CHICAGO, IL, November 13, 2008 — For urban residents, the everyday activity of paying a parking meter should straightforward. But a recent study found the common act of paying a meter in multiple countries was neither straightforward nor simple. This study of parking meters was conducted by usability researchers in nine countries in honor of World Usability Day and the 2008 theme of "Transportation".
Partners of the UXalliance (www.UXalliance.com),
an international network of leading user experience firms, conducted the expert usability evaluation of parking meters with digital screen interfaces in Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands,
New Zealand, the UK, and the US. Analysts hit the streets and used different meters to identify usability and design issues as well as environmental issues affecting the usability of meters. Although
usability and complexity varied greatly from country to country, there were common issues such as unclear buttons, confusing screen flow, and minimal feedback or error correction.
Overall, the UXalliance found that the key usability issues were ambiguity in paying for the correct space and difficulties understanding meter instructions.
Parking meters that were dedicated for one or two spaces were considered easier to use that those that served multiple spaces. Street meters were more ambiguous because there was usually no clear
indication of whether the user was paying for the space ahead or behind of the meter.
Instructions were often unstructured, difficult to find, poorly written, or inaccessible to non-native speakers. For example, parking meters in the Netherlands referred to five different screen areas in
instructions. In the UK, instructions were so confusing (“subsequent insertion of a coin is a contravention”) that improper use was common.
While this study reveals that using parking meters can be confusing for users around the globe, new initiatives may some day improve future parking meter interfaces in your city. Parking meters in Tokyo can now sense where someone has parked and automatically indicate which parking meter to use, resulting in a more user-friendly parking experience.
To download the full article “International Parking Meters Study” visit http://www.uxalliance.com/about-the-uxa/news/news-12-november-2008.html.