User Interface Design

A while back, I really got into user interface design, reading all the literature on it that I could get my hands, I joined SIGCHI, took a couple of courses and reviewed a few books.

These days we interact with computers everywhere, though sometimes it may not be obvious to us, and all these computers have user interfaces, either overt or not so overt.

A well designed interface really jumps out at you, it is simple, intuitive, forgiving and is not condescending, and badly designed interfaces really grate.

So when I read this post on BoingBoing about Airport Check-In Kiosks, I had a good chukle. I travel a lot for work, and usually use the automated check-in systems at airports. The one that really stands out for me is from JetBlue, AirTran is not bad. American Airlines and Continental’s systems really suck, in fact some suck so badly that the airline staff have to help the customers navigate the systems on a regular basis (namely me, and I like to think that I know my way around a computer.)

The JetBlue system is the best because they make the whole experience very simple, each screen usually has two options, they use large type, etc… What is more is that the check-in is separate from the luggage drop off (unlike AirTran), so you don’t have to wait in front of the check-in kiosk for someone to take your luggage, and so you can clear the kiosk for someone else to use.

When you think about it, having a fast, efficient check-in is good for business because it gets the passengers on their way fast, so there need for fewer kiosks and fewer staff is needed to help confused passengers. Of course you can reduce the number of kiosks and have fewer staff regardless but that just means irrate passengers, who will chose another airline next time they fly.

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