Getting too Comfortable during a User Interview: The MTA Kiosk story

Today I was tasked with pooling data from a cross section of random MTA Kiosk users. The goal was to qualify their experience buying a subway card to ride NYC’s famous public transportation system. This was a first for me, interviewing a complete stranger. I had become the kid on the street with a clip board. Trying to get a random subway user to vocalize their specific pain points about NYC’s MTA purchase system.

The first person I talked to counted as a fail. I turned on the charm, and wanted this stranger to be comfortable with me to fault. She told me about her kid in New York and how proud she was of her, that she was probably going to be late for Temple, and about her visit to the city 13 years ago, how NYC has changed since then, etc.

The woman was comfortable and willing to talk about the purchase experience. I got in one question in. She didn’t believe there was any flaw in the kiosk process… She paid the $10 for a round trip ticket and was on her way. She didn’t see a problem there. I wanted to ask more, but her train arrived, she smiled and said “great job,” with no sarcasm and left. I spent 4 minutes on charm and having fun with her and 30 seconds on my task.

Teachable Moment: For me it’s going to be important to keep the objectives of User Testing/Interviews in the forefront of my mind when dealing with strangers on the fly. Comfort is important to get candid information, but i’m not taking them to dinner. I caught myself doing the same thing while asking people about their Home Connectedness on another project, and corrected it…. kind of. Progress not perfection.

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