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June 24, 2004 12:01 AM

Broken: Airport chair

Seth Godin writes:

Here’s the chair you must sit on. It doesn’t move. Time to pain: 8 minutes.


Was this in the terminal or on the actual plane? It doesn't seem possible that this would be a chair you'd be required to sit on.

Posted by: never mind that at June 24, 2004 02:37 PM

it was the chair at the computer kiosk, see below

Posted by: seth at June 25, 2004 01:46 PM

The chair is well designed.

Its purpose is to keep you away from the computer unless you are actually using it. The uncomfortable design drives away idle people who only want to sit. It's all about maximizing profit.

Posted by: Sherrod Segraves at June 27, 2004 01:48 AM

I have to confess that I'm stunned by how obtuse many of the comments about my experience with kiosk were.

The theory seems to be:

1. the keyboard is lousy because it would cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to replace it with a good keyboard.

2. none of this matters because all the smart rich good people have laptops with wifi (PS the terminal didn't have wifi)

3. The screen design was just fine because it's really hard to make useful buttons that are small. (PS see your Palm)

4. The chair design is smart because then you won't sit there if you're using the machine.

5. The whole thing should be designed to be difficult to use because then people will only use it if they really need it, and not hog it for the next person.

6. if it's really horrible, it'll take a long time to check your mail, so you'll use it longer.


Hey--they're trying to produce a useful good, AND they're trying to make a profit.

If it were me, I'd provide the best possible experience (useful screen design, comfortable chair, good keyboard). Then, if it got popular, I'd make more!

A breakthrough.

Posted by: Seth Godin at June 28, 2004 12:53 PM

Sorry. In my haste to post, I left the word "not" out of #4 above.

Posted by: Seth Godin at June 28, 2004 12:55 PM

Well, the kiosk doesn't seem particularly broken.

A big comfy chair might be popular, but it would quickly be occupied by tired travellers with no interest in paying for the internet. You'd lose money.

As for the keyboard, it could probably be better, but a high-maintenance product would not make you popular with the airport. You'd have to train on-site staff to replace your keyboard. You'd also have to store the replacement keyboards somewhere.

In an ideal world, standard keyboards would be better, but human nature being what it is, you'd end up with a lot of broken keyboards not being replaced for weeks at a time.

I've worked with several different models of touch screens at work, and they are a pain to deal with. They need a thick layer of glass or plastic for durability, but this thick layer introduces parallax errors. Additionally, all the models I've seen need manual calibration, but no amount of calibration can make up for a fat human finger.

Basically, the mouse coordinates reported by the touch screen are often very different from what the user thinks he or she pressed, so you need big widely spaced buttons to reduce errors.

A palm or tablet device ships with a stylus and a thin custom-manufactured screen. Thin screens and styluses (styli) are not practical for interactive kiosks.

Posted by: Sherrod Segraves at June 28, 2004 08:59 PM

Chairs and seats in high-volume businesses are designed for discomfort after a few minutes. It is to persuade you to leave so the next paying customer can use the seat. Fast-food restaurants have used this thinking for many years to maximize profits by always having seats available. In contrast, sit-down restaurants like Denny's suffered from too-comfortable seats, which encouranged what waiters call "campers," those people who have already eaten their food but now want to hang out for an hour or two drinking the free-refill coffee.

Posted by: Boris the Spider at April 4, 2005 01:14 PM

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