Parking Meter Redesign

Executive Summary

My task for this project was to redesign Ann Arbor's ePark parking meters.  While the ePark mobile app is well designed and easy to use, the physical meters on the street are often confusing and frustrating to use. Both the app and the physical meters should be able to provide a positive user experience.

There are various reasons why a user would choose to use the physical meter rather than the mobile app: users may not want to install the mobile app, may only want to pay in cash, or do not own a smartphone (or their smartphone is Wifi-enabled only, out of power, etc.).

The Problem

The physical meters on the street are often confusing and frustrating to use. The goal of this project is to make the physical meters as user-friendly and easy to use as the mobile app.

My Role

I was responsible for all aspects of the project including research, user interviews, design, and prototyping.

understanding the user

I asked friends, family, and colleagues their opinion of the physical parking meters found around downtown Ann Arbor:

  • "How many swear words can be used in one review?"
  • "The buttons are very laggy. I type fast but finds that I have to go back because it didn't pick-up (register) the first key pressed."
  • "The button lagtime is really frustrating. To avoid the hassle of the machine I’ve been using the app. A little more user-friendly at least for those with smartphones."
  • "They are not user-friendly. And often hard to read what is on their display screen."



There are several things that I feel contribute to the less than stellar experience that users described. 

After users choose to pay for parking (or add additional time) they are directed to another screen with details about their spot and when parking expires, however the users cannot change the expiration time without first inserting coins or their credit card.

The interface instructs users to press the 1 button for adding time or the 9 button to add the maximum amount of time (who knows how long that is for?). If you add to much time, there isn't a way to subtract time. Same if you select the maximum amount of time, but then need to reduce the amount of time. The only option to recover from an error is to cancel the transaction and start over. In a perfect world, I would redesign the physical meter, not just the screens, with different buttons. Including a +, -, and max button. 

The use of OK for yes is fine, but cancel for no is confusing and doesn't map to the common mental model that cancel means to abort the current process. Users think the current process is paying for parking, not whether or not to print a receipt. Some users will select OK to print a receipt even if they don't want one out of fear they're going to have to start the entire process from the beginning. Again going back to the perfect world and a redesign of the physical meter, I would change the OK and Cancel buttons to Yes and No respectively.



The customer journey map of the current user flow makes it obvious that this parking meter is no fun to use. While its primary purpose is not to entertain, its primary purpose is also not to enrage the user! It shows that the biggest issue with the current user experience is the lack of error recovery. Any error in the process requires the user to start over.



While the overall user flow is somewhat similar to the original design, I added functionality to allow error recovery. I also removed the add maximum amount of time from the screen, replacing it with a subtract functionality. The subtract functionality will help users to bounce back from errors and prevent users from having to restart the entire process from the beginning. The maximum functionality is important for some users, but I think that the subtract functionality is important for all users. 

I also changed some of the basic design elements to make the screen more readable including increasing the font size, bolding important information like when the user's parking spot expires, and adding in whitespace.

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