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UX Lessons from Pearson Airport

 Let's face it, airport waiting areas are not known for their amazing use of technology. Finding a power outlet is lucky enough, so I was surprised to recently see leather seats, polished surfaces, and contemporary looking art at Toronto Pearson Airport.

After double checking I hadn't accidentally walked into a massive first class lounge, I noticed that every single one of the tables & seats also had an iPad attached to it. Each individual iPad  was connected the restaurant menus through a native app that allows users to order directly. How progressive! An airport making an invested effort to provide a space for travellers that isn't bland and boring. The visual aesthetics of the space were so distracting that I failed to imagine any detail hadn't been carefully planned out.

Only one major problem: The iPad  is the only way to order food.

 Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 12.57.18 AM    Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 12.57.38 AM

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It should have been simple enough, only the iPad menu did not feature the food I was seeing directly in front of me. Separated by a clear piece of glass I was determined to get a breakfast sandwich. Instead, I was told the sandwiches were only available in the morning, and the system would not allow me to order right now. In short – a stack of breakfast sandwiches sat front of me that I could not make a transaction for. I could not believe that this crucial part of the user experience was completely  so overlooked.

The absence of a tangible interaction suddenly made it glaring obvious: Technology itself can never be a solitary solution.

If the online experience does not consider the offline, it will fail. 

Simply having the latest technology is not enough. People still need experiences offline that will connect them to a tangible, human interaction. We are not robots, and we need touch points that consider our emotions, senses, and human nature. In this example, an obsession to keep up with technological trends clearly clouded any thoughts around utility offline . Even the 5 staff members standing around the cash register couldn't figure out how to get me a breakfast sandwich.

In an exchange of services for goods, the human experience must be integrated with planning from the start. If they can't be connected, all you end up with is a very nice looking waste of money on a screen that makes hungry people mad.

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