This week in physical computing I needed to observe interactive technology being used by the public. I chose the self-checkout kiosks at CVS. I felt slightly creepy watching people’s failures and successes, and bought incredibly sugary candy to avoid looking like a stalker but I did learn a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of this piece of interactive technology.
Everyone seemed to immediately grasp the various buttons and the concept of swiping the items over the screen. Scanning the items provided instant and visible feedback so the user knew that they were successful. The screen was also uncluttered and focused solely on the functions they most likely cared about. One customer (who only had one item) went through the entire process in thirty seconds.
However, there was one real problem that caused lots of frustration for plenty of customers. The flat surface where you place the bags seemed to be the source for every difficulty I observed. If you place your reusable bag on the surface, or move an item that was already placed, or seemingly breath wrong the machine would yell at you to move something. However, it did not appear intelligent enough to know what needed to be moved and could not tell you what you did wrong. This vague error message immediately frustrated the user and usually it triggered a “Help is on the way” screen that rendered you and the program useless until a cashier arrived to assist.