Interactive Technology in public - Citi bikes!

As someone new to NYC, I have never had a chance to use the Citi bikes! I have been tempted to use them on multiple occasions but never did.

My assumption of how to use them is as follows -

  1.  Choose the number of hours you want the bike for - eg, 1 hour, 2 hours, 1 day.
  2. Pay the amount with card or cash
  3. Get a pin number or a token number
  4. Punch in the pin and pull out the bicycle

Turns out it is not designed or programmed to function like my intuition does.

Based on my observation, the locals are very swift with the transaction and tourists often fumble.

None of the buttons on the kiosk are intuitive, the screen has to be "awakened" by tapping  the screen, the options available are only shown once you insert a credit card. So no cash, no debit cards. It charges you $100 as a security deposit or a safety charge and you get the money refunded the next day! (What if I don't want that!!) Using a $12/day bike should not come with so many constraints.

After repeated attempts and trials, people do get the gist and pull out a bike but the user needs to return the bike within 30 mins or is charged extra. Speaking of returning the bike to the stand, once people were pushing the bike in, they were looking to see if there is some button or a screen giving a notification of receipt. They would then see the colour of a small bulb light green and look around asking for help or simply go back to the kiosk to check if what they did was right.

There are several flaws in this transaction but adaptation is why humans survive and this is a good example of it. Users have learnt to navigate through a complicated system to get the best off it.

Adopting Crawford's and Norman's sayings about simplicity and intuitiveness of a design, there is much that adheres to the citi bikes and much that can be improved.  The experience of  the citi bike on the first instance is not a pleasant one is a generalized feedback  I received.

A simplest example is the gear change steps 1,2 and 3 on the bike is made like a circular bell and the first instinct is to rotate it which is not how the gear works. Someone even said they were on a slope and couldn't figure out how to change the gear and the bike was heavy so they got off and walked with the bike instead. This truly does not solve the purpose of the citi bike's existence.

My next thought is to pick these points and design my own ideal city bike and what I'd do differently.. upcoming blog it is!