• Karin Lane

Food Ordering Kiosks, Part 3: Customizing the Classic Burger

In our last visit, we explored customization at a bakery. Next, let’s visit McDonald’s, with its well known menu.

At McDonald’s, the existing counter ordering method is generally fast with little wait time. The menu is mostly made up of of classics or heavily advertised additions, which means little time is needed to read through it in detail.

So how does a kiosk compare when speed and readability are less of an issue in the existing ordering process? And what is the experience of customizing some of these iconic sandwiches?

Ready for a burger? Let’s go.

We head to a busy McDonald’s in Manhattan. We encounter the kiosks as we step in the door.

This store layout clearly offers the kiosks as an appealing option on the way to the main counter.

This is a very visually noisy space with a combination of instructions and rotating ads; Is the ‘Order Here’ banner really necessary?

This kiosk has a lot of signage on it – I need a minute to figure out what it all says.

In addition to the ‘Order Here’ banner in the previous photo, there is a printed ad for drinks velcroed to the top of the kiosk, and a salt warning label below the screen near the card reader. These both seem distracting, especially in this visually loud environment. Removing these and incorporating as needed into the screen flow would be more effective. Also, due to the large size, I need to stand back to see the kiosk in its entirety, which means I am likely bumping into the person using the kiosk behind me.

OK, first choice is eat in or take out: I’m going to take out my order.

This screen is a great way to start with a few choices – the primary choice of eat in or take out, and the additional choice of language – without extra labels, etc. The illustrations and color are clear and inviting. (Eat in would, at the end, direct me to take a numbered disk for my food to be delivered to my table).

I’ll check out the accessibility icons. Often my children are with me. They would want to order, but this kiosk is just too high for them.

The accessibility function seems like an after thought. Simply shrinking the screen is not an accessibility fix that makes the kiosk truly available to all users. The kiosks are huge and inviting, but do not take into consideration shorter users, or users in wheelchairs (same goes for the soda dispensers). Adjustments might be through the ability to raise and lower the kiosks, or rotate them to have a horizontal orientation at a lower height, or perhaps provide another form factor that truly works for all.

I’ll order now. Between the ads and the small type, this is a little hard to read.

The large, colorful ad at the top of the screen is distracting and not actionable. Instead of advertising products I may not be interested in, why not offer targeted products at an appropriate time of the ordering experience, for example by suggesting a drink after I've selected a sandwich?

Making the photos and text in the center area larger would make reading the screen easier and faster as well. In this busy environment, clarity is appreciated.

I’m looking for a Big Mac but don’t see it right away. I visit the sandwiches category, then the Burgers page.

Offering a few classics like the Bic Mac on the initial screen would be helpful. These are iconic, and having to dig around for them is a bit perplexing, even if the new custom sandwiches are being promoted.

The smallness of the photos and text continues to feel awkward on these large screens and makes the users work harder to understand them.

Once I select a Big Mac, it asks about the meal size, much like when I order at the counter.

The expanded area with horizontal scroll to select the meal size is a little tricky to use – the scrolling gets sticky, especially when I’ve turned on the magnify option as shown. This might be better handled along with the second screen, where a drink is selected.

The drink selector is somewhat odd for sodas. The order will include a cup and the user will use another machine to select a drink. This could be simplified to speed the reading time for users to just soda, coffee, water, shake instead of insisting on a brand selection.

I definitely want more pickles. How do I add those?

To customize my Big mac, I need to touch the item in the order. Since customization is such a big benefit of kiosk use, why not offer this option as I am adding my item to the cart?

I’ll have levitating lettuce and some floating cheese please...

We love the ability to add/remove using icons here. However, the small floating photos are a bit unappetizing; we recommend revisiting these. If 'Salt' is displaying and checked, this might be the opportunity to display the sodium warning. If the bun can be changed (we see an artisan roll substitution below) it feels weird to have it checked but unchangeable in the main area. In fact, all of the items below seem like they could be incorporated into the main area of the page to provide a clearer flow.

Let’s go back and try the new signature sandwiches. OK, they look much tastier! Though they seem to be the same ingredients.

When choosing a signature sandwich, a different customization UI displays, with steps at top and large, inviting photos. This is much more intuitive and appealing, and would make sense to use for all sandwiches (just pre-filled with the defaults for named sandwiches). Even the lettuce looks appealing! The ‘Choose’ button and the counts are clear and easy to read. Some steps seem odd, like bacon as a whole step feels like you must choose bacon; and toppings and sauce seem like they could go together.

Looks like my burger!

The confirmation screen is easy to scan with the mini photos and dark background. Some refinements might be to omit the word ‘regular’ and simply indicate deviations from the standard sandwich to streamline the text, and removing the arrow icons from the buttons, which don’t seem necessary.

Also, since I did make this really fine-tuned sandwich specific to my tastes, I might want to have it next time as well, is there a way to do that?

I’ll add a small coffee to my order. Hmmm, they all look the same size.

When photos are shown of the same item in different sizes, the photos should reflect the correct scale. These all look like the same size cup of coffee, even though they are labeled Small, Medium and Large.

How was the overall experience?

  • The customization for the new signature sandwiches is inviting and fun, with great UI overall. We hope to see this expand to the rest of the kiosk elements. Until then, this UI is not consistent across the full product range, which makes for some less than ideal ordering.

  • The paper signage and on-screen ads also are quite distracting and really take away from the experience.

  • Finally, but perhaps most importantly, the form factor of the kiosks makes them essentially unusable by anyone who is not standing, at least 5’4” or so, which seems problematic for many.

Next, let’s look at a few design takeaways we can draw from our experiences in these three visits.

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