Touchscreen Guidance For A (Post) Confinement World – Part One

Guest Post: Geoffrey Bessin, Intuiface

Geoff Bessin

It’s easy to throw around phrases like “once-in-a-generation” or “once-in-a-lifetime,” but our experience with the Coronavirus outbreak may just merit the comparison. Post-pandemic, life will be irrevocably changed; the question is only by how much.

Have handshakes with colleagues and cheek-kisses with friends seen their last days? Will remote work become the norm and not the exception for all but service-based professionals? Should we expect the East Asian custom of wearing masks in public to drift westward and become commonplace everywhere?

Predictions are not guarantees, so time will tell, but there is one sure bet: attitudes toward public-facing touchscreen use have taken a significant hit.

Never again can we expect the carefree use of touch displays, nor can digital signage providers or their clients launch a project that doesn’t account for humanity’s altered perspectives on health and communal use. If you’re honest, your attitudes towards public touchscreen use have changed as well, right?

This two-part series will provide creative agencies and systems integrators with guidance for the current and post-confinement world of interactive digital signage and other public-facing interactive digital experiences.

We’ll first look at the considerations one must make to ensure touch-centric deployments are sensitive to the new normal, and then we’ll account for novel usage patterns through touch alternatives.

NOTE: One other prediction we can’t make is when the clock will start on the post-confinement world. Late-spring cancellations of shelter-in-place advisories are among the more optimistic of timelines. What can be said with confidence is that when things return to “normal,” there will be a flood of requests to update existing signage deployments and to modify projects in the pipeline. Use this time at home to get ready…

Touchscreens are here to stay

Touch gestures are now a universal language found in every culture, thanks to the extraordinary penetration of mobile phones. This ironically wordless medium vastly simplifies the expression of one’s interest while enforcing desired levels of privacy and accuracy. Setting aside the enormous volume of existing touchscreen deployments, there is no getting past the convenience, the accessibility, the affordability of touch-first digital content.

Touchscreens and touch-first content aren’t going away. But the rules are going to change. The following considerations are critical to account for generations of audiences who have felt the emotional, social, and physical harm of COVID-19.

Onscreen messaging about cleanliness

Medical experts say the primary function of a mask – outside of a hospital environment – is to prevent you from getting others sick. There is also a social reason for wearing a mask. It shows that you care, that you are sensitive to the feelings of others and are taking proactive steps to contribute to the recovery.

Any interactive public-facing digital deployment has the same responsibility. Not to wear masks, of course, but to show awareness and sensitivity. To indicate to potential users that the people responsible for this particular kiosk have their users in mind.

Deployments should visually recommend best practices for both touchscreen use as well as good social practices. To wash or disinfect their hands after use, minimize face touches, encourage gloved use. (Does the touchscreen you possess react to gloved touches? Time to check.)

Make sure to keep these messages up-to-date, reflecting the latest advice from health professionals. Out-of-date communication says you’ve chosen to stop listening. What message does that send to your users?

If you show respect and compassion in your content, users will respond in kind.

Hand sanitizer stations

It’s no secret that touchscreens can be a vector for viral transmission. Historically, that’s a fact companies have undoubtedly tried to ignore. Nowadays, such pretend ignorance is foolish.

One of the best ways to encourage touchscreen use is to accompany the screen with a hand sanitizer station. The message is clear. “Don’t be afraid. Once finished, you can clean yourself up.”

It’s probably just a matter of time before stores are spraying alcohol scents in the air instead of perfume.

The more visible these stations, the better. And to the previous recommendation about communication, onscreen messaging could further embrace sanitizer availability by pointing out the existence of stations at the beginning of the digital engagement, then encouraging sanitizer use at the end. COVID is an unseen enemy, so make the treatment as evident as possible.

The challenge, of course, is maintaining a good supply of sanitizer, which takes us to the next point.

Publicly-visible cleaning schedules

Be explicit about when and how often cleaning occurs – and stick to that schedule. Want to get someone upset? Install a sanitizer station, promote its use, and then let it run dry. It will look like you’ve tricked someone into getting dirty.

Post-confinement audiences will likely distrust all surfaces. Your responsibility is to win back that trust, and having a reliable, publicly visible cleaning schedule is the communication of your commitment. Be clear about your sensitivity to current health norms and requirements; be distinct about what you’re having done on a daily basis.

Minimally this means wipe downs and sanitizer refills. Frequency of once or twice per day is likely sufficient, particularly if you’re also fulfilling the previous two guidelines. Be proactive, be honest, and be self-aware of how your digital deployment appears to others.

These sensible adjustments to present and future digital deployments, if pursued proactively and thoroughly, should satisfy the health and cleanliness concerns of the majority. Or course, there will always be a hesitant minority. And aren’t there touch alternatives that can bring real digital interaction with requiring a literal hands-on approach?

That will be the subject of Part Two, tomorrow.

About The Guest Writer

Geoff Bessin is Chief Evangelist at Intuiface, which means he thinks about the intersection of digital interactivity with signage and presentations.  Twitter – @geoffbessin