Computer terminals designed predominantly for public or anonymous use, generally (but not always) on a touch-screen, including ATMs, interactive signage and information-access kiosks.

Interactive kiosks provide access to digital information and specialised applications without the need for conventional laptop or desktop computers.

They are particularly appropriate for use where conventional computers are not (e.g. outdoors), and to provide interfaces designed for specialised or limited purposes.

Generally speaking, kiosks are simply hardware enclosures for a conventional PC, with purpose-built software designed to restrict access to sensitive or technical features. Due to the custom nature of most kiosks, they are often able to be produced with hardware features that are not generally found on a conventional PC such as coin or credit card acceptors, magstripe or RFID card readers, thermal printers and touch screens. This generally often kiosks to perform functions automatically that would traditionally require a human being.

A simple diagram of a touch-screen kiosk enclosure
A simple diagram of a touch-screen kiosk enclosure, taken from Delphi International

Kiosk design entails the technical, industrial and ergonomic design of its hardware as well as the functional, interaction and visual design of its software. Since they're often designed for use by the general public (and often installed as the only option for fulfilling some function available to them, as in many parking ticketing machines), most users will have no opportunity to develop any familiarity with the system itself. Since designers generally have the most familiarity with the system they're developing, designing for kiosks is particularly benefited by testing with real people early and often.

In addition, since kiosks are generally explicitly restricted to expose very limited functions, users (even savvy ones) are not normally able to resolve technical issues that the kiosk may have (and those with the ability to remedy the issue aren't necessarily available to do so), making the design of error messages and error states a particularly important area for consideration.

Appropriate topics for questions with this tag include:

  • The layout of controls for use on a large-format touch-screen
  • Physical hardware component limitations and how they may manifest (and be worked around) in the design of software
  • The design of the kiosk enclosure to improve ergonomics or to convey a particular purpose
  • Designing appropriate error flows for kiosk hardware and software, including how to cope with catastrophic/"Out of Order" cases
  • Understanding and applying best-practice design principles and published standards to improve the design of kiosk software
  • How to port or apply design principles from conventional software or web sites to kiosks
  • The effective design of directional or instructive components (especially text) to target users from complete novices to experts
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