Considering a Kiosk Project? How to Set Yourself Up for Success


According to the latest Pew research studies, 58% of American adults own a smartphone and 42% own a tablet computer. This translates to a new level of familiarity and comfort with touchscreens and increasing expectations about how technology can be used in our daily lives.  

Interactive kiosks can be an important part of a larger strategy to engage this new breed of digital consumers.

Kiosks can provide on-demand information and services when a visitor needs them most, freeing staff to perform other duties.  The first step in planning any kiosk project requires looking carefully at your expected visitor base and determining how and why they might engage with a kiosk.

One recent high-profile kiosk launch by Australian retailer General Pants uses iPads to connect with their customers in-store.  The kiosks allow visitors to browse the latest trends and new items, get an ‘Insta-opinion’ about a style from visitors at other stores, add tracks to the store’s playlist, and request help from a store associate.

General Pants CEO Craig King said of the launch, “There are plenty of buzz words going around, omni–channel, bricks and clicks, user experience etc. Rather than fall into a category, we took a step back and focused on what our customers were doing. We asked ourselves; what are we doing for them, how can we better communicate our stories and how do we enrich their experience? Our responses helped conceptualise the kiosks."

Before moving forward with anything else, take a step back and answer these questions:

Who is going to use these kiosks?

If the main goal of a kiosk project is to get someone to interact with your kiosks’ content or services, you must know who that someone, that target audience is.  

Your target audience can affect almost every decision you have to make - from design decisions like your interface, style, and tone to more technical decisions like the hardware platform you choose.

User research can seem daunting, but often this can be as simple as talking to staff and other team members who have direct contact with visitors in the areas where you are considering adding kiosks.

Other ways to better understand your audience include scheduling a visit to talk to visitors about their needs and whether they would use a kiosk.  You can also look at any available demographic information or foot-traffic estimates for the proposed area.

What functions will the kiosk serve?

The functionality of a kiosk is generally one of the first things to decide when considering a new kiosk project.  Kiosks can provide information or services, such as signing a visitor up for a newsletter or displaying details about a product.

It’s also one part of the process where almost everyone has an opinion.  Different team members or departments often have very different priorities when it comes to adding functions to this sort of project.  It’s easy to say “Let’s make a kiosk that does it all!”, but it’s often best to keep things simple.  

Remember that in most cases, each visitor to your kiosk is a new user - you don’t want to overwhelm them with options.  Carefully considering the additional complexity added by each task (and possibly some simple user testing) can help you decide whether a function improves the visitor’s overall experience or satisfies a critical requirement.

The number of options and type of information and/or tasks presented will vary based on the location and turnover required at the kiosk.   A kiosk at a busy tradeshow would likely have more streamlined functionality (and faster average turnover) than an informational display in a gallery or museum.  

Why would visitors use the kiosk?

Creating an interactive kiosk is a balancing act between your organization’s goals and the goals of your visitors.  For a successful project, these goals must overlap, creating an experience that provides value to both parties.

It’s one thing to set up a kiosk to collect visitor information, for example, but quite another to show visitors how they benefit by sharing their information.  Without the second piece in place, the kiosk will only receive a fraction of the visits that could otherwise be expected.

In “Studying Those Who Study Us”, anthropologist Diana Forsythe describes a kiosk project created in the mid-90’s for migraine patients.  Patients could walk up to the kiosk and get answers to basic questions either before or after they saw their physician.  Sounds great, right?  Unfortunately, patients didn’t use the kiosks and the project was declared a failure.

So why did the project fail?  The designers of the kiosks had skipped talking to any patients, instead relying on an interview with a single doctor to tell them what he thought the patients would want to know.  As Forsythe wrote, “The research team simply assumed that what patients wanted to know about migraine was what neurologists want to explain.”

In this situation, a kiosk has several benefits - privacy, time, objectivity, but by not adequately understanding the motivations of its target audience, these advantages were easily negated.

The bottom line?  People are busy; if your kiosk doesn’t help them in some clear way, they’ll go elsewhere.  

While it can be easy to gloss over these questions, taking the time to answer them early on can simplify the entire process for you and your team, increase engagement with your kiosks, and result in a better experience for your visitors.