The quick guide to self-service self-sufficiency: Part 1

Sept. 2, 2011 | by Michael Ionescu

When we entered the self-service industry, we made a conscious decision to be a one-stop solution for our clients, a company that consulted with the client on needs, provided custom software, and maintained the system after delivery. Not all solutions aim to cover all of those needs, though, and we frequently consult with clients who have purchased self-service solutions not realizing just how much work is involved beyond simply buying hardware and software. In general, we have found that companies that do not take a comprehensive approach to selecting and planning their solutions are left with a lot of unanswered questions as they start a project. Those unanswered questions often increase costs or derail a self-service project altogether.

With that dilemma in mind, we are providing an overview of some of the necessary "big picture" considerations that every company should think of when planning a self-service network.

User Interface/graphic design: If you're building a kiosk network, consideration needs to be given to how a user will interact with the kiosks. Typically, a specially designed, touch-friendly interface is a requirement for building a reliable network. On the most basic level, the system must be accessible to people of different heights and sizes. But more than that, the interface must be engaging, clear, accessible but simple.

I can't tell you how many companies I've seen take the easy way out and display a copy of their websites that you're supposed to navigate by hand. The buttons and links are meant for the precision clicks of a mouse, so when you try and tap a link with your finger, it is unresponsive and inaccurate if not totally unusable. Take the iPad for example: the magic of the experience comes from the easy-to-use apps built specifically for your finger to navigate. Planning, developing, and testing a simple interface that will work for your end user is key to attracting users to your solution.

Software development and maintenance: Almost no software is perfect when it is first released. While it may seem perfect at first, I guarantee you will think of changes just from watching how your first users actually use your interface. You might need to alter button placement, change features, streamline processes, clarify instructions or even eliminate certain features that you swore you couldn't live without.

During the first six months of any rollout, changes to the software should be expected and planned. If you're putting together a self-service network, you should anticipate this need and be wary of any solution that doesn't take this into account. Beyond the initial rollout, a regular maintenance schedule is a crucial piece of any self-service system. Heavy usage over time can sometimes bog down a system with cached content. Features need updating, content needs refreshing - there are a multitude of reasons for why periodic software maintenance is a virtual necessity to a successful network.

Check back next week for Part 2, which will cover hardware and business considerations to think about before committing to any product.

Topics: Installation/Integration , Kiosk Design

Michael Ionescu / Since 2004, Ionescu has built a proprietary software/hardware package for state tourism and hotels. Ionescu believes successful kiosk networks are built upon ongoing collaboration between the client and provider to develop flexible systems that clients and users are happy with for years.
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