Observation Videos

For our first week in the Design, Development, Creativity module we were tasking with observing. How do people interact with the systems they face in their daily lives. Systems and interfaces that have all been designed for humans to use. But if we just watch and observe the entire experience are these designs any good? Do they fulfil the needs of the user in the best manner possible?

For the task we were to observe and record a 5 minute video sped up and condensed into 1 minute of footage, for my observation I decided to observe the difference between two different types of fuel pump at my local Maxol fuel station, here’s what I captured.

Maxol Video

In the video we see two users arrive at the same time, on the far left is a user using a pay at till pump and on the far right a user using the pay at pump option. Both users spend about the same time filling their fuel tanks and I believe it is a good comparison of two users using two different options for the same service.

Check out the Maxol pay at pump page for the aims Maxol have laid out for pay at pump users.

If we observe the video we can see that by the time the pay at pump user has entered their credit card details for paying the pay at till user has actually already finished filling their fuel tank. Observing further we notice that the pay at till user then returns to their car at roughly the same time the pay at pump users finishes filling their tank.

This would suggest that paying at the pump does in fact not save the user any time over paying at the till. The pay at pump users spends as much time entering their payment details at the start as it takes to enter shop, queue and pay at the till. Perhaps the system to enter the payment details could be designed better to make payment easier and add more value to the claim to save time at the pay at pump option.

A secondary observation I made here occurs after the pay at pump user has finished filling their tank, despite having already paid at the pump the user proceeds to enter the shop to purchase additional items and will again have to pay anyway. So their choice to use the pay at pump option leads to increased amount of time spent at the fuel station compared to the traditional pay at till option.

This may have been a mistake on the users part by not noticing that this was a pay at pump option when making their choice but they persisted with it as the fuel station design is not one that allows a user to easily switch, I propose that making the pay at pump options significantly different to the other pumps in terms of theming such as colour would help users make a better choice when they first arrive at the fuel station.

Qkr Video

As a secondary observation I decided to observe human interaction with a more obvious piece of technology, the smartphone and in particular the Qkr! app which allows a user to pre order and pre pay for their coffee before being notified when it is ready for collection.

In this observation I was interested in the time between when the order is made and when it is collected rather than the design of the app itself because as Bill Moggridge stated “good design has always been concerned with the whole experience of interaction” - I became interested in focusing on the whole experience and not just the app experience.

During observation of this period of time it becomes clear that while the user is not technically standing in a queue they are in what one could call a virtual queue. That is the user still had to wait about as long as it would have taken for them to go to the coffee shop, stand in line, order the coffee and receive it.

Upon questioning the coffee shop in this instance it was suggested that they take care of customers physically in line first before dealing with orders from the app meaning orders from the app have a lower priority. Making orders from the app a priority would be a good way to improve the design of the system as a whole experience of interaction.

Though because the user is in a virtual queue rather than a physical queue they do have this time to perform other tasks. However not captured in the video I did notice that the user became preoccupied with checking the app for the notification that their coffee was ready. Then once the notification did arrive on the device it took them some time to notice it.

I got the feeling that the user doesn’t fully trust that the system as a whole set of cogs will always work as expected and deliver them a seamless experience. And also when it did deliver on it’s promise of ordering coffee from your office desk that they had forgotten they were waiting for it.

I think it’s a part of the experience that has been wholly neglected and could do with some observation, understanding and improvement.


Donal Rafferty

Forever learning, Software Engineer, CoderDojo mentor, Smurfit Business School student, Photographer

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