Be Smart. Don’t Ask Twice.

One of the design areas I’m interested in is self-service kiosk design. So whenever I see a kiosk at a store, I would put my fingers on it (literally). Today, I came across a kiosk that allowed people to duplicate keys. Most kiosks have a language selection on the first screen. So if you’re more comfortable with your native language and it is available, you can change the default language to your preference. Figure 1 shows the first screen of the kiosk.


Figure 1: Two buttons at the bottom: one label in English and the other in Spanish

At the bottom of the screen, there are two options: “Touch Screen to Begin” and “Toque Aqui Para Comenzar.” I enlarge the two buttons, so you can better see the button labels.

The button label on the left is in English. Being in Texas, I can guess the one on the right is in Spanish. I don’t know Spanish, so if I wanted to use this kiosk, I would tap “Touch Screen to Begin” since I don’t know what the other option means. But just out of curiosity, I selected the Spanish option.


Figure 2: The user is asked to select a language

Figure 2 is the next screen. It asks me to select my language.

What? I just did. Not directly though.

If someone selects the Spanish language option, I would think that’s the language she would prefer. How come she is asked (again)? The application should be more intelligent to detect the user’s preferred language from her previous selection.

The only justification for this screen would be it functions like a confirmation screen giving the user a chance to confirm or change her selection.

To simplify the screens, the application could provide an option (in both languages) on the opening screen that allows the user to select a preferred language and then display the following screens in the selected language accordingly. There is no need to ask what you already know!

Other examples:

  • An automatic phone system may ask your account number. You painfully enter all the characters in your account number. By the time you get to a live agent (most likely after a wait), he will ask you again.
  • When you fill out an address form, the zip code is likely the last field before the city and state. It would be good to have users provide the zip code before the city and state. Because once the zip code is provided, the city and state can be determined. Of course, users can verify after the the city/state information is displayed.


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