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User Experience spans far beyond software and apps.

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When people hear the words UX/User Experience, they tend to think of website and web apps. In reality, user experience is a part of your day to day life with every product you use. If you have ever been frustrated by a coffee maker that was a pain to program, or have an indicator on your dashboard that is hard to see, then you have had a poor 'user experience'.

Most companies, small and large, have trouble grasping the simple concept that users want and crave simplicity. Apple's rise to the top wasn't a fluke, it was calculated. Finding ways to simplify your products and services to provide the ultimate user experience is the key to winning over your prospect, no matter your product or service.

After nearly five years without a motorbike, I finally got another one this year. As all my bikes have been Kawasaki, I went with them again as I really liked the look and feel of the Vulcan 1700 Classic. It wasn't until I had ridden a few times that I began to notice a horrible UX for the console, in more ways than one.

Whats wrong with it?

  1. Inaccurate details for gas milage.
  2. Poor readability of speedometer at night.
  3. Poor visibility of speedometer for tall riders.

1. The Fuel Gauge

If I'm coming close to running out of gas, I want to know how many KM I was at when the notification came on. This helps me gauge and monitor how much further I can actuall drive and detour to alternate gas stations if required.

When you get to the low fuel mark on the Vulcan 1700 your milage disappears and FUEL flashes in it's place... continually. While I know this means there is only 4L of fuel left in the tank, how do I know how far that will take me if I don't know the milage.

The gauge is also not very useful as the indicator blocks are fairly large, so I'm not really sure how much gas I have.

How could it be better?

Make the fuel light blink if you want to get my attention. It's yellow and will do the job, it's also hard to miss when it lights up on it's own, flashing FUEL on the screen doesn't do me any good. If you wanted to rotate between FUEL and the milage, that would be fine too, at least I can monitor. If you want something to flash on the screen, make the guage itself flash.

The actually gauge could easily be broken down a few more notches to be more accurate and representative of what's in your tank. Gas is very important, I want to be very accurate!

2. Speedometer

While the slight orange glow emitting from the numbers may be pretty to look at, it's not very useful doing 100/km on a back road in the dark. While you can see the positions, you can't really read the overly thin font with the light glow. While you can adapt and remember what positions are what speeds and follow the gauge, that's one extra thing your brain needs to process while riding when it could be doing something better.

What can be done?

While it doesn't have to pop like the guaage indicator with bright white, something that is a little brighter and perhaps a slightly thicker/larger font would increase the readability dramatically at night. There is also an issue in certain lighting conditions where you can barly see the positions due to the orange blending with the background a little too much. Again, easily resolved with some color changes or light detection settings.

3. Visibility

When driving, you should barely need to move your eyes off the road to glance at your speedometer. This is a safety thing, pure and simple. You need to be able to see everything quickly, assess it and get back to the road. This speedometer is so flat and low on the tank, I have to take my eyes off the road for a second to properly see it. I'm not entirely sure if it's because of my height (6'5") or not, but in the time it takes me to look down, somebody could cut in front of me and slow my reaction time. I am always trying to monitor the traffic around me but any rider knows that cagers are unpredictable at their best.


While I don't know much about aerodynamics, I'm sure you could raise this up slightly and ad a bit more tilt towards the rider without losing much on the aerodynamics side, or increasing fuel milage. Yes, I'm sure it would take some good R&D to make it happen, but when it's about rider safety, it shouldn't be a question.

I Love My Bike

Don't get me wrong, I really do love my bike. I would just prefer a few fixes that would make my experience that much better. It's the little things and the little details lead to an awesome UX.

It doesn't matter what your company does, it's a huge part of your product. If you don't think it is, then I'm willing to bet your UX could use an overhaul. Positive UX and Customer service practices have been shown to increase customer retention and loyalty, which means better numbers. Are you in business for your customers or for your pocketbook? The people will notice.

Tagged in: interface kawi safety ux
Kray Mitchell hails from Calgary, Alberta, and is an educator at heart. Through speaking, workshops, consulting and training, he aims to assist people with understanding the technology that affects their day to day lives.
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