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Wednesday, 10 October 2012

DD2000 - A Look at Design: Self Service Checkouts

This is the first of a series of blog posts whereby I will simply look at a piece of design and analyse it to determine whether or not it is a good piece of design or a bad piece of design. To do this I will look at both the good and bad and also look at whether it has been designed well for the people who are most likely to use it.

To begin we shall have the ever exciting self-service checkout. It may be an odd thing to post about, but I feel that it is a very valid one mainly since they seem to be in every major supermarket in some number and always seem to be growing in popularity since they were brought in. They have received both praise for speeding up an individual's shopping whilst being blamed for slowing down another individual's shopping.

However are they an example of good or bad design? Well having personally used them myself I can safely say that I find them quite efficient and competent machines. Would you to approach the machine and simply swipe an item across without pressing "start" it will automatically start with a "blip" signalling that your item was added to the list of items you have scanned through. The only slight complications I have come across would be either adding an item that doesn't have a bar code such as a donut or say a single vegetable such as an onion as you are then having to navigate through menus. Additionally I may simply stick my debit card into the slot and expect it to automatically detect my card and figure out that I intend to pay by card, which of course does not happen and I instead waste a couple extra seconds there.

Although what is important to note is that whilst I am competent with modern machinery, be it smart phones, PCs, I am quite confident around them. But it is not typically people like me who would use self-service checkouts, indeed the people who most likely do the shopping in my opinion would be the mums of the family of a variety of ages who've no doubt been shopping the same way for some time and who would be less susceptible to change or knowledgeable with modern machinery.

Therefore I feel that whilst the self-service machine is an example of good design in that if gives shoppers the freedom to choose whether they wish to be served or serve themselves in an easy and quick way and would help avoid queuing. However it could be made more efficient and ergonomic so that it feels less awkward for shoppers to navigate through the menus or else make the whole process automated.

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