Location, Location, Location: Where is your touch screen?

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

Just because a kiosk has a touchscreen, do not mistake it for an over-sized smart phone or tablet. The user experience and usability issues are vastly different. This is the first in a series of articles discussing the user persona differences you need to keep in mind when designing for a kiosk interface versus a mobile interface.

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

Public Spaces

Kiosks live in public spaces. Period. You’ll never find one in your house, your car, your office cubicle or a bathroom stall (You know who you are and let me just say, “Gross!”).

Public spaces like malls, airports, hotels, trade shows, and so on are all noisy, chaotic places that induce stress in the end-user. Nothing says stress like checking in with kiosk at the airport while simultaneously keeping one eye on your luggage and plugging one ear against the crying baby of the traveler next to you.

Given all the challenges, why do people use kiosks? Necessity. They’re not playing “Angry Birds.” They need to perform a task and the kiosk is there to help them with that task.

One Unambiguous Interaction Per Screen

Loading up the screen in the hopes that fewer screens will make the process seem faster will backfire every time. In this environment, showing the user a screen crammed full of text and buttons will stop them like a deer caught in headlights every time. Let’s not add to their stress. One simple decision or process per screen allows the user to focus and answer appropriately then move on to the next screen. The user feels confident in the process and their progress.

Sorry, I can’t help you about the crying baby.

Sound Effects—Just Say No

It has been suggested to me more than once that sound feedback from a kiosk would be a great idea for accessibility issues. Hey, it works on slot machines what could be bad about that? Exactly! Keep in mind the location of the kiosk when making this decision. The lobby of a quiet office building might be able to pull off sound effects but remember the Las Vegas airport has banks of kiosks and slot machines. We wouldn’t want the user to get confused and try to upgrade a seat from a slot machine now would we?

Just keep in mind that the user must go to the kiosk location to conduct their task. The environment is a huge factor in their success or failure in completing this task. The least we can do as UX designers is make sure the interface doesn’t exacerbate the location problem.

Next time we’ll talking about how the frequency of use impacts the user. Meanwhile, please don’t call or text me while you’re in the bathroom stall!

2 Replies to “Location, Location, Location: Where is your touch screen?”

  1. Finally, someone who can write about our business with some personality and humor. The point you are making is a good one, an adage of real estate that translates into the digital user realm. But to go a step further, these locations need to match up smartly with consumer need. Far too often, we have seen installations that are attempting to reduce staff instead of increasing consumer satisfaction. Businesses should look to answer the group of questions that their clientele often have, and answer them in a succinct way so customers who are in a hurry can be on their way. Location needs to match function. Then you have a winner.

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