Thinking about UX for Touch Displays 1

When I first started working with touch screen displays, as a UX designer, I naturally assumed it would work like a website.  Why not?  The technology was web based and the tools and languages used were based on the usual web stack. Upon the first round of exploration, it became apparent that many of the presuppositions a designer would use to approach a website just wouldn’t apply to interactive touch screens.

This series will explore some of the conclusions reached during the first year of working with this technology, and is designed to codify some of those conclusions into a design system.

Some Rules of Thumb

• From a distance a kiosk functions as digital signage. 

• From Within 5-6 feet –  The distance between people and the normal social setting – a kiosk should act or feel social.  It’s a sort of person or being.

• When a user first touches the screen, or when the user first decides how they’re going to approach the screen, it appears as a website only insofar as the user can distinguish some clear interactive elements, i.e. they can recognize navigation without being confused.

• And upon interacting with it the kiosk acts much more like an app.  That means, in general, the screen real-estate should be used like a mobile device – a single function per screen.

Kiosks in Public Space

It helps to treat the Floor Stand Kiosk content like a casual smartphone app, or something close.  The user is on-the-move, usually on their way from point A to point B and the designer has to assume they will catch the user in between these points.  

Kiosks in Retail Environment

Online UX:

• With an online retail scenario we can assume the user is sitting down, is engaged in the screen, and the only place they can go is to another tab.

• With business facing design all of the usual marketing research, the usual analysis that goes into UX design – maybe not all of it, but certainly demographic analysis, user interest analysis and the usual time constraints for capturing the attention of a user and holding it – these do not apply. The user’s purpose can be taken for granted because there is a specific function for which the user is engaged in the platform.

Kiosk UX:

Our kiosks do not fit either of the above scenarios. A kiosk does not allow a user to do real work – it’s supposed to be fun.  Standing in front of one for any length of time required to do work is difficult, and an aggregate group of users is more varied than the average aggregate group for a retail website in terms of demographics and in terms of user goals. For now we can assume that a customer in a retail space is looking for either information, or to pass the time in some amusing way.  Also, kiosks in public or retail spaces are a bit of a blue ocean in terms of content.  For this adoption phase, much of the interaction will be centered around pure exploration.