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Six Tips to Improve Kiosk Usability and Adoption

by Martin Ho , 11.07.2013

Kiosk interfaces are challenging for designers because they must anticipate and accommodate the completion of key functions, while making the interface as error-proof as possible. Keeping it simple isn’t so simple!

A successful kiosk should not require human assistance or intervention during consumer use. Well-designed kiosks can optimize efficiency for both the consumer and the business while offering a great user experience.  In contrast, poorly designed kiosks can increase user frustration and reduce consumers’ ability to act on their immediate needs (and/or retail impulses).

We have experience in designing kiosks and self-service interfaces, including airline check-in kiosks, transportation/shipping kiosks, restaurant kiosk and POS terminals, retail inventory kiosks, financial transaction kiosks, and next-generation multi-touch interfaces with self-service applications. Based on our experience, we have identified a number of key success factors for a kiosk’s overall usability and adoption:

Location matters

* Kiosks should be centrally located without disruption to traditional “manned” lines.  Well placed kiosks will allow consumers to make a conscious choice, whereas peripherally located ones  can often be missed opportunities. Design “attract mode” screens to entice consumers to use the kiosk from afar.

Clearly indicate the capabilities

* It should be immediately clear what the kiosk does from the very first time the user walks up to it. If a kiosk supports five basic tasks, all five should be explicitly listed or referred to via the start screen.

* External signage surrounding the kiosk - or printed directly onto the side - should be provided when possible to encourage consumers who might be otherwise hesitant to try a kiosk.

Provide linear navigation

* Consumers should always be able to step back in a process or exit altogether.

Use simple language and clear illustrations

* Consumers at a variety of reading levels will need to understand the kiosk’s instructions. Illustrations may be essential.

* If a credit card or photo memory card needs to be inserted a certain way, the kiosk instructions should indicate the relative location of the card reader and the correct orientation for the card.

Indicate consequences

* Consumers need to feel in control of the actions they are carrying out on the kiosk, or they will seek out human assistance.

Facilitate the impression of control

* Inform users when they begin a multi-step process (and briefly indicate what the steps are).

* Indicate what will happen if the user makes a selection with dependent options.

* Provide specific and helpful error messages and screens if the user enters information that is not valid or conflicts with earlier information.

* Provide a clear price confirmation before requesting payment.

* Ask for confirmation before allowing the user to cancel out of a process.

* Provide progress indicators if the user must wait for a transaction or search to take place.

With these tips in mind, you are on your way to designing a great kiosk user experience.

Martin Ho is Vice President of GfK’s User Experience team. He can be reached at