How to Design a Better Experience For Kiosk?


Over the last few years, I've been studying and designing products for various devices. In this article, I want to share my thoughts on designing self service kiosk based on what I learned from enormous user research, testings and user observations at KeyMe. Some examples are KeyMe specific, but the design tips can be applied to other kiosk design. What’s more, I hope the product thinking and problem solving skills behind it will translate in designing other products. 


Designing Self Service Kiosk is Different Than Designing Other Devices

When I first design kiosk, I tried to translate mobile app and website design skills to kiosk. However, some of the guidelines don’t work out well. Kiosk has its unique context. If you look at these three aspects - Who the user is, where the user use the kiosk and how they interact with it, you will find that the answers to these questions lead to unique user behaviors and specific UI design. From my experience designing kiosk in KeyMe, the design challenges was caused by these following :

  • Wide user range
  • User Fatigue
  • Privacy concerns
  • Kiosk technology limitations


Wide User Range

In general, self service kiosk has wider audiences than app and website, because they are usually located in public spaces. Everyone can play with it. Your user will have a variety of background and comprehension level. Some of the users don’t even had a phone or they don’t use computer that often. Therefore, some best practice and design conventions that works perfectly for apps and websites, won’t fit for kiosk.

Design Tips:

1. Make sure they know it’s a touch screen. Have a trigger of touching and make the button looks clickable. You will be really surprise to see how reluctant users are to touch the kiosk screen when there’s no obvious clue to indicate it’s touch enabled. 

2. Have a fun "attract loop" to encourage users to try the kiosk. It's a good opportunity to present your product and services if users are not familiar with it. However, don’t make it too complicated. The attract loop should be easy to understand at a glance when people pass by.

For example, in KeyMe, our attract loop delivers the messages that users can copy any keys with us. To build the trust, we highlighted the 100% satisfaction guaranteed and played customer testimonials. Every 20s, the screen will jump to home screen for 5s to encourage user to take action. 

3. Use iconography and audios to support your text. Visual cues can help enhance understanding, which makes the messages easily to be conveyed regardless of their language and comprehension level.


User Fatigue

In most cases, users are standing when they use your kiosk. What’s even worse, they might holding a cup of coffee or carrying bags from a grocery store. They approach your kiosk and try to complete a task. It’s easily tiring to use and lose patience caused by a bad ergonomics and poorly designed user experience.

Design Tips:

1. Consider user height and arm reach variables. There’re always some areas of the screen which is easier to access than other areas. Make sure your buttons are are always reachable even for short people to avoid unnecessary body engagement.

For example, KeyMe kiosk has a big screen size (about 12* x 20") and the height of the top of the screen is 5'6" . From our user study, user's eye level and focus point is at kiosk's middle to low area. Therefore, we broke down our screen into 3 parts and always put our primary content at user's eye level. (Figure 2.1)

                                                 Figure 2.1 KeyMe Kiosk Screen Breakdown Strategy

                                                 Figure 2.1 KeyMe Kiosk Screen Breakdown Strategy

2. The task should be really easy to complete. User don’t have patience standing in the public. They feel pressure by the queue and embarrassed if they stuck on a problem. Make sure you provide clear CTA and give rapid response to each action to help them walk through the task. Limit the amount of information you display on the interface to avoid distraction from completing a main task. Visual and content hierarchy is significant important to help user quickly understand the main task. 

3. Make sure your buttons are at the right place. When users move their arms, some areas are easily to be blocked by hand. Use some movements or animation to guide user eyes if you want them to pay attention to certain areas.

                                                       Figure 2.2 KeyMe Animation Example

                                                       Figure 2.2 KeyMe Animation Example

4. It's crucial to do user testing on actual prototype on the kiosk. Kiosk usually have bigger interaction screens. Interact with small screen is totally different than interact with big screen. The poor user experience is easily magnified on big screen. Without an actual prototype, you won't understand the real user experience. 


Privacy Concerns

Kiosk is usually located in public space. The surroundings may be noisy and busy. There may be queue for your kiosk. When you display something on kiosk, not only the user can see it, people who stand behind it may also see it. If user don't feel secure when using your kiosk, they won't use it. 

Design Tips:

1. Consider very carefully what information you display on the screen and what information you are asking people to enter, due to where you kiosk is located. If you need to ask for personal information, make sure they feel comfortable with entering it.

2. Make the font size of the private content as small as possible so that users can easily block them by hand or by body.

3. Clearly tell users when the task is complete. If user left without completing the test, time out and end the session. Make sure you have some visual or audio reminder to let them know the task is complete or the session will be end.


Kiosk Technology Limitations

The sensitivity of kiosk touch screen is not as perfect as other touch devices. The dust and sweaty fingertips on the screen will decrease the touch sensitivity. Different locations also has different response speed due to the internet connection. Below is a few tips that might be specific to KeyMe kiosk, but it's good to consider in you design as well. 

Design Tips

1. Limit up & down scrolling. Even though it's pretty common in other touch screen device. Due to the device constrains I mentioned, it's better to limit this interaction. 

2. Limit typing. Typing on a kiosk is a pain. If you need users to type, use autocomplete. 

3. Do user testing in the field - The speed of internet may be various based on the location. You probably have to design a loading screen or transition animation to reduce the actual connecting time from server. It helps to ease the user from the long wait time. 



Kiosk design is challenging. You have to consider the holistic experience of your users, as well as the technical constraints from developers. I've learned a lot in the process and I hope I can translate all these valuable experience to my design process in the future no matter what kind of product I work on.

If you have any questions, or want to share your thoughts with me, feel free to reach out! My email is: