Saturday, February 16, 2008

How to design a system that everybody hates

Common usability mistakes in website design ...

"Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a chance to interview many cashiers and evaluate many Point of Sale (POS) systems for usability. In the course of those studies, I’ve seen problems that companies should avoid when designing or redesigning employee POS systems. Below, I present a few common themes from my research.

The problems I describe are specific to POS installations—though the underlying principles can be applied to any computer system. Also, the examples I give relate to Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) situations, since that is where the majority of my experience has been thus far.

1. Failing to consider the end user
When I’m hired to design a Point of Sale system, I always start with Field Studies—visits to actual sites where the cashiering system will be used. I nearly always find that the system doesn’t match employee processes, and that the employees have developed ways to “get around” the system and/or make up for system limitations.

Observing employees and conducting interviews at representative business sites are a critical first step in designing a quick and efficient POS system that reduces both errors and training time. Site visits also help ensure a redesign that considers the employee environment, including physical space constraints, distractions, etc.

2. Creating conflicts with the real world
Employees’ perceptions and expectations are shaped by a lot more than the computer system they use at work. Unfortunately, corporate development groups typically work in isolation and don’t adequately consider other inputs the cashier receives. The way menu boards talk about products, how training sheets are organized, etc. should all provide a consistent message to the user.

When I conduct Field Studies, I always analyze the way customers order so I can design the new system in a way that supports “conversation ordering”—one that matches the way customers order in the real world. Matching the system design to customer ordering patterns allows employees to work in more natural ways, make more eye contact with the customer, and interrupt less.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a chance to interview many cashiers and evaluate many Point of Sale (POS) systems for usability. In the course of those studies, I’ve seen problems that companies should avoid when designing or redesigning employee POS systems. Below, I present a few common themes from my research.

The problems I describe are specific to POS installations—though the underlying principles can be applied to any computer system. Also, the examples I give relate to Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) situations, since that is where the majority of my experience has been thus far.

1. Failing to consider the end user
When I’m hired to design a Point of Sale system, I always start with Field Studies—visits to actual sites where the cashiering system will be used. I nearly always find that the system doesn’t match employee processes, and that the employees have developed ways to “get around” the system and/or make up for system limitations.

Observing employees and conducting interviews at representative business sites are a critical first step in designing a quick and efficient POS system that reduces both errors and training time. Site visits also help ensure a redesign that considers the employee environment, including physical space constraints, distractions, etc.

2. Creating conflicts with the real world
Employees’ perceptions and expectations are shaped by a lot more than the computer system they use at work. Unfortunately, corporate development groups typically work in isolation and don’t adequately consider other inputs the cashier receives. The way menu boards talk about products, how training sheets are organized, etc. should all provide a consistent message to the user.

When I conduct Field Studies, I always analyze the way customers order so I can design the new system in a way that supports “conversation ordering”—one that matches the way customers order in the real world. Matching the system design to customer ordering patterns allows employees to work in more natural ways, make more eye contact with the customer, and interrupt less."    (Continued via Usability News, ZDNet)    [Usability Resources]

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed!

This is why the POS system at McDonalds sucks.

I order 4 combos at the drivein.

On my "order screen" I see. (prices made up)

2 BgXEVM 6.47
1 LgFrie 1.56
3 MdFrie 4.28
1 QuaEVM 2.14
1 McCEVM 2.38
3 Md Cok 3.11
1 Md Ice 1.47

etc.

They truncate the names to something unreadable, and at least 5 characters too short (even if the display has room)

But the biggest problem, is that I don't see my order anymore. I see a grocery list of things that I ordered.

Did they get my extra fries?

What about my Mc Chicken with bacon and tomatoes?

I've tried complaining, but after 5 years I just gave up.

8:07 PM  

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