Software Musings

Visual Discrimination

Posted on: 04/11/2012

I provide here a picture of perhaps the worst user interface I have seen for a long time. All of the Metro (nee Loeb) supermarkets in at least the Ottawa area have recently installed these interesting devices for credit and debit card purchases. The cashiers are really annoyed with them because each transaction apparently takes twice as long as it did with the older machines but that is not my gripe.

Take a look at the photograph and consider the following points:Image

Firstly, something like 12% of Metro’s male customers cannot distinguish between the red and green buttons at the bottom. I am one of them. If, however, you look closely (very closely) you will see that the button on the right has the digit 0 engraved on it. 0 is used in computing and elsewhere to mean “false” or “no” so it is clear that that button means “no”, isn’t it? Well, actually no. That is the “yes” button.

But it gets better. At one point the system prompts one for the type of bank account: savings or cheque. To select the cheque account one is told to press F1. But when one presses the F key and then the 1 key it doesn’t work. Look more closely. At the top, there is a key marked “F1”. I have asked the cashiers when the F key is used and they don’t know.

So, of course, I complained to Metro. Their response was elegant. “Our pin pads are designed in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standard for visually impaired people.” I wrote back pointing out that, except for the obvious fact that everyone between Tierra del Fuego and Baffin Island is an american, I wasn’t an american and I am not disabled and so I couldn’t see what this had to do with the matter. I am still awaiting another response.


5 Responses to "Visual Discrimination"

This is a comment just for the sake of leaving you a comment. A man’s gotta have comments.


Re the ‘O’ on the green key: ‘O’ for ‘Oui’?

I used one again today. The O on the green key stands for OK.

And the X on the other one?

It gets worse, Loblaws has replaced some of their terminals. The new ones appear to require input at a touch screen as well as a keyboard. Two different kinds of interaction on one device can’t be good. And the keyboard has a privacy shroud which makes keying numbers difficult. Chris, the one you illustrate above could be close to perfect if the RED key had been octagonal, the YELLOW key a triangle and the GREEN key a circle. Universally known shapes for “stop”, “I don’t know”, and “go”.

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November 2012
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The author of this blog used to be an employee of Nortel. Even when he worked for Nortel the views expressed in the blog did not represent the views of Nortel. Now that he has left, the chances are even smaller that his views match those of Nortel.
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