Part 1 – Exploration and Observation

Summary and Improvements

Summary

We observed at the times 6PM-7PM, 9PM-10PM, and 12AM – 1AM. The vending machines were observed are located near the Jazzman’s coffee-shop in the library. There are four machines, two that sold drinks and two that sold snacks. The space allowed for students to either settle with Jazzman’s coffee or get a soft drink and a candy bar. Most of the time, if the first choice of the student didn’t satisfy them they went with their second choice. The space was convinent and relaxed. The user could get both a drink and snack at the same time in a relatively large space where it is easy to make a choice. Neither cash nor the buzzcard seemed to dominate as a payment method. The overall interaction with the machine was simple. Unless problems arose from products being sold out or buttons not registering hits, most people had a relatively easy interaction It was usually only three steps: pick your item, pay, type in the combination and grab your snack. Unless problems arose from products being sold out or buttons not registering hits. In total we observed 16 people. The experiences among people who used the machine were varied. Some people who used the machine got what they wanted quickly and with no problems and others completely gave up and walked away from the machines. There were varied time lengths for certain actions. Some spent a longer time looking for an item than others while some spent a longer time deciding which machine to use longer than others. Most importantly we observed that people seem to give up on the machine, even though they may still be hungry, if more than a couple functions seems difficult or have to repeated due to error. In order to prevent this kind of annoying error people double checked their pin on the screen or next to the actual item. Most people seemed satisfied and a large portion of them did it with ease. The steps of interacting with the machine can vary from person to person but they can be simplified. You either present the machine with your payment method or select an item through the glass first. You then type in the combination of the item you want with the keypad and grab your drink/snack when it drops them to the bottom. We observed that people can be very indecisive at times with some users switching back and forth between machines multiple times.

The steps of interacting with the machine can vary from person to person but they can be simplified. You either present the machine with your payment method or select an item through the glass first. You then type in the combination of the item you want with the keypad and grab your drinks when it drops them to the bottom. There turns out to be more possibilities for error than expected by such a simple machine. Sometimes, specifically on the older snack machines, the buttons are not very responsive causing frustration in the user. The machines may malfunction and “eat” a users money. There is also the possibility of the item getting stuck in the machine on its way from the shelf to the opening in the machine. The alternatives to using the machine are water fountains and Jazzman’s Cafe.

Improvments

Improvements

  • Less errors
  • Wasting less time finding out something is sold out
  • Take dollars in a more efficient way

Some improvements to the machine would be mostly in the visibility and feedback sections of the usability experience. The machine does its main job of physically moving the item to the user pretty well, however some of the steps in the process could be made easier to get to that step faster and avoid errors with visual aids. First of all, if a product is sold out, it should show have some kind of indicator like an LED light that quickly show that the product is not available. Also, the user needs to be aware that an error has occurred in general. The screen that displays text such as the price and Buzzcard balance is unnecessarily small and could have a much bigger display.

Schematic

Images
Our Machines:

Close Up:

The space around the vending machine:

Storyboards

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