Riding the New York City subways everyday, I couldn’t help but think of the MetroCard swipers as my interactive technology to observe. There have been many times that I’ve missed a train, waiting for the person before me to swipe through the regular turnstiles or getting through the double obstacle of a MetroCard swiper and the rib-caged revolving turnstiles. Then there are the rough mornings where either my flimsy yellow MetroCard bent a bit on the magnetic black strip or my quick flick of a swipe was not so quick (or too quick), where it gives me the “Please Swipe Again At This Turnstile” message. My strategy in those scenarios is to wait for the 1 minute message to clear and then swipe again at the same turnstile to avoid losing money on your card or the 18 minute wait time to swipe again with the fancy Unlimited Ride MetroCards.
When observing users getting through the subway gates, you get a good sense of who is a local user and who may not be. I found that when I observed people swiping their MetroCards at our 8th Street/ NYU stop on the N and R train, not a lot of people had difficulty swiping smoothly to get that beep to “GO.” However, when I’m at a tourist hot spot like the B, D, F and M stop at Rockefeller Center, there’s a lot of foot traffic and people fiddling around with their cards and swiping repeatedly to get through. I’ve also witnessed some elderly people having problems, whether it being because of their eyesight of getting the thin card precisely through the slot or people swiping very slowly where the card reader tells them to swipe again. One elderly woman that I observed was standing in front of a MetroCard ticket kiosk for over 10 minutes, trying to get a card. Since it was taking a while and was the only machine, the 2 people in back of her were patiently assisting her. I’m not sure if there was a problem with her credit card or just figuring out card options on the touch screen.
I do think that the MetroCard turnstiles works effectively, especially when you’re a regular user and figured out the speed at which to swipe. The visibility problems, that Norman talks about in The Design of Everyday Things, could be something to improve upon in the design though and it could be just a simple line of text stating the additional instructions on the speed of a ‘smooth’ swipe (not too fast and not too slow) especially for new users. And in comparing other user interactions in similar transportation situations, I do like how the card readers on the NYC transit buses are easier to use though. It seems more user friendly cause you just dip your card in the slot, the card reader pulls it in to read the strip and then automatically pushes the card up for the user to get back. I also like the Oyster Card system in London where the cards are thicker and it’s just a quick tap on a touch pad for gates to open up for you to pass through.
Simple Application Using Analog Input and Digital Output