8 Signs of an Amateur Touchscreen Kiosk Application

kiosk out of orderHave you ever been using a self-service kiosk and thought to yourself “that’s obviously not right?”  Anyone who uses kiosks on a regular basis has at some point interacted with a kiosk that was less than professional.  As a kiosk software company we’ve had the privilege of developing kiosk applications deployed across the US and I’ve compiled a list of signs of an amateur kiosk application so you can avoid these same mistakes.

1. The artwork on the kiosk screens looks like generic clipart or is inconsistent

Usually this happens because the kiosk designer doesn’t have access to a graphic artist or the client has their own ideas on what’s “acceptable” artwork.  Fortunately we have an excellent graphic designer on staff but we’ve experienced the latter where clients will send us generic clipart for buttons and ask to have them put on the kiosk.  We try our best to talk them out of this but sometimes to no avail.  If you’ve seen our website KioskSimple.com you’ll notice we use a lot of hand drawn artwork that all meshes together nicely to give a consistent and professional theme with the occasional clipart thrown in for humor.

2. The kiosk is running the store’s primary website

The store’s primary website is almost always not designed for a kiosk and it’s really obvious when you slap it on a small touchscreen.  I was at a popular department store the other day and they had a kiosk for ordering gift cards.  The kiosk just sent you to the Order A Gift Card section of their company website and it was really hard to navigate on a small touchscreen.  It made me want to just buy a gift card from a cashier which of course defeats the point of having a self-service kiosk.

3. The kiosk is running a website obviously not designed for a touchscreen

We see this a lot, so even though I touched on this with no. 2 above, I cannot stress enough that custom content be developed for your kiosks and care be taken to develop away from keyboard and mouse-driven conventions.  If you are going to put your website on a kiosk you should have a website designed for a touchscreen environment that still feels friendly to a desktop user.

4. The kiosk screens are primarily text based and lack helpful illustrations

The following is a suggestion from Ryan one of our kiosk application developers:

“For kiosks I think there is a sweet spot for the amount of text in some areas. Too little text and you’re not really getting your message to the user and too much text can be off-putting and uninviting. Use graphics when all possible instead of text. For instance at the mall they have a directory kiosk and I tried to find the restroom and it was explained in text when a graphic with a map would have been much better. Also limit focal points. A kiosk application is not like a normal website where it’s easy to browse. I was at an auto-parts store and they had a kiosk that looked like the screens were designed for a desktop browser. This gave me way too many options to do on a single screen and also crammed content.”

5. There’s too many options crammed on a single screen

A self-service kiosk is intended to be a replacement for a human being and in order to make this palatable the kiosk needs to be really easy to follow without any outside intervention from a person.  When you cram a bunch of options on a single screen it can be really confusing so you want to err on the side of “dummy proof.”  A good example of this is when I was using a Redbox kiosk the other day and they have one screen that asks “Would you like us to email you a receipt?”  If you answer yes they have another screen that asks for your email address.  They only ask one question per step and thereby keep the screens simple so you don’t have to walk inside the 7-Eleven and ask the cashier for help.

6. The search functionality doesn’t yield helpful results

The following is a story from Travis one of our kiosk application developers:

“The most recent kiosk experience that I’ve had was at a grocery store self-checkout… Having picked up some jalapeño peppers for a dish I was preparing.  I went to the self-checkout, discovered I didn’t know the code so picked the “J” in the Alpha list, didn’t find it in the list of options, did a search on jalapeño and nothing came up.  Finally I did a search for pepper and it showed up in the list.”

7. The user interface is generally slow and unresponsive

This can happen because of poor design or a slow internet connection.  If your kiosk is running a website its performance is often dependent on the speed of the internet connection unless you’re relying primarily on client-side technologies.  No matter the reason, a sluggish kiosk leaves a bad taste in the customer’s mouth and should be avoided at all costs through proper design and providing bandwidth.

8. The “kiosk” is just an open desktop PC with everything exposed

Have you ever seen a “kiosk” that’s just a PC sitting there without any secure enclosure and has all of its ports exposed?  This is a hacker’s wet dream and will inevitably lead to a security breach.  I wouldn’t dare enter any sort of sensitive information into a kiosk like this let alone swipe my credit card.  It would be too easy for a malicious user to install software that could steal my personal information.


Blue Ribbon

Designing a kiosk that’s both dummy proof and a pleasure to use can be a challenge but fortunately there are a lot of successful kiosks that you can look to for good examples.  If you avoid the common mistakes outlined in this article you should be off on the right foot to developing a successful kiosk application.

Andrew Savala
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Author: Andrew Savala

Andrew Savala is the CEO of RedSwimmer, with a background in designing and deploying complex payment kiosk systems. Andrew offers high-value, strategic consulting services to companies looking to develop their payment kiosks.