So if my kiosk cannot print or access account info—which are important features—should I introduce a screen to inform the user about that error after sign in (2nd screen in the example below), or somewhere else?

The error status is already displayed on the main screen and the menu option will be displayed in a disabled state once logged in

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1 Answer 1


Depending on the context, you almost certainly should show an error message (in order to reduce the likelihood of the user trying to use a function that is currently unavailable). If the context is very public and so help/support is generally unavailable, you probably should show a more general error like "Out of Order" if those features are core features of your product.

If not, the error message should be clear and prevent the user from attempting the broken function if possible, as in this example (where the "EFTPOS unavailable" sign is actually physically blocking access to the EFTPOS/card slot):

Photo of a CityRail ticket machine with "Eftpos unavailable" sign

Image from SMH.com.au

If you do choose to show an error message, it's important to provide the right error message: simply stating matter-of-factly that an issue exists (as you have in your examples) isn't enough—you generally need to provide a call to action to allow the user to rectify the issue.

For instance, when our kiosk software loses its persistent connection to the server (something it needs to function correctly at all), the error we show says, basically:

Kiosk Unavailable

This kiosk has lost its connection to the server.

Please reboot the kiosk or call the helpdesk on 1800 000 000

Notice that we tell them both what is wrong and what to do about it.

  • 1
    When I saw the question in my RSS feed, I wondered whether you had already answered it. =)
    – dnbrv
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 6:36
  • 1
    @dnbrv I just can't help myself :P. Makes me realise all the issues I've encountered and had to solve in the last 6 years working on kiosk software!
    – Kit Grose
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 8:27
  • So, the user wont be able to remdy the error -- it will be for hardware failures
    – user15564
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 14:04
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    This is a great answer. Never make a user waste their time only to find they can't actually do the thing they wanted to. It will give them a worse opinion of your operation than they would have by seeing an initial 'sorry, we're not working properly at the moment' type message. Leaving the user initially frustrated is much better than wasting their time and then frustrating them on top.
    – JonW
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 14:29
  • @user15564 If the issue is likely to be fixed sooner rather than later (and there are alternative methods of accomplishing the user's need, e.g. other physical kiosks), I'd mark the whole thing as "Out of Order" with a call to action of "This issue will be fixed soon. Please use a different kiosk". If you really think the user needs to access the unit with limited functionality and they're unlikely to be dependent on that behaviour your 3rd option is most consistent with what I'd do—make the specific action(s) unavailable with an error shown if the user clicks on the disabled button.
    – Kit Grose
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 14:31

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