Many interactive touch screen applications you run into today merely focus on providing a way to access information easier. This can be helpful for sure. Touching buttons to quickly navigate to more specific and relevant information does help. However, interactive touch screens can be so much smarter than that. By taking interactive to the next level we can increase the value exponentially. Really effective interactive touch screen applications learn about the user, and then guide them through more personalized information or decisions. Whenever appropriate we take this approach when designing the interactive experience.
For example, have you ever been to a museum or attraction of some kind and tried to plan your time there? Efficiently coordinating all the times and locations for the various exhibits, programs, demonstrations, and performances can be a nightmare. First you try and determine what you are actually interested in seeing, then you start to weed through all the seemingly endless combinations of times and locations trying to come up with plan that maximizes your time and distance traveled. I know firsthand how daunting this can be because I have been there many times.
The typical interactive touch screen approach would be to provide the user with access to lists of information, times, and locations. These lists would perhaps be organized by categories that help divide them up for easier access. This is one level of interaction and it helps. But the next level of interactive approaches the task much differently. We seek to “learn” what the user “likes”, and then apply that toward guiding them. That is, through a series of questions or selections the user makes, the application “learns” what they are interested in; it then crunches through all the available times and locations to come up with the most efficient plan. Within seconds the user can have a very personalized plan avoiding the frustration of researching all the possible combinations on their own.
Retail interactive touch screen kiosks are another good example. When you walk into the aisle of a store you are often confronted with dozens of boxes on the shelves from multiple brands that all have different characteristics. Think about it – the only way you can get information about each of the products is to pick up all the individual boxes and read the fine print on the back. Retailers know that shoppers often get frustrated and leave the aisle because they are confused about what to buy (that’s me!). Once again, an interactive kiosk or mobile app that just organizes the information is one approach. However, if you take that interactive experience a step further and create a series of questions or selections for the user to respond to, the application will actually “learn” what the user wants and then recommend the right product.
Of the many projects I have worked on over the years for major retailers, the best implementations have been those that go to that next level and help you think. One such project that comes to mind was for Millstone Coffee. Millstone is a high-end brand that seeks the coffee connoisseur. The typical interactive approach would be to provide a description about each of the different types of coffee beans for the connoisseur to explore and learn.
The more effective approach is for the kiosk to explore the connoisseur and learn about them, then make a recommendation based on that. The app does this through a series of questions about the connoisseur’s tastes. “How do you like your Salsa: Hot, Medium or Mild?” “Which do you like better: Chocolate or Vanilla?” Once the app has sufficient information about the tastes of the user, it processes that information with consideration for all the different coffee characteristics, and it makes an intelligent recommendation for what coffee you should try. It is very effective, and it’s more fun for the user as well!
If you have a situation where guests, visitors, clients, customers, patients, members, or even employees need help getting information or making decisions, an interactive kiosk or mobile application can be very powerful. Just remember, when it comes to planning your interactive content it’s not always about blasting information out to the user. Perhaps a shift in the way you approach your interaction would be more effective. Ask not what your user can learn from the app, but rather what your app can learn about your user?