I aim to shape products, interfaces and services that mediate meaningful dialogues between people, systems and their environments within everyday life.

Mar
03
2009

Analyzing Vending Machine Interaction

We focused our analysis on the drink machines we found on the HK PolyU campus and examined the current task scenario of buying a drink. James documents his experience as follows:

scenario-storyboard

After walking through the scenario we documented the problems we encountered:

Transaction

  • requires preselecting monetary amount for desired drink
  • narrow coin slot is quite cumbersome and time-consuming
  • requires adequate control of manual dexterity
  • using the Octopus card
  • close proximity to the card reader will inadvertently process the transaction automatically when selecting a deduction amount
  • confusion between product interface and associated transaction interface

Information and Selection

  • pressing wrong button accidentally
  • not realizing desired drink is sold out

Accessibility

  • physically bend down, flip up flap, reach into machine to pick up drink
  • problematic for those with physical limitations
  • not enjoyable or hygenic to stick hand in the dark, unclean slot

User Experience

vending_machine_frustration

Source: http://www.uselog.com/2007/11/please-do-not-hump-vending-machine.html

We encountered a lot of interaction points that provide an experience that is not enjoyable nor delightful. If we look at the vending machine with goals of convenience offering quick, self-service for purchasing small snacks and refreshments, we can liken them to convenience stores like 7-11. Let us consider the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages Customers have visual information of the actual drinks and availability. They can use the physical action of picking up a drink, read the information, re-select, etc. before making a decision. Payment is easy and natural via cash (bills and coins) or Octopus. Additionally, going to a store is a sociable activity; people tend to go as a group eat together afterward.

Disadvantages Stores are located in certain locations and only open only during particular hours, so people are limited to location and time. Another problem customers encounter are long lineups during busy hours.

Social and Cultural Dimensions

An interesting side observation we noted was the role of communication and cultural dimensions that played into people’s decisions and behaviours in relation to the use of the vending machine. In a collectivist society such as Hong Kong, people tend to look to others for decision-making cues; that is, people are influenced by what they see others doing. In our studio, there have been “trends” of popular drinks that everyone will start drinking. Once somebody has started to drink melon soy milk and continue that pattern, others will notice and subsequently try out the drink as well. And now, the melon soy milk will often be sold out!

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