I recently had an experience that reminded me of the value and importance of graphics in user instruction, navigation and way-finding. Here was the scenario: I was headed to dinner and parked in a lot on a corner near the restaurant. This parking lot had a large printed sign attached to an adjacent building instructing drivers to display a printed receipt on the car dashboard as proof of payment to avoid a ticket. I headed to the bright yellow payment unit shown here:
The box was very basic, no digital screens, no lighting for night-time usage, no information on pricing, but I saw the credit card slot and used it.
Then nothing happened. There was no receipt printed and the only feedback was a small red light above the credit card slot.
Did the red light indicate user error? Or was this a broken machine? I tried the credit card two more times. Still nothing. The only reason to keep trying was knowing the possible consequences for not obtaining a receipt: a ticket or a tow. Then I realized what was missing — an instructional graphic. There are four possible ways to enter a credit card into that slot, but I had kept trying the one that seemed most obvious to me — the numbers facing up and the card turned 90° clockwise.
I started trying the other ways, numbers up and 90° counter-clockwise, magnetic stripe up and 90° clockwise, and finally magnetic stripe up and 90° counter-clockwise. Of course I got it on the last try. The indicator turned green and the receipt popped out. All that hassle on my end could have been avoided with one very simple instructional graphic. I took some sample shots of other credit card instructional graphics around Portland, Shown below. Each has…Read More →