I spent today in our nation’s capital, Canberra. City of roundabouts, trees and public servants. Strangely enough, I think I’m growing to like it there. Anyway, it was a pretty interesting day, so I thought I’d share a bit with you.
When I go to visit my client in Canberra I do a day trip – fly down in the morning and back in the evening. Because they’re organising my flights, I get to fly Qantas, instead of other less economical options. If you’ve travelled domestically with Qantas lately, you’ve no doubt encountered their new ‘electronic checkin’ touchscreens – they call it ‘QuickCheck‘. I like them very much.
It’s interesting to think of replacing people with technology. Often it doesn’t work very well (I’m thinking of automated phone systems in particular here). Probably my favourite example of a *good* replacement is internet banking (which reminds me, I’ll have to post soon about how much I *love* ANZ internet banking and why). The Qantas QuickCheck is another great example.
I think there are two reasons why QuickCheck is such a great user experience.
Firstly – the design is beautiful. Unless you don’t know where you’re going or can’t spell your own name, it is very difficult to make a mistake with this interface. Sure, it’s not really such a complex transaction, but I’ve seen people screw simple stuff up many a time. This is easy. Choose your destination, choose your flight time, enter your name, and you’re away.
But the second thing is the killer – despite the fact that Qantas are now making their customers do work that their employees used to do – we do it happily. Why? Because for the cost of that extra work, we gain a range of great benefits. We don’t have to wait in queues like we used to; we can check in not only for the flight we’re taking now, but also the return flight; and – here’s the kicker for me – you can choose your own seat!
When you check in the system automatically assigns you a seat (not sure how they work that out), but then you can also see the other seats that are still available, and choose a different one, if you like. Me, I’m a window seat girl who likes to sit as close to the front as I can (perhaps I aspire to something other than cattle class… I’m not sure). I love this.
There’s a good lesson in this I think (although, not a new one). Ask your users to ‘give’ you something, and provided you’re giving them something in return that they value, they’ll happily oblige.
If you’re like me, you spend most of your time without straying too far from an internet connection. Your email is close to hand, not to mention instant messaging, Skype, your blog…
I spent the day on site with a client today and at about 10.30am she reminded me that their IT department had recently cut off all access to a whole chunk of the internet… including Gmail.
I had suspicions that I had a connectivity addiction, but this definitely confirmed it. A whole eight hours with out email! Torture.
My client thought this was quite amusing. I spent the day wondering if there was an internet connection to be had at Canberra airport.
Is this unhealthy?
So, on the question of internet connection at the airport, I can happily inform you that, yes, there is.
Continuing my experiences with touchscreens, I deposited $2 in a machine for 12 minutes of internet. *good sigh*
It was short lived pleasure, however, as it quickly became apparent that this machine had one of the slowest internet connections in the country.
Unfortunately – that is probably an exaggeration. We have some very slow connections in this country. Does anyone else in the world have to account for users with narrowband connections when they design web based applications?
(ok, then I remembered that link about how such a small proportion of the world even *has* internet connection and now I feel bad).
Although it was an awful user experience (sooo many mistakes – can’t stop clicking!), I think that it is good to have bad experiences like this if you’re designing interaction. It reminded me a bit of my experience learning to use the Wacom tablet yesterday.
Having thought on it whilst waiting for my flight then travelling the 45 turbulent minutes home (they weren’t going to serve wine due to the rough weather – outrageous!), I’ve realised that what made both the narrowband internet connection and the Wacom tablet particularly frustrating was a lack of feedback.
When I was using the Wacom, things either just didn’t respond at all, or happened without me understanding why. I accidentally deleted so much stuff with the Wacom (although, Denim is also partially to blame here). Learning the ‘gestures’ is tricky and new… and there’s nothing to really help you understand what you’re doing, or why what you’re doing isn’t working.
Similarly with the narrowband internet – I would make actions and get no response. As a user, my immediate reaction (even though I’ve tried to train myself to think differently) is that I’ve done something wrong. I hadn’t done anything wrong, the system was just incredibly slow to respond to my interaction. And there was no visible feedback to show that my action had triggered any kind of response from the system.
Basic stuff. All of the experiences I had today reiterated the some of the most basic, fundamental rules of interaction design.
But sometimes it’s good to experience it firsthand, and then to reflect.
Have you had any experiences like this lately?
Image credit: for a change this is one of mine. Not from today though… today was cold and rainy and not so pretty. Oh, and my camera has died. *sob*