Observation. Pick a piece of interactive technology in public, used by multiple people. Write down your assumptions as to how it’s used, and describe the context in which it’s being used. Watch people use it, preferably without them knowing they’re being observed. Take notes on how they use it, what they do differently, what appear to be the difficulties, what appear to be the easiest parts. Record what takes the longest, what takes the least amount of time, and how long the whole transaction takes. Consider how the readings from Norman and Crawford reflect on what you see.
Can I just say, I had trouble thinking of something for this? I looked around all week for a piece of technology that fit these criteria and only came across with a few: the ATM, the metro vending machine, the movie ticket machine, the crosswalk button, and the bus ticket taker.
These are… so not that interesting to me. The first three have similar contexts and similar pitfalls: users want to get something out of it, users have to insert a card (or “dip” itas you NYkers say it), users have to follow a lot of instructions and read a bunch of things unless they know exactly what it is they’re doing. It usually takes about a minute at the ATM (unless someone is fiddling with checks or something) and maybe 30 seconds for the metro machine. That said, I think every time I’ve used the metro card machine so far, I’ve put my credit card in the wrong hole (the one where the old tickets go), but I haven’t seen many other people making this mistake, so I chalk that up to my n00bness. I remember having this same problem in the Bay Area with the BART machines, but after a while, one gets used to it. The movie ticket machine tends to take longer, either because people are less familiar with it, or because they are clearly stoned (these are just my observations).
The latter two are somewhat more interesting. You don’t really have to watch people at crosswalks to know that humans are impatient. But it sure is funny to see how common it is to just jam that button until the light changes. Thinking of that technology in the context of the Crawford reading from last week is somewhat funny. If the processing (“thinking”) part of that interaction on the non-human side were a bit more sophisticated (as in, the more times you push it, the sooner the light would change), it sure would make a more fulfilling interaction.
The bus ticket swiping thing I have a huge problem with. I have consistently attempted to insert my ticket in every wrong orientation possible before getting it right, and on multiple occasions had the driver take it from my hand, roll his eyes, and put it in for me. I saw several other people having this problem (who also appeared to be n00bs). This sort of echos the Victor rant nicely in a way, because each part of the paper feels the same, and trying to match the orientation in the picture to the orientation on the card (which, for some reason I think is difficult?) proves to be quite difficult. If there were some sort of physical indication (like, there were only one way it would fit in), I may not have to look like such a fool all of the time.
(UPDATE: in an attempt to be a proactive citizen, I have just watched this enlightening video for a minute on loop.)
I also thought about discussing that one big screen by the Forever21 in Times Square where tourists just wave and wave and wave at themselves, but I eventually decided that it’s not really interactive exactly. Well, at least, it poses as more interactive than it is. The fact is, those giant ladies are going to take a picture of that spot whether the crowd gathers together or not. There is a charming moment of camera-camera-camera-camera in that video at 00:41 that’s worth taking a peak at though, anyway.