Although offering up high-tech features and services to their customers seems like an obviously good idea, businesses must always be wary of alienating the less technologically inclined. Such is the case with Japan Post (JP) who once had to come up with a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem.

JP serves a dual role in the country as both a major bank and postal service and receives a huge number of customers daily as a result. When things get too busy, you might be asked to take a number and wait (though mercifully there are no lines to stand in – everyone gets to sit), and to help facilitate this, JP set up a computerized number ticket dispenser as seen in this photo from 2011.

However, it would seem that the touchscreen display proved too much for some to handle, so this particular branch took steps to simplify the process: taping a handwritten sign over 90 percent of the screen.

“Please push 1 on the screen.”
“Please take the number ticket that comes out from the bottom right.”

After looking at this photo, the only thing I could think of is: “What the hell is on the rest of the screen under that piece of paper?!” If the machine was simply meant to dispense numbers then there can’t be much else to cover up, can there? Was there a pretty picture that distracted users from the “1” or was there also a whole complex reservation system that was throwing people for a loop?

Unable to rest until I found out, I decided to head down to my local post office/bank to see for myself. Sure enough, they had a regular old box without a single real, physical button, LED segment display and a slot for the ticket to come out.

I showed one of the staff the photo and asked if he could tell me what was under the paper, but he just looked at me weirdly. I said: “Don’t worry. I’m a reporter for RocketNews24,” and flashed my Subway point card at him, but that only seemed to exasperate the man further.

Either the branch in this photo had more traffic than the one I went to and required such a sophisticated numbering machine, or the touchscreens have been all phased out since the photo was taken.

Either way, the lesson to be learnt here is: When designing a new interface for public use, always remember to keep it as simple as possible. Otherwise you may have to scotch tape a sheet of paper over most of it.

Source: Agohige Kaizokudan (Japanese)
Image: Twitpic