complete as much of the transaction on each screen as possible. They need contextual fields grouped together plus an intuitive navigation through the interface that minimizes movements that could lead to repetitive stress injuries.

As you can see frequency of usage plays a big role in deciding which approach you need to take with the end user. Being very clear on which user persona you’re dealing with can make the difference between success and failure on a touch screen interface project.

Next time we’ll discuss how well the mobile software and the kiosk software adapt to the user.

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