UX in the wild

Here’s a fantastic (and hilarious) example of bad user experience design in the wild. Watch the video, and if you’re interested in my analysis, read on below.

Some thoughts

Note – The timestamps link to the original video, not the embedded one on this page. Couldn’t make the timestamps work on the page. Sorry about that.

Lack of system feedback

At 0.56, the driver can’t enter coins to the machine, because the machine doesn’t have an amount due set up yet. This is explained by the assistant over an intercom.

The obvious question is – why isn’t the the amount already set up to a sensible default? And how was the driver supposed to know that the amount due wasn’t ready yet? As he rightly points out, ” Well I didn’t know that!!”

This is a great example of failing to display system status. By displaying system status, we mean clearly indicating what point of the process the machine is in.

A concrete example of displaying system status : most dryers have a screen that indicates how long is left in the cycle. The dryer is informing you of it’s system status, and how much longer that status will last.

Not displaying system status is a common mistake, but normally that’s easily remedied. Just provide useful information about what’s going on. Or, even better, eliminate that step if it’s not necessary.

Again failing to display system status

At 1.15, the assistant tells him the machine must have rejected one of his quarters as the payment didn’t go through yet. Again, the driver doesn’t know what’s going on because the system didn’t indicate what was happening. How is he supposed to know that the machine isn’t just processing his payment, or swallowing his quarters?

It’s not unusual for machines to have errors and bugs. But we should do our best to handle those errors as gracefully as possible. In this case, the machine tells the driver nothing, so he is totally dependent on the assistant’s instructions.

Poor affordances

At 2.40 the driver becomes so frustrated with the coin system that he switches to using dollar bills. But isn’t even sure of where the bills are supposed to enter the machine.

In human-computer interaction, this is called having a poor affordances. There are different definitions of affordances, but the basic idea is that the system doesn’t clearly indicate how it can be used.

Mismatched system status and feedback

Adding insult to injury, once the payment has finally been made, the light to continue driving doesn’t go on at 3.29. This confuses the driver – can he continue? Or wait longer? Not clear.

In conclusion, the UX of this machine is…less than optimal.

In the words of our new friend:


Frustrated Driver

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