Today for lunch I decided to swing by Jack in the Box. Little did I know I was about to have a unique UI experience. Upon arriving we were introduced to the brand new (at least in this area) self order system. And thus began my customer experience.

My initial reaction was one of horror. I don’t like ordering what is “on the menu.” I like to order a customized combo. All I could keep thinking was how well was this machine and more importantly the touch UI going to hold up to my customer demands? Join me as we dissect the Jack in the Box Self Order Machine.

Employee v.s Machine

Initially, an employee walked us through and showed me the usage of the machine. While my friend stood by and casually joked
“Does the food come out the back?” They all laughed. Personally I thought that would have been awesome, but no they still have to cook it. All the while I was thinking here we are 2009 and no Jetson’s technology yet, oh well. And now back to the topic at hand.

The Interface

Custom Interface SketchThe interface was quite pleasant to use. The initial screen had very large buttons with images depicting the various type of food categories. Each touch passed you through to the next round of choices. After studying the menu on the wall I decided I wanted a #6 combo. I noticed the image button with white and black outlined lettering with the word “Combos.” Easy enough so far.

As I proceeded onto my next select the system spoke very loud and let me know my current location (bread crumbs may have helped here). My design brain kicked in at this point and I thought. Awesome so far this system seems to be on the right track, let’s see what else it can do!

I next choose my combo size which the system graciously suggested three size options. I choose “large”, and was asked to choose a drink followed by my side item (free curly fry upgrade for using the system? Hell, yeah that’s incentive!)

Now came the true test, the system presented me with two buttons on the bottom Pay – Customize ( I’m not sure of those were the exact names because I’m trying to remember the system).The employee kindly showed me how to customize the order by touching a “customize” button.

I have sketched out this part of the UI from memory because, I only decided to examine the UI after the fact. Essentially, I was presented a screen with the items I ordered and a scrollable list that allowed me to choose 1-4 options for each of the items on my hamburger. I found the mustard option and set it to none and then clicked “Pay now.”Custom Interface Sketch

I was then presented with 3 buttons credit card (no debit card?), cash, and one more which escapes me. And since there was a ton of available real estate on the screen I thought these buttons could be even larger, and the addition of an arrow or text could point towards the actual manual interface options on the machine. In this case the credit card slot.

I proceeded to swipe my card the “wrong way”, like so many of us do. (Perhaps someone could build a better system for swiping cards – double strip maybe?). The ticket then was manually handed from the employee to the person cooking the food. I believe this was simply an issue that the machine wasn’t fully integrated yet with existing point of sale systems at the store. It was odd to have the order ticket handed to the back, but oh well. Next thing I knew my purchase was complete.

The Experience

To my surprise a lot of things went right. The system was friendly and the voice cues left me feeling confident about ordering. I was moved around the screen without issue, and even if the employee wasn’t there I still believe there would have been a fast and rapid transaction.

The UI never left me guessing if the previous selection was done correctly. This was especially important, since I had a pre-conceived notion of what my experience would be like. And like any other user experience that is a tough roadblock to get over.

The customization order screen was clean, not cluttered only showed me the options I could configure. Had I struggled at any point in this process. I would have probably never used this machine ever again.

Many of us have experienced or designed systems that attempt to automate the human interaction and fail miserably. This was not the case with this system. I actually believe I could order faster over time. Jack in the Box could even take this process to a whole other level where the system could recognize your name login ID or something and you could have a one button order of your favorite food. This is actually one of my favorite options on my ATM machine. It saves time and thought.

A Designed Experience With Thought

Let’s face it, the lunch crowd is probably the perfect audience to try out this machine. The only reason I felt guilty using this machine was for the simple fact that it does such a good job. A better job then other automated systems that have been around longer.

How many times have you been trying to race out of the grocery store at the “AUTOMATIC” checkout line only to be thwarted by this “friendly messages.”

“please place the item in the bag.”
“please wait for attendant.”
“please put the item back on the scale.”
“your coupon could not be scanned” (yep happened today)

When it comes to these grocery store touch interfaces it’s about a 50% satisfaction rate for me personally. I would much rather wait in line because the machine just usually ends up telling me to “wait” for human interaction to solve my issue. Beyond that how hard is it for the store to build in extra space so you can have room to put your groceries. Just like in any interface you don’t want the “ERROR: You Are Stupid.” to pop up on the screen.

The next time you are at the grocery store using the automatic checkout. Take a look around and see how many people it takes before the designed interaction of the system fails to produce the required user response. In fact, take a look at other touch interfaces around you and see what their failure rate of failure is.

Conclusion – Cheeseburger Harmony

Jack in the Box put some thought into this design, or at least hired a company that did. And that my friends is what a well thought out interface does.
This is the experience you want all your customers to have. And any UX person worth their cost should know that slapping a UI onto a product, application, etc… is just going to bite you in the ass.

In the case of J&B the return was not only well thought out but delicious.