McDonalds Kiosks: UX Disaster

McDonalds Kiosks

When you’re a kid, McDonalds is an achievement. When you’re an adult, it’s defeat.

The fact is, for me and I suspect many others, a visit to McDonalds is intended to be a quick visit, in and out and forget it. McDonalds has rolled out self-serve kiosks in a big way, that forces the guest to stop and think about what they’re doing. It’s awkward. It’s unusual. And it’s a User Experience (UX) disaster.

McDonalds Kiosks

These self-serve kiosks have been experimented with by a number of McDonalds properties primarily in the Western provinces, plus other fast-food establishments. Petro-Canada rolled out a series of ‘Neighbourhood’ cafes with little touch screens. I always ended up asking the guy standing behind the counter how to use it, anyway. It didn’t seem to save any time, and I was confused as to when or where to pay. Turns out it was the gas cashier that I was supposed to pay while waiting for the food. They’re long gone at least at the Ajax, Ontario location.

Some Chipotle locations in the US had kiosks, but last time I visited they’ve disappeared.

I can imagine why these keep popping up. There’s a theory that with the latest round of $15/h minimum wage movements some establishments are thinking this might save money by eliminating staff. There may be a push to attract younger people back to McDonalds who are staying away by going with touch screens plus adding more power outlets for charging devices.

The execution of these touch screen devices is flawed for a number of reasons.


First of all, these screens aren’t the small table sized kiosks that were tested in the US. They’re huge! These monsters stand well over 6 feet high and over 2 feet wide. There are two problems with this.

They’ve just blown up the graphics from a tablet. As a tablet, I can imagine they looked kinda funky. Little burgers and drinks sliding up from the side or bottom or top. But when you’re staring at an approximately 40+ inch monitor on it’s side from only 6-12 inches away, it’s mind blowing. I can feel the heat coming off of these screens, and see the individual pixels. You were never intended to be this close to a television monitor of any design. This is just painfully wrong for the eyes and the brain.

You have a peripheral vision to account for: I can only see about 15 inches at a time standing this close to a monitor. That leaves over 75% of the screen in my peripheral vision, or completely not visible. My eyes darted around the screen like I had Attention Deficit Disorder. I felt like I was missing something on the screen.

Super Size

The other problem I hinted at earlier, these devices are HUGE! Not just the screen but the whole device. In my average sized McDonalds at the Lansdowne St West location in Peterborough, there are four or five of these monsters. While waiting in line after giving these things a try, I heard literally two moms comment about the cramped layout trying to scoot their children around the through the maze. Remember, McDonalds is about getting in and out quickly without effort. I agree, the quarters were very cramped with these devices.  And in the time I was there, nobody was using them.


Earlier I mentioned the only reason I’m ever in a McDonalds is that I admit defeat. I’m late, or en route, or just need a quick snack. I don’t want to admit I’m there, and don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I’m there. A big problem I noticed right away when I tried to use the screens is that everyone waiting for their order was watching me try to navigate the menu and order my lunch. This was really uncomfortable! True or not, I felt I was being judged for my meal choice, and backed out then back in before finally giving up. BTW it was a McDouble and coffee. Pretty tame, actually. But what if I ordered that coffee 4×4? What if I ordered a sundae too? I just felt really self aware, and canceled the order at the first opportunity.

I turned around and realized the line had not moved, so I didn’t lose my place.


I’ve noticed the pickup orientation here at the Oshawa Centre mall, too and observed the same pattern. Regardless of whether you order with the kiosk or a person, you’re assigned a number. When your number is called, you go to the new raised counter to get your food. As if going to a McDonalds isn’t bad enough, you’re now relegated to a simple number. Taking a cue from Starbucks, adding a name to an order really does matter. Having to stand around waiting for a number is just one step above waiting at the bottom end of a feeding chute. In the same way people were judging me for my order on the massive screen, I was now judging all of these poor souls waiting for their number to come up.

But on the topic of efficiency, I can’t prove this, but there seems to be a lot more people just standing around. Both behind the counter and in the lobby. But it’s the staff I see standing around that’s bothersome. There’s always one staff person in the lobby to help people with the kiosks. There’s also a staff person standing behind the raised counter to call the numbers and hand over the food. And this observation seems to amp up the apparent chaos that comes with any fast-food open kitchen. There’s always been a buzz, but now it seems out of balance. These two greeters or servers stand calm in stark contrast to the elevated activity happening in the kitchen. The most disappointing thing is that on two occasions now, I’ve tried to use the kiosk while waiting for a live cashier, but bailed. And there are less cashiers now so they seem to be stressed out just relegated to exchanging an order for money (remember, the guest has to go to the side to wait for their number).

Plus the other people standing around are the customers! The lobby was full of customers who had ordered, but were waiting for their number.

I gave up. I looked around at all of the people waiting for a cashier or for their food, then I decided to leave. Both times!

Who are these for?

I can’t imagine they’re popular with the 35-50 crowd like me. I know they will not be a hit with the older demo. Frazzled soccer moms have enough on their mind and are juggling orders in their mind while herding kids to and from the minivan. Maybe pre-teens might like the ADD-inspired screen animation, but it’s plastic only: debit or credit. So, who is this for?

This is awkward

The massive huge screens you’re standing less than 12 inches away from are hard to read and awkward to navigate when you can’t see the whole screen.

The fact that the entire lobby can see my order is awkward.

Watching the staff standing around to ‘help’ while it’s obvious the kitchen or cashiers can always use some help, is awkward.

And leaving the restaurant without buying anything is more than awkward. It’s a waste of my time. And a reminder that McDonalds has lost touch with its relationship with its staff, and its customers.

The screens may have looked great on a Creative Director’s iPad, but these behemoths amplify the problem with the fast food experience.

Rick Dolishny Creative Portfolio

I was doing some housekeeping and came across a portfolio that captured well over 15 years of my work. Interesting, I spent so much time on this when it was done and submitted, I completely forgot about it. The timestamp is 2011.

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Adobe Illustrator


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Motion Graphic Title and Web Design


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3D Character Design


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3D Animation, Motion Tracking and Product Replacement


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3D Animation


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Flash Animation, Original Character Design


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Print Design (3D)


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Package Design, T-Shirt


This sampler touches on my motion graphics, photography, illustrations, web design, and 3D animation. If it’s a still from a motion graphic, you can probably find it on my YouTube page.

Below is a link to the original PDF.

Rick Dolishny Portfolio 2011

This cold-call email got my attention … for the wrong reasons.

I received an unsolicited email that sent me on a goose chase trying to figure it out, including scrolling past adult video retail sites search results to find my answers. If this sounds like a disaster in email marketing, you are correct.

Insert confused computer user clip art here.
Insert confused computer user clip art here.

As an Interactive Project Manager, I know you’ve only got one chance to get it right when delivering a message. The hardest thing to do when writing content is to be direct, clear and easy to read.

I also have to measure my techno jargon babble when working with clients, stakeholders, sponsors and moms who don’t share my enthusiasm for All Things Tech.

I'm sorry what does this email mean?
I’m sorry what does this email mean?

So this email I’m going to share is, by my estimation, how NOT to introduce a potential client to a new product or service.

Here we go:

Dear Rick Dolishny Representative,

First of all, get our mail form in order. Most of us don’t have the name brand recognition of Walt Disney. Or this is just a bad mistake.

I wanted to follow up on the email I sent a few weeks ago. I wanted to talk to someone about how ### can increase your AOV and increase overall lift by changing customer behavior and influence overall spending habits.

Whoa, whoa, whoa , whoa. There’s so much wrong with this opening line I had to stop the presses. First of all, the trick about ‘following up on an old email’ is really stale, even if there was an email. If I wanted to hear more from you, I’d let you know. In my case, after scanning my inbox and trash, I had not indeed received any email from you.

Never, never, never use acronyms right off the top without letting the reader know what they mean. I didn’t know what AOV stood for until I looked it up,  and even then I can only guess that it means Average Order Value. But that’s of course scrolling past the URLs for Adult Only Video stores. Not cool on so many levels. (sidenote: is AOV still in business?)

### enables you to offer universal rewards to customers who execute the targeted goal. These incentive offerings have high perceived value for the customers with low actual costs to you.

High value, low cost. Marketing 101, I’ll give it a pass. It’s a rewards program of some sort.  But did a robot write this?

As an example, one of our customers, a top 125 Internet Retailer, shared results from their latest campaign. To give you a baseline, they typically offer a discount of $10 if the customer spends at least $100. Partnering with ### and spending a similar amount, they were able offer a $100 gift certificate if customers spent that same $100. They saw their AOV increase from $130 to over $200.

Whoa! Stop right there. After hitting me with the AOVs and ‘overall lift’ you go in for the double tap and really make me feel like an idiot. I didn’t ask for more stats, so now I feel really stupid. And Top 125 is kinda lame. Is it top 100 or not? I can only think of a few internet retailers where I would actually spend real money, so top 125 doesn’t impress me. In fact, it makes me think of Amazon,  Indigo or Apple.

### technology ensured these customers instantly received their reward by email or text and also provided the merchant with direct access to an online analytics dashboard displaying real-time transaction data.

This is perhaps just a personal observation, but anyone referring to a dashboard in any kind of pitch comes across as a douchebag.


We have partnered with multiple brand name reward providers including Fandango, ProFlowers,,,, Native Remedies and many others.

I would like to see if you have some time for a quick follow up call sometime this week or if you want, you can sign up directly here and we’ll have you set up with several free rewards instantly.

Feel free to check us out …

Thanks, ###

—– VP of Business Development

Insert 'hit any key where's the any key' here.
Insert ‘hit any key where’s the any key’ joke here.

Email Done Wrong

Whew. I was bewildered and spent some time on the site and think I got it figured out. They are some sort of loyalty program. But holy smokes, this is about the worst calling card I’ve ever read. Let this be a lesson to anyone pitching a new product or service.

  • Be clear right off the top.
  • State a problem, then a solution.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • If you’re pitching something new consider a demo video or graphics.


Email marketing needs to be easy and clear. Don’t make me work. Here’s some more reading on the subject.

Shannon Larratt 1973-2013

“As the saying goes, “by the time you read this I’ll be dead.”

Toronto based artist and activist Shannon Larratt passed away last month. The word of his death was quickly passed on among the BME (Body Manipulation Ezine) community, a culture I don’t participate in but I respect for a number of reasons.

You can read his touching End Of Life document here.

On the topic of body manipulation, perhaps Shannon said it best.

“The fundamental question in becoming publicly modified is a question of finding a balance between how free you want to be and how hard you want to work. The more free you are, the more responsibility you have to take for yourself. The more you blend back into the crowd, the less freedom you have, but the ‘easier’ your life gets. But is it really your life if you’re not controlling it?”

You can read more about the community with a Google search for Shannon Larratt and BME. Warning: often NSFW with images I find disturbing.

So why the tribute?

Monster Squirrel. 24×36 Acrylic on canvas. April 2006.

Shannon was also a father, programmer, artist and entrepreneur.

And he was good at all of it, so I admire him.

As the founding publisher of BME he created a community of acceptance and hygenic practices and built his ezine to create a safe haven for people interested in extreme body piercing and tatoos and other manipulation. Many online tributes have recently come in with the headline, “Shannon saved my life”. With memories of my awkward teen years still in my mind as a father of teenagers myself, I know how important it can be to have a mentor who understands what it’s like to be different. Shannon was that voice of reason for people who were conflicted about their bodies. The comments on his blog, tumblr and BME speak for themselves.

Copyright 2009 Shannon Larratt.
Copyright 2009 Shannon Larratt.

I came across the programming of Shannon the same time I was on sabbatical to re-learn programming myself, and in particular JavaScript. A consummate professional blogger, he was kind enough to tag the programming ‘tests’ separate from his BME logs. He was very careful to use open source HTML and JavaScript (as opposed to Flash) and pushed the limits of what a modern browser could effectively render. These days with Chrome and mobile apps, it’s common to see a web browser render text and images dynamically responsively, but he was doing it many years ago. And with considerable artistic panache. His Space Invaders / Missile Command Chrome Experiment game ‘Apophis 2009’ needs to be played to be believed (desktop only). And true to the spirit of mentorship and sharing, he posted the source code for everyone like myself to parse and learn from. I had no idea JavaScript was capable of doing this kind of animation!

Uilenspiegel. Acrylic on wood. 12 x 16 October 2008

His playfulness was infectious. For example, check out the header on his blog, “The best thing about censorship is … “. Once you figure out the solution, you’ll smile with the little Easter egg you’ve uncovered.

But above all for me was his bold use of colour and line and shape as evidenced in his paintings, some of which he shared credit with his young daughter. I’m still amazed at how inclusive he was with her, and how much he loved her. In fact in his blog he credits ‘Nefarious’ for keeping him alive as long as he was.

As his eyesight and ability to read diminished, he turned to jewelry as his creative outlet, and opened an etsy store. Also, he finished a large book on body manipulation that he and his fiance hand-bound in their studio in Toronto. I can’t find the exact quote, but he said in the preface to his book, “you’re holding art that was actually made by hand by the artist”. I love hand-made.

We had a few exchange via email around the Chrome Experiment time, but I never met Shannon and doubt I ever would have. For me, he was one of those personalities that are larger than life that sometimes are best left online. I definitely didn’t agree with his opinions all of the time. I found his recent appearance challenging and not at all pleasant. His exercise in tattooing his actual eyeball is as cringe-worthy as it sounds. But it’s not for me to judge. I just wanted to take a moment to recognize the work Shannon did.

A quote from his EOL message that spoke to me as a father, husband, son, brother, volunteer, world traveler, business owner, mentor and friend:

…seize every opportunity that’s in front of you and live life to the fullest. Even with everything I’ve done, there is so much more I wish I’d squeezed in. Don’t let a single day (well, maybe a single day) be idle. Have every adventure you can, and explore every street — although treat the one-way streets with caution. Don’t fritter you life away into television, random browsing, and pointless substance abuse (I have at times been guilty of all of these) — although remember there are valid uses for them, both for growth and entertainment. Have passion about the future, and in the present. Especially if you’re young, push your education and your skills to their limits on every level. Don’t just graduate highschool, get a degree, get a doctorate if you can. I know these things aren’t for everyone, they they are for most, and they also open doors to some of the most special adventures. Even if you can’t afford proper schooling there are many, many ways to learn, free courses to volunteering, and so on. Value your health, and the health of our planet, and strive beyond its borders. We have such a glorious future, but never forget that your part in that future could end at any moment, so live a life that you can be pround of. And of course love and treat each other well.

Flying Spaghetti Monster, February 2013
Flying Spaghetti Monster, February 2013

May he rest in peace.


Here’s what’s been going on with me over the past year or so. In September, 2009, I signed up for a few courses that have been on my wish-list for years.

First, the wait-list at the extremely competitive Web Application Development course at Durham College opened up, and I was accepted the week after it started. I spent the rest of the term catching up: some of the work was pretty intense, but I loved it. Advanced Flash, Action Script, JavaScript, some Math and Writing courses … a well designed curriculum that I highly recommend.

Second, I took the advice of just about every Career Coach and HR person I’d been speaking with and signed up for the University of Toronto School of Business Project Management course. I’ve worked with some excellent project managers from agencies like Organic, Inc., and I knew that this was a skill set that needed development. This is a three-term course that ends July 2010. At that point, I hope to write my PMP exam.

I’m really enjoying my PM classes and learning about the tools available to properly track all aspects of any project – I wish I had this knowledge while running the Toronto Digital Image Festival for eight years! Costing and trend analysis is pure enlightenment for someone who did it ‘the hard way’.

I’m also consulting in the Visual Effects and Special Event industries during my down time, also known as ‘Saturdays’.

But right now, I’m looking for something between a summer Internship, a Project Co-ordinator, or a PM position at an Interactive or Mobile Agency, or with a web or software development company. Email me for a resume! – R

My Facebook Ad was REJECTED. Awesome!!!

As you may know, I run a weekend/summer gig shooting & editing wedding videos. It’s an great way to vent off some under-appreciated creative juices, and brides just love my work.

Lately, I’ve generated a tonne of business with Facebook Ads. Like almost $10,000 so far just with little Pay Per Click ads targeted to “Ontario Women who are Engaged”. The .05+ cent PPC cost is really reasonable, like in the order of forty bucks so far total, so why not. I enjoy tweaking existing ads that are working, dropping under-achievers, and playing the marketing game much like my friends in the Direct Marketing (infomercial) business.

So imagine my surprise when my latest ad was rejected with a rather terse email. It seems the styleguide nazis that did not show up for work at MySpace are well caffeinated at FB – I was using too many capitals!

What was rejected? The body of the ad referred to “…Wedding Shows…”.

I actually support their decision, even though it borders on incorrect, because it keeps ads in check and looking good. In fact, a link on the rejection email pointed out common grammatical errors (grammar? on the web?) which is awesome. Some of the sample no-no’s were pretty funny, although we all know they are pretty much de rigueure on the web for sure. The ad on the right is a funny example of another ad that might be rejected for being “misleading”.

So, good work FB for maintaining a degree of integrity with the Ad Space initiative. And keep sending me Ontario Engaged Females!