I have been traveling more than usual lately, and by doing so interacting with many different interfaces with regards to printing tickets, finding transportation, etc. The catalyst for this post happened when I was printing out my airline ticket at Boston’s Logan Airport earlier this week. I had a confirmation number and I needed to use a touchscreen to enter in the number. Using my index finger, I started tapping at the screen, but something didn’t feel right. It was really hard to find the letters I was looking for. And then I realized that this was because the letters were displayed in a QWERTY keyboard format.
It seemed very unnatural for me to use one finger to find the letters in that type of format, which was designed to be used with 2 hands, and ideally without even setting eyes on the keyboard. I think part of this realization was based on the fact that during the last 2 days, I was pecking away on my cellphone keys with my thumb, sending text messages to friends. The keyboard on a phone is set up in alphabetical order, which is logically, much easier to deal with when using one finger.
My good friends over at Amtrak also use a confirmation number system to print out tickets at the station. However, their confirmation numbers contain a limited number of letters, so when it comes time to enter in your info, you are presented with a screen of numbers 0-9 and the 6 or so possible letters. If you’re anything like me, usually you need to bust a move on these machines to catch the train, and the faster/easier the experience, the better.
Finally, back at the Philadelphia Airport*, I was happy to see how easy it was to access mass transit via the terminal. If you are following the signs to exit, you have no choice but to pass the clearly marked stairwell to the well-lit train platform. Pleasantly surprised, indeed, but I still took a cab. Anyway, they have an LCD screen at the top of the stairwell that indicates what time the trains run — which is :12 and :42 after the hour. Great! That makes sense to me, but, hmm… well.. what time is it now? Sure, I could check my phone or find another source of time, but it seems to me like displaying the current time in the LCD screen along with the train times would be trés helpful.
In the meanwhile, I am going to start taking pictures of more of these interactions so you know what I am talking about.
* If you visit the Philadelphia Airport website, it makes Philadelphia look like Miami. Or Hawaii. I am curious to know who’s in that white limo.