Site Overlay

Homework3 – Observation of MetroCard Machine

Metrocard machine, appears to be one of the machines used in the highest frequency and by the widest range of people. So I stood at the corner of the NE entrance of Jay Street-Metrotech station, observing people’s interactions with the machine.

1. Assumptions and Context


The metrocard machine stood in front of the entrance of the subway. Two machines actually. The more outside one was specifically designed for people with disability like the blind, which had braille and only accepted card payment . The inner one was larger with more functions like accepting cash.


I experienced some of the functions of machine and drew a process (see below).

According to the process, I assumed that there were three types of users: (1) new users that need to have a new metrocard (For “Fast Metrocard”); (2) ones with metrocard (For “Metrocard”), customers with metrocard but forget to bring (For “SingleRide”).
– New users would click “Fast MetroCard” to get a new one.
– Others will follow the steps of the process.

2. Observation

During 10 minutes’ observation, I recorded 12 people’s interaction details with the machine. The interaction included (1) their goals to use the machine; (2) the easiest part to use the machine; (3) the difficulties when using the machine. (4) speculative familiarity to the machine based on their clicking speed and whether they had metrocard.

If we separated the whole transaction into 4 parts (setup, service, pay, ending), the phase pay would definitely took the longest time.

The difficulties people encountered always happened in this phase, like inserting unreadable cash repeatedly, not knowing what types of card to choose, unsuccessful card processing/dip.

The easiest part was the setup part, in which people chose the language and card type.

People usually took less than a minute to finish the whole transaction, which is efficient from my perspective.

Here are some pros and cons for the machine.

PRO1 — Visible design

The machine separated different parts of function by color and highlighted the functions using BIG headers and white color. In this way, machine could easily convey and differentiate the differences among all these functions. One nice design point was, the interface would guide the directions of where user needed to interact with the physical part of the machine. For example, a right arrow appeared on the “Insert your Metrocard” screen to indicate the MetroCard part of machine on the right side.

PRO2 — Save-time design

The setup phase separated three types of users: new ones (For Fast Metrocard), ones with metrocard (For Metrocard), customers with metrocard but forget to bring (For SingleRide). This interface in setup phase helped to save time for different types of users. New users and those who wanted single rides could directly jump into the pay phase.

PRO3 — Accessible and inclusive design

The machine has audio and braille text for blind people. It also supported multiple languages to provide the service.

PRO4 — Safe design

The card set the maximum value of $100 maybe due to the safety issue. When you refilled the card, some refilling values automatically turned grey to indicate that you could not refill the value.

CON1 — Feedback Lacking

No feedback when entering zip code and dip the card. Adding sound feedback should be more helpful for users to identify the status of their actions.

CON2– Terminology Confusion

The term “ATM card” was kind of confusing for people, in that it didn’t match people’s conceptual model. We are more familiar with the term “Debit card” nowadays and indeed, Debit card can also withdraw money from ATM. Therefore, people get confused when they want to pay with debit card but cannot find the matching entrance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *