Interaction design can affect everyone, not just people who own a computer. What does this mean for IxD?

7 Jul 2009 - 3:28pm
5 years ago
9 replies
1625 reads
David B. Rondeau
2003

As an example of the far-reaching impact of interaction design, I recently wrote about the Boston MBTA subway system and the Charlie kiosks that are used to purchase fares. Every day, hundreds of thousands of people ride the Boston subway and many of them are confused and frustrated by the interaction design of the kiosk. http://incontextdesign.com/blog/interaction-design-and-the-boston-subway/

In the process of trying to understand the root of the problem, it raised some additional interesting questions for me:

What are some other good examples of interaction design that affect multitudes of people-and those people are forced to use it? They didn't choose to buy a computer, their job doesn't require them to use one, and maybe they weren't even expecting to use one.

What are the potential impacts of good or bad interaction design in these situations? How many people could be affected? How severe could the impact be? How does it change people's perceptions of the overall service being provided? If it's a public service, like the subway, how does it affect our perception of government?

Can we do more to prevent poor interaction designs in the first place? How do we help designers create a solid core or foundation to start with? Are we doing enough?

As interaction designers, are we being held responsible for the affects of our designs? Should we be more accountable?

-dave

David B. Rondeau
Design Chair
InContext Design ( http://www.incontextdesign.com )

http://twitter.com/dbrondeau

Comments

7 Jul 2009 - 5:00pm
David B. Rondeau
2003

Dave (Malouf),

In some cases, I think designs are being created for systems that do
not get the same kind of "free market" competition that most
commercial products must face. The software on the Boston subway's
Charlie kiosk is not paid for (at least not directly) by the riders
of the subway system. They can't decide to use a different fare
system.

The system was purchased by the MBTA, which probably doesn't have
the skills or knowledge to evaluate the interaction design of the
system and understand the impact a poor interaction design will have.

Once the system has been implemented, there likely isn't any
recourse for the riders or even for the MBTA who is now stuck with
it. So who is responsible for the design problems? The MBTA? The
employees at the MBTA who decided to purchase that kiosk system? The
company that sold the kiosks%u2014Scheidt & Bachmann USA, Inc.? The
product managers at Scheidt & Bachmann? Or the interaction designers
at Scheidt & Bachmann who created the system?

Who should be held accountable for this poor design? Right now, I
don't think anyone is. And I'm not saying the responsible party
should be ostracized or punished in some way either. But if no one
has to take responsibility for the impact of the design, how will
things ever improve?

I was interested in seeing how many other systems are like this, to
try to get a sense of the impact. From your examples, I think that
electronic voting systems definitely fall into this category.

-dave

David B. Rondeau
Design Chair
InContext Design ( http://www.incontextdesign.com )

http://twitter.com/dbrondeau

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7 Jul 2009 - 6:41pm
jasonrobb
2009

Great questions David R.,

The accountability as I see it, at a superficial level at least
(because I have no real data to support this claim), falls on the
relantionship between the project managers of the design team and the
MBTA stakeholders.

The problem with creating a great, empathetic design with so many
people involved is getting passionate people behind its creation.
I'd guess, and only guess, that the relationship between the people
funding the project and the people designing the system malfunctioned
in some way.

I'm reminded of Dustin Curtis's recent example of American Airlines
(http://dustincurtis.com). The culture makes it very difficult for
great design to happen. My guess is that this example of the MBTA
CharlieCard system is such a culture.

So how can we, as perhaps mere pawns in the game, become spokesmen
(and spokeswomen) for emphasizing and encouaging a culture that
allows for great interaction design?

Jared Spool recently wrote an article about how the market dictates
the emphasis on quality UX. Perhaps goverment-like cultures aren't
ready for that? Who know when they'll be ready. Although Obama seems
to be headed in the right direction. Let's hope they can follow his
administrations lead?

Cheers,

Jason R.

--

Jason Robb
http://jasonrobb.com
http://uxboston.com
http://uiscraps.tumblr.com

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7 Jul 2009 - 11:22pm
Anonymous

Ahhh public transport ticket purchasing systems are always dumb!

This video (made by my partner) captures a couple more examples (the
Melbourne, Australia tram ticketing system is covered at about
1:12mins).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Yy6WvLuAZM&feature=channel_page

Enjoy.

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7 Jul 2009 - 11:33pm
Tonia M Bartz
2008

While it may be difficult, I don't think it's necessarily
impossible.

Sometimes all it takes, is for people to be aware that there are not
only problems with the user interface, but that these issues cause
people to become frustrated and have the potential to cause loss of
profits.

The first meet up I had for the IxDA local group here in Phoenix
addressed the issue of the user interface for the new light rail
system. I had the attendees split into groups and find a way to
enhance the user experience. We didn't have time to refine these
ideas, but it would be nice to think that some day we could present
these. They are also publicly available on our site.

http://ixdaphoenix.ning.com/profiles/blogs/inaugural-meeting-recap

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8 Jul 2009 - 2:57am
William Hudson
2009

David -

> As an example of the far-reaching impact of interaction design, I
> recently wrote about the Boston MBTA subway system and the Charlie
> kiosks that are used to purchase fares. Every day, hundreds of
> thousands of people ride the Boston subway and many of them are
> confused and frustrated by the interaction design of the kiosk.
>
http://incontextdesign.com/blog/interaction-design-and-the-boston-subway
/

I'll say! I was in Boston for CHI a few months ago and decided it was
impossible to buy a simple ticket at the Charlie machines. After a crowd
gathered around (just a small one) a kind women said it was possible and
showed me how. Did they do ANY usability testing on those things?
(Vienna subway machines also bad BTW, so I am not just getting at
Boston<g>)

And, yes interaction designers need somehow to be accountable, but
regrettably, I am not sure that every project like this uses us.

Regards,

William Hudson
Syntagm Ltd
Design for Usability
UK 01235-522859
World +44-1235-522859
US Toll Free 1-866-SYNTAGM
mailto:william.hudson at syntagm.co.uk
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Syntagm is a limited company registered in England and Wales (1985).
Registered number: 1895345. Registered office: 10 Oxford Road, Abingdon
OX14 2DS.

Confused about dates in interaction design? See our new study (free):
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Courses in card sorting and Ajax interaction design. London, Las Vegas
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8 Jul 2009 - 5:17pm
David B. Rondeau
2003

Thanks for all the comments.

Another example that someone mentioned here at work was the automatic
checkout at the grocery store or large hardware store.

I think part of Jason's comment really gets at what I've been
thinking about:
"So how can we, as perhaps mere pawns in the game, become spokesmen
(and spokeswomen) for emphasizing and encouaging a culture that
allows for great interaction design?"

I've also been wondering if this doesn't tie into some of the other
discussions about creating a language of critique for interaction
design. If we could better articulate the benefits of good
interaction design and then offer meaningful critiques (not just
evaluations), could this help influence the quality of designs in the
future?

So what can we do right now as members of IxDA?

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15 Jul 2009 - 2:28pm
David B. Rondeau
2003

I recently ran across another good example of interaction design that
affects people who don't even own a computer or use one at work.

Traci Lepore wrote about the problems with Bank of America's new ATM
machines on her blog at
http://traciuxd.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/why-does-it-take-me-twice-as-long-at-the-new-atms-boa/

It's another good example of the disconnect between the actual
end-user and the maker of the product. The effects of free market
capitalism may be negated (because the end-user doesn't buy the
product, but must still use it), but I suspect the problem is still
going to negatively affect Bank of America's brand perception.

-dave

David B. Rondeau
Design Chair
InContext Design ( http://www.incontextdesign.com )

http://twitter.com/dbrondeau

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15 Jul 2009 - 2:44pm
jayeffvee
2007

I'm surprised that this post did not talk about the fairly random
sound 'cues' the new machines offer: the constant insistent "bing"
sound that does not stop immediately when the user responds
correctly. I find that really unsettling. Is the machine yelling at
me? At itself?

Plus, if you happen to visiting a teller within earshot of the ATMs,
the clamor is amazing. Talk about a bad experience. What *were* they
thinking?

On Jul 15, 2009, at 8:28 AM, David Rondeau wrote:

> I recently ran across another good example of interaction design that
> affects people who don't even own a computer or use one at work.
>
> Traci Lepore wrote about the problems with Bank of America's new ATM
> machines on her blog at
> http://traciuxd.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/why-does-it-take-me-twice-as-long-at-the-new-atms-boa/
>
> It's another good example of the disconnect between the actual
> end-user and the maker of the product. The effects of free market
> capitalism may be negated (because the end-user doesn't buy the
> product, but must still use it), but I suspect the problem is still
> going to negatively affect Bank of America's brand perception.
>
> -dave
>
> David B. Rondeau
> Design Chair
> InContext Design ( http://www.incontextdesign.com )
>
> http://twitter.com/dbrondeau
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=43446
>
>
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Joan Vermette
email: jayeffvee at mac.com
primary phone: 617-495-0184

20 Jul 2009 - 11:18am
jet
2008

I think the problem is that we (I'm a USAian) tend to care less about
our fellow humans and more about whatever specific product we're trying
to sell and the bottom line. I just spent two weeks in Tokyo and I
often felt like someone actually cared about me, even during impersonal
interactions with computers. It's not that Japan has better interaction
designers than us, it's just that someone actually seemed to care about
me as a person when they were putting things together. (footnote: if
you're in Tokyo, go to Toyota Mega Web and check out the Universal
Design museum/showroom.)

Compare my Japan experience to last week here in the states when I was
basically forced to use a self-checkout at a box store because they had
closed all the human-operated registers. The business didn't care about
me on multiple levels, and if they actually hired designers, those
people didn't care much about me either. In the end, not only was the
interaction pretty poorly done leaving me an unhappy customer, but the
box store used it as a way to replace several humans who could have
helped me have a good experience.

On the other hand, I have had the joy(?) of working for a number of
companies where the CEO and exec staff and their families used or relied
upon the product the company produced. Without breaking past NDA, I
can easily say that when the families of the exec staff rely upon the
product, the product is much better than it would have been if we only
had customers.

David Rondeau wrote:
> So what can we do right now as members of IxDA?

It's what we can start doing right now as people. We need to start
taking personal responsibility for how our work (design or otherwise)
changes the lives of others.

1. Change our own thinking. Stop designing for customers and users and
start designing for people we care about: our best friends, our parents,
our kids, etc. How differently would you do something if you knew your
kid had to use it every day, or if an elderly relative would have to
rely upon it? Forget your freakin persona for a few minutes and imagine
someone you know similar to that persona using it and calling you to
tell you what they thought about. (And if you don't know anyone like
your persona, how do you know your persona is correct or that your
design is correct for that persona?)

2. Convince our clients to change their thinking as well. As a person
coming from the privacy and security area, I've discovered that my
clients and coworkers often change their opinion about our product when
I make it personal to them instead of about an abstract customer. It's
not a matter of arguing with them, leading by example and showing how
much better a product or experience could be.

--
J. Eric "jet" Townsend -- designer, fabricator, hacker

design: www.allartburns.org; hacking: www.flatline.net; HF: KG6ZVQ
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