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5: Japanese ticket vending machines. With several private lines connecting to public lines, it is amazing how millions of users accommodate their habits to arbitrary interface idiosyncrasies, which only manifest competition between the companies involved.
4: A separate machine for senior and disabled tickets just goes to manifest its unrelated origins. And why is this machine in a corridor 50 meters away from regular ticket vending?

article for AXIS magazine, tokyo:
issue 5/6, may/june 2000

feature "getting there, getting things", on interface design


reproduction or duplication prohibited

Interface of vending machines

San Francisco
1: San Francisco uses two transport systems: MUNI for the city and BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) for the greater area. The three machine types currently in use by BART, the regional transport authority.
2: Typical old interfaces of BART: What started as an illogical layout, has become worse through improvements.
3: Different but not better: BART's new machines. Users show major confusion especially about the two display screens, and hardly use this new model at all, although it allows for more options including credit cards.

No improvement from machines old to new:
Obviously, engineering has to prioritize their clients' space-saving desires, over a time-saving interface with a natural operation sequence for all. (Required ruggedness aside, a multiple of this functionality fits into a minuscule palm pilot, with a better interface as well.)
Isn't the ultimate task of public transportation to be time-saving and user-centered? Do engineers enjoy convoluted logic like designers enjoy questioning legibility? Or: who makes the final decisions?

Vending by humans

7: Protection from unwanted exposure? "Is there a human in here, please?" East or west, ticket booth employees rig up their turrets with random information like medieval battlements. This seems to protect from reiterative inquiries, comparable to a web site's FAQ section.

Seeing these pictures together, one can imagine how thousands of people lose time, energy and good will every day, be it for work or their own life. Businesses' loss of efficiency and people's frustrations may lead to more tension in society. However, problem recognition, initiative and good will are clear to see. What the transport employees tried to fix here, inadvertently reveals where professionals and administrators failed. Be it by professionals or amateurs, all these examples are obviously "designed", often several times over: Choices and decisions had to be made -- but involuntarily or unknowingly unrelated.
6: Vending machine for memorial stamps in Nara: In souvenir machines like this one, it's a lot of fun to be involved in absurd actions and patterns -- proven by mechanical museums in tourist venues. An ironic symbol: What we find obstructive in task-oriented interfaces, becomes entertaining in leisure travel!