Living in Minnesota for 4 years I know paying for parking can be a huge hassle in the Minneapolis area. A flawed product design results in paying for parking becoming a huge chore and a time sink. Which nobody wants to deal with, especially during the winter.
To confirm my hypothesis we needed to observe primary users of Parking Meters to better understand the scenario we are designing in. We decided to use a Fly on the Wall observation method to gain insight into the users, their environment, and current interactions that take place when paying for parking currently.
After FOW observation we conducted a desirability test on 21 users to fairly assess how users felt when paying for parking. The results show that the majority of user's feel either neutral of the experience or are negatively impacted by it. Frustrating and confusing are words that should never be associated with a product. Understanding the user's emotions in this space will help inform our design decisions that come later down the road.
Next we created storyboard to have visual cues as to where the current users run into issues. These series of storyboard were instrumental to identifying counter-intuitive actions that are needed to complete the task. Things such as pressing the green button does not finish the task, the smaller green button next to it prints the receipt and completes the process. Inserting credit card before taking any actions is contrary to our society of paying after a service is complete.
Taking this user research into consideration we listed out and identified key paint points in the current process. These pain points are a concrete step we can focus our effort into key areas of the experience.
Current users tend to run into road-blocks when approaching the parking meter. There is an overwhelming amount of features and information immediately presented to them that the don't know where to start.
Another key paint point we wanted to focus on was the issues of dim screens. In the Minnesota winter it can be quite difficult to read black text on a dark green screen. Older users would lean into the parking meter just to see the information they needed.
To define these pain points into addressable, specific topics we made a set of "How might we?" statements. A challenge in creating HMW statements is ensuring the topics are broad enough so that multiple solutions can come up during the ideation phase, but narrow enough to keep helpful boundaries.
We narrowed our focus down to these 4 aspects of the project with the time allotted to us. These 4 statement serve as a pillar for our design going forward. Everything should relate back to these statements to ensure a successful product is designed.
Putting on paper our ideal user flow was important for us because it shows us the gold standard of how the parking meter should interact with the user. It should be fast, easy, and intuitive.
After defining our problem thoroughly, conducting user research to confirm our beliefs, and identifying key aspects of the problem we wanted to solve we started the ideation process.
For our first design we went way outside the box. No limit ideation led us to a reveltation that would guide us throughout the project:
"What if we just removed the screen entirely?"
This idea would eliminate a lot of the current accessability issues we were encountering in our initial ideas. Of course this idea is a big change to the current standard and would need some serious user testing to access the feasibility.
The first parking meter in 1933 would take a nickel as payment, inserted into the mechanism. This clock would then tick down the remaining time the user could remain parked there.
Taking inspiration from the past we modernized the antiquated parking meter and came up with our rough (very rough) first prototype.
The goal here was not to create a beautiful prototype but to put our initial ideas into the world. The redesigned parking meter would function like so:
After user testing we discovered some issues with navigation and user flow but ultimately were thrilled with the ease of use our prototype gave the user.
After our first user testing session we found some flaws that could be fixed quite easily.
Removal of the start and finish buttons was a great move and speeds up the process of paying for parking even more. Analog light slots were added to indicate a button has been selected and to clear up the issue with transitioning from time to payment in the user flow. Finally our beloved time slider was replaced with buttons to keep the user from being confused on what action to take.
A final user testing session was done to test our updated design with users. The speed of interaction increased greatly with the updated design. Only minor issues presented themselves during this testing. The end is near!
The final testing session gleamed a few key areas of improvement.
The final user interface includes increased spacing to fix user navigation issues we encountered while testing.
Our final design incorporates a form for the physical meter. The tilted screen was designed to accommodate with different user heights in mind.
The final proposed design has many attractive features. No screen means less information overload, better usability, and a lowered cost. Due to the lack of words on the meter itself no language selection is needed. Form factor of the stand allows for better viewing from different heights. The reduced user interface means less time spent at the meter. Finally using symbols instead of words also means it is more accessible to people with various learning disabilities.
When reflecting on the process it was a great learning process on how to design for the masses. The intended user is everybody for parking meter and the final design should echo that. Form factor and ease of use are huge in projects like this. To take this design to the next level future testing should incorporate stand and angled piece to test ease of use and explore a full icon set for spaces.