First the rant, why is it so bloody difficult to write the date in the little box on my train ticket? Every morning before getting on the train I dutifully attempt to write the date in the little boxes provided (on pain of death or a fine by scotrail) but the shiny orange surface seems to be a natural ink repellent. So I scribble on the ticket to get the ink flowing then chisel into the date field and hope enough ink remains in the gouged out channels to make an approximation of the correct date. A minor annoyance but one which shows a common problem which can cause user experience woe.
A little background first, the multi-journey ticket allows you to buy your 10 journeys in advance. The tickets are valid for a month and have the expiry date printed on them. Buying tickets like this is good thing because you get discount price and you don’t have buy a ticket each day. However the ticket did not originally have the date fields, these were added in an attempt to cut down on fraudulent use. So what we had was operational system that had to be retrofitted with additional functionality in the existing interface. The experience for end user is not a happy one.
The user either ignores it and hopes for the best, tries to use the broken interface or changes their behaviour to improve the interface (carry a felt pen ). What interests me is how much thought went into decision making process that led them to make people attempt to write on something which was never designed to be written on? The constraints of cost, space and working within an existing framework are obvious but it would be interesting to follow the train of thought that led to a perhaps unavoidable sub-optimal destination.
I suspect it one that is not foreign to those working in the field of software development where an essential (but unforeseen) feature has to be shoehorned into an existing framework. The right thing to do would be to rebuild the interface with the new functionality in mind, for once put the user first and ask the question, is this feature there to make our life easier or our users?