NYC MTA Trip Planner: Does It Work Okay?

In my previous blog, I was talking about how I was so frustrated about NYC transportation system. One of many things that bothered me is the MTA Trip Planner Installation on the platforms. It looks like this.

NYC MTA Interactive Trip Planner

Since I’m taking Visual Language class, I tried to redesign its interface. But then I realized that I needed to do some observations before redesigning it. I was wondering if people could actually used it, if people were not frustrated enough like I did, even if people would notice it. So, I did my observation in Time Square station (I thought this station was one of the busiest station, didn’t know if it was true though). I observed and recorded it for about 45 minutes.

I think it’s interesting to observe this MTA Trip Planner Installation. Based on Chris Crawford definition of interactivity, and what I understood about it (you can look it up on my previous blog about interactivity here),  It’s considered as an interactive installation which people can plan their trip around NYC. The more people interact with it, the more people can get information. This gives you the interactivity, because you (or the user) communicate with this installation. You are triggered to do something, you think, then you do the action. And, the interaction is not the same over time.

Before I did my observation, my assumptions were:

  1. Only people who needs it would use it
  2. Many people wouldn’t notice if it could be used (or interacted)
  3. People only used it to get arrivals time information
  4. People don’t know what and where to touch to use it

So, here’s the short version of my observation.

I got some insights from doing this observation directly.

  1. Not many people really use it. I still have assumption that they just don’t need it, or they don’t know if they can use it. Probably they see it as an ads, not an interactive installation.
  2. Yes, most people only look at it if they want to find what time is the next train. But as you can see, only some people who really use it because they need to find out next arrival time. And it’s interesting that people will look at it if the screen shows the schedule. If it shows an ads, people won’t even look at it.
  3. Most people who interact with it only look at the arrivals time and the train routes.
  4. Most people who use it are millenials. If you watch the video until the end, you will notice that an old man tried to figure out what it was. He stood there for a very long time. I assumed that he knew that he could get something from it, but he didn’t know how. And he probably didn’t know that he could touch it.
  5. Many people just walked by. After I looked closely, there is no sign that tell people to use it. There is only a sign that says “MTA On the Go Travel Station”. If I wasn’t living in a touchscreen world, I wouldn’t even think to touch it.
  6. The average time people who really interact with it is 15.42 second. The longest time is 30.15 seconds, and the least amount of time is 2. 05 seconds. But it only people who definitely interacted with it, not to mention that people who just stood there and stared at it, trying to figured out what it was. The old man stood there for about 3 minutes 49 seconds! And he didn’t even try to interact with it. He was confused.

From this observation and after I read the first chapter of Design of Everyday Things and Emotional Design by Don Norman, I noticed that its functionality is actually good enough, but the design doesn’t support it. It wasn’t well designed so it doesn’t attract people to use it. Yes, it might solve users problems who seek for train information, but it’s not intuitive and engaging. The usability and the aesthetics are not balanced.

Then I tried to explore it. I noticed that it was lack of call to action (CTA). I didn’t know where to touch. Yes I tried to touch everything in it, and surprisingly it showed me another screens. Here’s an example.

Next Train Schedule

I didn’t know if the route alphabet (N, Q, W, R) could be touched until I randomly touched it. Then it gave me this screen.

Route Information

As a UX designer, I realized that this installation is very useful. But first of all, people need to recognize it. And talking about the user interface, there are so many things that can be redesigned. The most important thing is how people can be attracted to it. I hope I can work on it in the future (sure, if I had more free time).

 

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