No design for old men
by Dionne Kim
Our lives are interweaved with changes brought about by modernization. Today, I would like to discuss UX/UI design; one amongst many changes which are now deeply integrated into our day-to-day routines. I believe that UX/UI will carry even greater importance as our society makes further technological advancement.
Many understand UX/UI design only in the context of web configuration for mobile devices and applications. However, the concept of UX/UI reaches far beyond the web-boundaries. In fact, its application is observed in all corners of our lives. A good example would be menus from restaurants. If a menu designer places food images on the left and their descriptions on the right, then the designer considered the “User Experience (UX)”. The designer then chooses the most harmonious combination of the images and the background color and the best font and size for the texts. This latter step is called the “User Interface (UI)” element of design.
Let’s bring these concepts to web-page construction. There can be endless types of webpages, but certain types must follow their respective web-standards. Webpages for governmental institutions, healthcare facilities, and social service departments are among those examples with mandated standards. Web standard represents a protocol or technology, which by following it allows users at all levels of physical and environmental capabilities to access the contents in the given website.
Let’s suppose I decide to explain how to use an automated book-return system on my homepage. After some thought, I decided that it would be best to present the information in images rather than in writings. As a web publisher, I would insert images in the webpage so that they can be distributed.
The following is a list of images and their tags (mark-ups) I want to insert into the webpage.
<images shown to the users>
<Tag invisible to the users>
When a blind person visits the page, the person can access the page only by his/her hearing. In that case, the above images I inserted would be ineffective. However, If I insert the following tags to the images, then the situation changes.
If I insert a message with an alt-tag, the system reads the message when a user places the mouse on the image. Another example of a web standard is a protocol that requires font color enhancement. As you can imagine, web standards include many more protocols.
Shifting gears, let us now talk about everyday UX/UI experience in the context of using a kiosk — a prime example of modernization integrated into our daily routines.
Many fast food joints operate automated kiosks to take orders. This brings a definite advantage to the owners as it cuts down operating costs and generates more revenues.
Customers, however, have mixed feelings about using kiosks. On a positive note, if a customer has difficulty expressing his/her thoughts in a concise manner, the kiosk provides the person with an option to make a decision without having to verbally express the thoughts. However, if a customer is either physically too short for the machine or unfamiliar with it (most likely the elderly generations), using the kiosk can be very daunting.
Among elderly people, many respond negatively toward using automated kiosks. They feel suddenly ostracized from their society when the familiar option (one-on-one communication) is taken away from them to handle basic functions, such as buying bus tickets or ordering meals. They are concerned that this would unnecessarily widen the generational gap.
Let’s look into an operational flow chart typically found in a fast-food joint kiosk.
- If you want to place an order, please touch the screen (written in Korean, however, the word “터치” is not Korean; English pronunciation of the word “touch” is written in Korean)
- Order/Take-Out (the same case for the word “Take-Out”)
The problem begins to appear even before placing an order. This UX/UI reflects no consideration either for Koreans or non-Korean speakers. How can we amend the situation? Perhaps, businesses can start placing height-adjustable kiosks that support both English and Korean. Installing kiosks with the function to call up an employee would also an improvement.
Our society is rapidly adopting more mechanization and automation in all spheres. Unfortunately, the current automation systems leave us in wanting for better UX/UI that displays deeper consideration for people of diverse backgrounds.