My wife and I go to a nearby Wendy’s for lunch once a week and we usually order salads. They’re fresh and low calorie. During our last visit I watched the order taker touch his display screen many times as he took our order, so I asked, “Why so many touches for a simple salad?” He explained that programmers must have designed the displays and menus because he had to touch the screen six times for each salad. Apparently if you choose a salad, the person behind the counter must go to other menus to choose the dressing, condiments, and so on. I’m glad I didn’t order iced tea. The poor fellow might have needed several minutes to determine the size, with ice or without, to go or eat in, lemon or no lemon, lid or no lid…
I have seen plenty of poor interfaces. The one for Google’s gmail drives me nuts, and seat-selection via the local movie theater’s Web site never lets me choose the seats I want. When I try to move the default choice to other seats I never get the grouping I want. I would have to buy tickets one at a time and select the seats exactly where we want to sit. When we go to the movies with friends, that’s a pain. Oh, and the forced seat selection occurs in otherwise empty theaters.
The manager at Wendy’s said he has written to the company, but so far no changes, probably because the employees have mastered the convoluted menu choices and restaurant owners don’t want to spend time and money to retrain them. The next time you make a stop for fast-food, watch how many touch-screen actions the server needs to complete your order.
Maybe we shouldn’t place the blame on programmers. I suspect marketing and sales people have as much to do with user interfaces as anyone. When I ran a Wikipedia search for “user interface design,” the relevant page listed several academic papers. Can someone–please–point us all to some worthwhile and practical writing about good user-interface designs and techniques? –Jon Titus