WHAT THIS POST IS ABOUT. It’s just one in (I hope) an occasional series on design, research, UI. My focus is always on real users, their activities, and their stories.


Come on WalMart, Expedia, and Avis. You guys know better. Or should.

Good UI design is critical — for your brand, for the use of your products and services, and for consumer satisfaction. Why, then, do you miss the obvious?

The Rental Car Pickup

Intending to drive from the Houston area to Austin, I used Expedia to find a decent rental car, settling on a brand name — Avis.

I went to pick up the car and found myself in a WalMart parking lot. Nearby was a Home Depot and a bunch of local stores. I drove around looking for an Avis/Budget store front. Nothing. I looked for an Avis sign. Still nothing.

I guessed the Avis counter had to be inside WalMart or even Home Depot (I’ve returned Penske trucks to Home Depot before). With my 80-year-old dad in the car, I wanted to make sure I was in the right location before setting off on a wild goose chase.

I called Avis’ 800 number — and that was a mess in an of itself. I got a human on the phone, who confirmed that Avis was, indeed, inside the WalMart.

I said, “It sure would have been nice for Avis or WalMart to have a sign outside the store saying Avis is inside. Expedia could have said in the confirmation email that Avis is located inside the WalMart or put it in their app they want me to use for my travel.”

Silence.

It’s not the operator’s problem. But come on WalMart, Avis, and Expedia. You guys are big companies. Your designers and UI guys (physical and digital) should know better.

Filling Up at the Gas Station

Before I returned the car to an actual Avis/Budget storefront (!), I filled up the tank with gas. At the pump I was asked if the card I was using was debit.

It was not. I was given two choices on the screen: credit or debit, with two black boxes to the left of each. I tapped the black box next to credit. Nothing. I tried the one next to debit. Nothing. The transaction timed out.

Why look at the keypad when our attention starts with the bright blue screen?

It was raining. I was annoyed. I went inside to inquire and, after haggling with a cashier for a moment, I left saying I’d go elsewhere.

An attendant followed me out, explaining that this confusion happens to others, and all I need to do is . . . hit NO on the keypad (BELOW the screen and AWAY from where my attention was directed).

Of course.

Is this shitty UI the gas station operator’s fault? Maybe, if he or she (or an IT person) has the ability to determine what messages are on the screen at the pump. Why not add the line: Press NO on the keypad below for credit.

Problem solved.

If the gas station operator has no control over what appears on the screen, maybe, then it’s the responsibility of the pump manufacturer or the company’s design/UI/engineering/product team. Who knows.

In the end, the solution was actually counter-intuitive. Press NO to NOT select debit and TO select credit.

Makes perfect sense. No wonder I see taped-on notes at every credit/debit card terminal to assist consumers past shitty design.

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