It’s been two months now since the Melbourne public transport system ceased to offer short-term ticketing options. Now commuters have no alternative but to use Myki cards. Anyone who wants to travel on Melbourne’s buses, trams and trains now must purchase a Myki card and pre-load funds onto it before travelling.
It seems every person you talk to has an issue with Myki. It’s a user experience nightmare. The machines are confusing, the screens are hard to read, the card readers often don’t work (although this has got me several free trips to work on the bus, thanks Myki), tourists have to invest in a system they will only use a few times, the list goes on.
Following a communications push to get people using Myki after the other ticketing options had been removed at the start of 2013, I saw this as a timely opportunity to get down to Flinders Street Station to observe how commuters were coping in a Myki-dictated world. Yeah, most people managed to get through the station relatively unscathed but I witnessed a shocking number of people struggling with the system at a number of points.
Let’s start with the Myki machines.
My observation started at about 6.30pm after the evening rush had started to subside. A line of people had formed at the machine I was observing as people struggled to work out how to top-up their card. The line (and frustration) quickly grew. Whilst I was watching, several people threw their hands up in the air after coming face-to-face with the
beast machine, friends stepped in to assist friends struggling to understand which option to select, meanwhile, people behind shuffled their feet and shifted closer to the person in front in an attempt to hurry them along. Several people had to reposition their Myki cards a few times before getting it right, whilst one lady almost left her card behind in her haste to get away from the machine. The queue for the Miki machine is not a fun place to be.
Upon stepping up to the machine, you are assulted with arrows. They point everywhere with no indication of what to do first. The screens are difficult to read because of the awkward angle they are positioned at to meet accessibility regulations. The card holder sits at a precarious angle. The process of topping-up using the current user interface is confusing, unintuitive and time-consuming. Quite frankly, the user experience of the Myki machine is a mess.
So here are a few recommendations that I think might help alleviate the problem…
The home screen should display the key user tasks – buy, top-up or check balance – and should use the same icons to represent these tasks as those used on the website and on the tops of machines for consistency. It should be obvious where to start. The area surrounding the screen should be clear of unnecessary distractions (ie arrows pointing at every possible thing on the machine). Once a user selects the task they want to perform, they should be stepped through the process and have choices explained to them at each step (ie. what is Myki Money and what is a Myki Pass? How do I know which one to choose??).
Maybe a home screen like this…
I know from personal experience that topping-up at your local 7-Eleven or IGA is a much more pleasant experience. Given that many people are still unfamiliar with the system and the options available for topping up, why not put signs above the machines that point out other locations nearby that offer Myki top-ups, and tell people that they can top-up online so that people know for next time there are other options?
Oh, and here’s an idea, maybe allow people to tilt the screen so that taller members of society can actually see what’s on it without having to alter their trip home to drop in to the local chiropracter for a spinal realignment after having to contort their bodies in unnatural positions to be able to see the screen.
None of these recommendations are particularly mind-blowing, just common sense really. What is mind-blowing is how little actual user testing seems to have been carried out on these machines. Myki should be making user testing a major priority. After taking just a few minutes to observe real users interacting with the machines, it’s obvious how flawed the user experience is… and I haven’t even started on the user experience of the entry and exit gates yet! (more to come)