UX, UI, Ixd Designer
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Product Design: Parking Ticket Machine

Product Design: Parking Machine

THE DESIGN CHALLENGE

Who has never experienced those horribles parking machines? You never know where to introduce your ticket, your money, where to look at, etc. This time, you are asked to define the user personas yourself! Consider where those machines are usually, who is using them, and why. Hopefully, you will make it better!

Tools Used: I challenged myself to only use Pen and Paper for this challenge

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This is the machine I will redesign.

This machine is typical of most parking machines found in Dublin city.

In an ideal world, I would wait by the parking machine to observe how people interactions with it. But I certainly did not want to come across as creepy. So I decided to interview some people who interact with machines like this on a daily basis, to see what frustrates them about the experience.

User interviews

I asked a selection of users, “How do you feel using these machines?”

“I feel frustrated, the screen can be so hard to read and I always have to remember to have the right amount of change on me.”

“Anxious. Very anxious. On several occasions, a machine has ‘ate’ my ticket because, I don’t know.. I followed the wrong instructions or something?”

“I’ve been very annoyed with these machines on several occasions. I get error messages for no apparent reason. Which can be embarrassing when there’s a queue of people behind you, waiting to pay for their ticket too.”

These frustrations and pain points can be used as opportunities for experience improvement.

 
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Design Critique

Although Dublin is a city serviced by various forms of public transport (tram, light rail, bus network) and many people within the city possess a smartphone, we are still at a point where car parks are needed and so too are the need for physical tickets. However, from user research and some initial flow diagrams, it is apparent that there is much that can be improved with the parking machines. There are several key issues and pain points I have already identified.


 
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Unclear Sequence of Events

As the interaction flow is quite specific, I would suggest that the steps be numbered (1, 2, 3). By using intuitive sequence that a user is also familiar with, this makes the flow from one set of instructions to the next better resemble a conversation. Finally, to enhance the visual triggers, I will integrate the LED slot idea from ATMs, lighting up the relevant area around the control, indicating “take your action right here with this control”.


 
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Parking Machine Swallows Ticket/Card

Many users I interviewed expressed anxiety over a machine swallowing tickets. And indeed, it is quite the pain point. Why the parking machine has to eat the parking ticket? Where did it go inside that giant metal box? How do you get it out if something goes wrong and the ticket gets stuck? We have already identified that there is a still a need for physical cards.

For those prefer using credit cards to pay, we can again borrow an idea from ATMs— using a retractable card reader slot. People can keep an eye on their card, and retract their card to cancel the transaction without the need to punch the “Cancel” button.

To avoid anxiety surrounding inserting your parking ticket into a slot that ‘eats’ it, we can integrate a QR code reader system. A user simply needs to scan their card before proceeding to payment.
People like to feel things are under control — even sometimes just the feeling of it — both recommendations can potentially reduce the anxiety people may have while waiting helplessly even just for a few seconds. In other words, it’s ok to give a certain level of control back to people.

 
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Information Overload

As our human brains have a limited amount of processing power, when the amount of information coming in exceeds our ability to handle it, our performance suffers (A.K.A Cognitive Load). Even for a simple task like paying for parking, if too many unrelated messages randomly appear, it’s likely people would have to pause and wonder when they need to pay attention and when they can just ignore, and that deviates them from the primary task — paying for parking.

Rather than scattered informational messages being scattered across the machine, information should be shown in a contextual manner. Prepayment notice should appear BEFORE payment instructions, and friendly reminder should appear AFTER the payment is done. In addition to this, as opposed to a series of cryptic contact phone numbers (I mean, what is M-S Elect?), a user should be given only one phone number that could redirect to the appropriate line.

 
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Final Results

Having listened to the initial user concerns, I created a solution that encompasses solutions to potential pain points. Overall, this challenge was an exercise of balance and good UX lesson to take away. I was forced to find solutions for users that remove any negative emotions associating with using the machine, whilst still making sure that the machine is functional and efficient.