I snapped this pic in the transfer bus from central Stockholm to the ferry terminal (click to see a larger image).
I counted to ten different screens around the driver’s seat. Nine were special devices, mounted to the dashboard: the GPS, radio, ticket machine, credit card terminal, communication system, route and timetable status tracker … An eleventh device – a reader for travel cards – was a little bit to the right. It’s primarily used by the passengers, but I saw the driver helping some passengers interact with that too.
You immediately see that every screen is different: full four-color LED, black and white, monochrome green, a single line of LCD characters. Each device has a its own control mechanisms – physical buttons, or virtual buttons on a touch screen, or both.
So the driver has to interact with each device/system in a different way. There’s obviously a lot to learn and remember for the driver here.
As Kadir at envision observed recently:
”Just a short while ago it was normal for people to have very few interactions with machines throughout the day. They used them at their jobs, and they were properly instructed. If the machine had its quirks, people knew how to work around them, they adapted to the machine, no problem. Fast forward to today and the world has changed. We are interacting with machines all day long, at home, when driving, parking, getting a snack, buying groceries. You are using a machine to read this text and depending on your definition of machine, you probably have more than a hundred of them working on the machine you are reading this text with. People adapting to machines was manageable when they operated one of them every day. Today that’s not an option anymore. That’s why User Experience Design as a field is rising in importance.”
(Why Bad User Experience Will Kill Your Product, May 30, 2013. My emphasis added.)
I’d just add one thing to that: unfortunately, it’s not at all sure that a product with bad UX will be killed – if it’s something we have to use at work. The bus driver can’t really refuse using any of these devices, or replace it – even if hates it. And he/she often has little influence over the company’s decision what system to use.
This is the digital workplace of today. Whether you’re in a bus, in the office, in a shop … we all have to master a multitude of systems.