So I used the semi-automated checkout at Price Chopper today. It was interesting, and I noticed some things about it I hadn't really noticed before.
- The customer interface is designed for people who have never used it before - there's no way to speed up the process if you're an expert
- after asking the cashier, he said: "it's not easier, but I like it better. I get to deal with people this way, not just with the groceries." I find it interesting that it's NOT easier for the cashiers.
- When anything goes wrong, there's no indication to the customer what the problem might be. "Please take the last item back out of the bag." WTF? What did I do wrong? There's also quite a few types of errors. And every error requires the intervention of the cashier.
- One thing I did like: they recently added a code list for un-UPC'ed items (like fruit), so the cashier doesn't always have to help with those items (for the more clued-in customer)
It occurs to me that whoever designed this system probably had to design three interfaces for it. One for the customers, one for the cashier, and one for the maintainer of the system. I really wish I could do a more formalised usability study on this system.