Using the Metro’s vending machines to buy a ticket, every time you need one, is always a non satisfying situation you get to experience. Well, it is more than a non-satisfying situation. It is a frustrating experience for reasons. Many reasons. In this article we will try to address some of the basic UI and UX problems that these machines carry with them.
Let’s define the problems out there.
Audio assistant, long queues, slow software, too much information all over the place.
For some reason, and probably not for the sake of a previously successful performed user & accessibility testing all of the ticket vending machines in every metro station of Athens, are coming with the audio assistant enabled. A wanna-be Siri is there to tell you what to do and guide to you through the whole process of buying a ticket. So, the idea is, that if you are not used in this ticket purchasing process, the audio assistant is there to stand out for you. It tries to help at every single tap, so you don’t get lost inside the UI. Sounds good. Doesn’t work. ( No puns intended ). The audio assistant is far from a “good friend” for a user who is just a bit more familiar with new technologies. It takes too much time for the assistant to guide to you and almost always, tapping on the screen to buy a ticket is faster than those instructions that you hear. So, the inconsistency between voice and the actual tap on screen is totally a nightmare for most of the users.
So please ATH Metro managers, if you can’t do something for that, just turn it off.
It’s pretty easy to understand that at every metro station, there should be at least 2 ticket vending machines placed next to each other which is true and legit. Thing is, that the multiple queues of buying a ticket since the new vending machines appeared, are really stacked and there is always an average of 3 to 4 minutes of waiting time. ( Considering that in front of you there are 3 to 4 people waiting). This frustrates almost every citizen who is waiting for a single ticket. Personally, there have been times that anger overrides all of my kindness, patience, and calmness, especially when I just see a terrified user in front of me who can not understand how to use the machine. Of course, this is not a user’s fault. My anger is for all those developers, designers and executives that thought that this specific kind of service was a good idea.
Contactless payments are faster than the software itself.
You may have thought that buying a ticket with your credit/debit card would be much faster than the classic way of inserting coins and cash into the machine. Well, this is true. But it could happen way faster. Let me explain the process. When you are about to buy your ATH metro ticket with your credit card you have two options.
- Select the right option from the menu, insert your card into the machine and then follow the classic process of typing your pin, pressing ok, etc etc. That will not speed up the process that much because a PIN number will be requested and you will have to wait about a century to get your receipts for the respective transaction.
- Select the right option from the menu, touch your card to the NFC reader and make a contactless payment. Going for contactless payment is obviously better because no PIN is involved. Truth is, it doesn’t matter for ATH’s ticket machines. No matter how fast you touch your card to the NFC reader, no matter how fast the NFC box reads your card and processes the transaction, the machine will ALWAYS let you down by delaying the ticket and receipt export. It just can’t catch up with the speed of contactless payment, so you will face the following situation:
- You have selected “Pay with Card” and you touch your card the NFC Reader
- Machine is still telling you with its voice assistant to “Insert your card” for an extra of 3–5 seconds since the “beep” you hear from the successful contactless payment.
- You have paid. An SMS from your bank is sent to your phone that a transaction have been made. But, the machine is still processing by saying “Processing transaction”. Wait 15–20 seconds.
- Wait… 1st ticket receipt is being exported
- Wait… 2nd POS receipt is on its way.
- Wait a bit more… Ticket is on its way!
- Here it is! You get your ticket and go to catch the metro.
- Assistant says “Grab your ticket”. But you are already gone. And another one is standing in front of it waiting to reset and show the main screen.
Frustration, all over the place.
TOO MUCH INFO EVERYWHERE.
You may have noticed that there is a tutorial, an announcement, another tutorial, another announcement, another tutorial almost everywhere around every machines. So much text, so many useless, useful, indifferent and meaningful info mixed together, to produce an ugly, unfriendly, cluttered result like the one below and maybe 10 times uglier than that. So, no matter the info presented around the machine, none of it is useful. So many words and advices in text, so many written steps and so much space captured around the machine makes the user unwilling to find a tutorial or read a useful announcement. So, just some space, cluttered with information that no one will notice. What a time to be alive!
Strange logic regarding cash payments.
Well, now let’s dive in another problem of the ATH Ticket Machines.
Let’s say that you are about to buy two 90min tickets. It will cost you 2.80 euros. And let’s suppose you have 10 euros(paper money) in your pocket and you will pay with that.
Well, you can’t. The machine only accepts just the next greater amount of paper money. So you can only pay with paper money cash that is just the next greater amount of paper money than the total amount you are about to pay. For example, is you need to pay <5 euros in ticket you can only insert 5 euros of paper money. If you are about to pay 5,10 euros in tickets, you can only pay with a 10euro paper money and not 20, 50,100.
So maybe, someone has to rethink this in the near future. What do you think? 🙂
Interaction delays due to bad Hardware and/or software reasons.
Have you ever tried to tap on one of these machines? Touch Screens seem impossible to feel your tap. You have to be sure you push hard until the button reacts and takes you to the next step.
This is one of the funniest machine’s problem. On-screen interactions are slow and sometimes never “feel” your tap. Combining this with the disturbing audio assistant that just wants to help all the time during the process, users feel like they do something wrong. Time is passing, queues get bigger and the end user freezes in front of the machine. Well, as always.
Bad audio assistant, long queues, slow software, hardware, too much information all over the place are some good reasons for Thanos to extinguish half the universe.
Well, these were some of the problems with the new ticket vending machines in the Athens Metro stations. What do you think? Have you ever experienced any of the above problems? Have you ever felt frustrated about the process of buying a single ticket?
PS1: The “I use a monthly card” is not an option as we are talking about specific actions that happen on the ticket machines. ( Single ticket purchases, Card reloads, Multi-ticket purchases etc )
PS2: I started writing this article 6 months ago. Today, nothing has changed regarding the machines and their efficiency.