Design matters - period!

I have been writing before about my struggle with the some the machines
we have to deal with on a day to day basis. My latest frustration is with the new payment system of Västtrafik (Göteborg's tram and bus operator). Initially I thought it's just me, but the new ticket system has gotten quite some press over the past few weeks. Well, at least here in Göteborg. I am sure a "Stockholmare" couldn't care less ;-)

Funny enough the people in charge at Västtrafik went from denying any problems to admitting errors to extending the grace period of the old system. In my opinion there are several issues with the new system. I don't mind that there is a deposit on the new re-chargeable travel card (other people seem to have a big issue with that). I am more concerned about that even the tram and bus drivers cannot explain the new system. And believe me - I don't blame them. Here is a picture of the new system installed on all trams and buses. WTF?


A yellow box with the symbols '+', 'T',  'V', 'S', '?', 'Å', 'K'. I don't get it. And is there some grouping of the buttons implied? Or was it just the easiest way to wire this yellow monster up?
Registering a simple single trip is admittedly quite simple. Just hold your card into the center of the machine. Pretty obvious, no? There is a big hand holding a card. I call this a good visual cue. But what if I want to travel multiple zones, or if I want to pay for a friend? Hmm, maybe I press the '?'. That could be the help system, right? Nope :( So is it the '+' to pay for two? I am thinking adding another person. Nope. That's for adding zones. But hey, why is that a '+' and not a 'Z' for zone. To add another person you have to press 'V' like vuxen (adult). So what do all the other letters stand for. To be honest I still don't know.

Västtrafik paid millions for this system and was years behind in introducing it and this is all they can come up with? Personally I would fire the person in charge! At the very least I would force him to read Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen blog. I am sure he could learn some valuable lessons there. Especially that design matters. This might also stop him from saying things like:"Jag var själf med i en referensgrupp för utprovningen och jag upplevde det som enkelt. Systemet är pedagogiskt och enkelt att lära sig" (I myself was  in an evaluation group and I experienced the system as easy. It is pedagogic and easy to learn). What a joke. I am sure Västtrafik's passengers would have been much more easy going with the new system if it would have been easier to understand.

Here a a few ideas. Replace or add images to the buttons. Come up with some decent visual cues. Also think about foreigners. How would they ever what these letters stand for. Another idea could be to replace the display with a bigger one which allows to display some more help text. And if everything fails put big signs next to the machine. And for heavens sake, take responsibility and admit that you screwed up.


Old comments

2009-09-05Hardy Ferentschik
There is even a Hata Västtrafik group on facebook - http://tinyurl.com/mw8jou
I don't really agree with all there points, but the new tickets system does suck :)
2009-09-05Per Lundholm
Interface Hall of Shame