July 17, 2004
Athens 2004 info kiosks usability

In a grey little corner on the Syntagma Square (main station) metro in Athens, an Athens 2004 Olympic interactive information screen is mounted. Being the first deployed kiosk of many more to come, one must presume, I gave it a spin.

It's a pretty standard info kiosk layout: limited/no instructions, and a basic touchscreen displaying information mounted on a colourful booth/stand.

Surprisingly, however, whereas most such kiosks traditionally serve a custom, finger-pointing-friendly GUI or a font-sized-up version of a limited "intranet" website, the Athens 2004 booth displayed only the Athens 2004 Olympic games main website.

Visit the site at www.athens2004.com/ and notice how very little of the site is clickable. To expand most page items, you can not click on the associated images or the introductory text, only a little blue arrow. For press releases, not even the date or the header is clickable(!)... Even as websites go it's not easy to get around, much less when trying to click mini-icons with large fingers.

Athens2004.org screen capture (crop) for illustration purposes only

Clearly there is a case here for redesigning either the main site itself (not likely) or, if the site is driven by a content management system (which one must presume) - to generate a more finger-friendly interface.

Some observations on kiosk usability, not rooted in extensive studies but on my personal experiences:

  • Minimalist designs work better - more information accessible with one click might be good in some contexts, but grouping content into user focused content groups and simplifying the navigation would be better. As the site stands, it's far too overloaded for a kiosk, with bells, whistles, press releases, scroll down menus(!) and more.
  • The less scrolling the better - if it's true for ordinary websites, it's doubly true for touch-based interfaces
  • A clear distinction between touchable and non-touchable interfaces is desired - I tried several times to click touch the images and some text areas without immediately getting discernable visual feedback on whether anything was happening or not.
  • Touchable areas must be large - touch screens "feel" a large number of touch points (a finger does not touch just one pixel) and it's identified touch point is not necessarily where the user intended to point (usually at the tip of the finger(?))
... any other experiences to share?

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