The Value of Intuitive Interfaces

Never underestimate the value of an intuitive interface especially when designing for the general public. Nothing can be made too easy, but it can definitly be too hard. Below is a picture that was sent to me of a pay to park meter in Hollywood, Florida. Take a few seconds and really look at the instructions. What do you think you have to do first? What about second and Third?

According to a local resident, you start by first pushing any of the four buttons located under the #2, because you have to “wake” the machine up. Next you can put in dollars or coins (the #3 Coin or #3 Bills). To put in a bill, you place the bill in the slot, but a the little light above the slot must be green before it will take the bill. Therefore you may need to hold the bill there until the light changes, then it will take your bill.  As you put money in, the time you have paid for will update on screen #1. When finished you must press the check mark below #2 to confirm and print your receipt, which comes out below #4.


Meter in Hollywood Florida


What happened to the basic meters? Where each spot would have a meter that took coins. For every coin you add the time on the meter increases. Now it seems that feature creep has stepped in and made a mess of things. So what has changed really? Now you can add dollar bills, pay with credit card, or smart card, and get a receipt. And I’m sure there are some other benefits in the back end such as metrics on spot usage, and data on when the lot fills up etc, but those things are transparent. So what happened to make these parking meters so confusing? Below is a quick sketch I did of a simpler design. How would you redesign this meter?

Possible Redesign