User UN-Friendly

If you will indulge me, I had a “usability issue” the other night that I wanted to share.

Burger King now has a new soda fountain. In fact, it is a solitary (and large) box that very closely resembles the old coolers of the 1950s. The machine features a touch-screen, offering many more soft drink selections than any restaurant I have seen before.

In any event, I had the darndest time trying to figure it out! It may well have been ‘user error’ (I have certainly never been accused of being the sharpest knife in the drawer), but the whole ordeal got me to thinking of, well, “Don’t Make Me Think.”

The machine has only one spout, which is printed in big block letters: “ICE.” I’ll try my best Steve Krug impression here to say I didn’t want ice; I wanted soda.

The next step was to figure out the correct button to push to get the desired soda. Of course, all of the buttons were clumped so close together it was difficult to see any separation at all. In the worst case scenario, I would get the wrong drink and have to try again. But that would be wasteful at best and, possibly, considered stealing.

I noticed several other customers having the same trouble as I did. Of course, none of us noticed (or, I suppose, sought out) the instructions on the other end of the counter. Perhaps we just assumed that we would (or should) be able to figure it out on our own.

In the end, everyone left well-hydrated and happy, but I couldn’t help but think of the old cliché: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Whether it’s a web link that doesn’t  point to the correct website, or a soda machine that doesn’t readily dispense soda (at least not without some thought), forcing users to ‘think’ too much typically does not end well. I certainly never dreamed I would encounter a usability issue in a fast-food joint!

Though written before the advent of the Internet, the book “The Design of Everyday Things” features many of these ‘head-scratcher’ moments. Oh, what a life!

by Enid Ahylhienatta | Technology Consultant | Gaseoustania Tonight

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