CHI Nederland

6 februari 2002

Leonard Verhoef, Human Efficiency ((translation and errors by Geert de Haan)

Psychology behind the new touch screen train ticket machine of NS

The Nederlandse Spoorwegen (The Dutch National Railway company) found it very important that its ticket sales machines can be operated in a simple way. At the introduction of a new touch screen machine it was therefore not possible to take over the interface of the touch screen machines from Belgium, France or Germany, making it necessary to create a design of its own. At the moment, NS is busy placing these new machines.

The design of the NS touch screen machine is based on the available psychological knowledge about the way passengers operate ticket machines. In the past twenty years NS has gathered a lot of information about the use of ticket machines. This knowledge is embodied in a paper design, and subsequently worked out, both graphically as well as technically, into a working interface. The interface has been tested in detail, where the tests aimed at both, absent design knowledge as well as at unforeseen problems in operating the machines.

Psychological starting points

Starting point for the design is the task that the traveler has to execute and the possibilities of the human functions he uses in performing the task. The tasks are entering the data and following the correct route. Apart from that, traveler must have some content knowledge. In order to obtain a good fit with the human functions, the choice has not been for the usual hierarchic menu but instead for a more parallel way of working. In addition, the input and output have been integrated. Finally, it is the interface that steers the users attention and not chance.

Content knowledge

Content knowledge encapsulates among others; knowing what arailrunner is, knowing the difference between a day ticket, a day return ticket and knowing what "chippen" is. From a technical point of view it was rather simple to provide additional knowledge. As such, the subject is left here.

The tasks

Buying a ticket consists of three tasks. The traveler has to enter data for buying a ticket, he must follow the next step at the proper moment (routing) and he must pay. Paying for tickets is not considered further since the banks largely dictate the interface for payments.

During the lecture the selected interface was shown, and it was discussed why this choice has been made, what the task performance of the travelers is and which foreseen and unforeseen operating problems occurred and how these were solved.

About Leonard Verhoef

Leonard Verhoef (MA) combines theoretic knowledge with extended practical experience. He studied education and applied experimental psychology at the University of Utrecht. He studied the development of human thinking for more than six years. Subsequently he was for over 15 years involved in the design of public systems (travel information, ticket machines, software design, application of the Internet) and systems for professionals (administration, electronic mail, traffic control, process control, telephone centers). The applications are diverse but the question is always the same: "What is the best form for the human eye, the human memory and human thought?". The experiences learned during the past years will be bundled in: 'Applying Psychological Knowledge in Design" (PhD Thesis), "Everyday life in the future according to psychology" and "How to unenslave Windows users".