Out & About: Westin Hotel Guest Touch Screen

My team and I stayed at a brand-new Westin hotel in Austin while we were down there for SXSW.  On the first morning, waiting for some team members (entirely too early mind you), I was happy to see a large touch screen in the guest-lobby.  So, I had to play with it.  The experience that I captured by myself was not an enjoyable one to view.  A couple days later, I recruited my colleague, Herb Sawyer, to walk through the experience for me.

So, let’s stack it up against the scorecard.

Purpose – From the looks of it, the primary purpose is utility.  One can search flights, news, weather, goings-on in the surrounding areas, even stocks if you’re so inclined.  I suppose the Westin wanted to provide a centralized, convenient location for travel information, more than anything.  Perhaps it’s designed to serve as an interactive concierge?  If so, it’s located at the other end of the lobby from the actual concierge desk.  So, it doesn’t really cater to guests looking for that information. 

More than that, I guess my question would be, as Herb and I get into at the end of the video, what does this enable the user to do here that they would not be able to do on their mobile phone?  There is no special content, aside from the local attractions & dining, that could not be found in a mobile application.  And even with apps like Yelp, I could find that on my phone.  I’m really trying to find the purpose here, but I’m left scratching my head.

11th Screen Score:  FAIL

Drama – If I weren’t always on the lookout for this sort of thing, I would have easily missed it every time I was in the lobby.  And I was in the lobby at least 10 times.  The actual placement isn’t as bad as the orientation.  It is depressed inside a large wooden casing on a table.  It just looks like a big box sitting on a table.  The screen is tilted so far down that it is almost flat, like a table-top.  If this were oriented a little differently, so the guests could at least see a touch screen that they could interact with, it might elicit more interaction.  As it was, no one was interacting with it.

11th Screen Score:  FAIL

Usability – Navigation was fine.  It was laid out in a similar fashion as a traditional website with tabbed navigation.  I did not like the fact that on the HOME screen, the large modules in the main section of the screen were not clickable.  Other things like non-scrollable flight information and inconsistent map views didn’t exactly enhance the experience.  While it was usable, it didn’t seem to be designed by web experts, certainly not touch screen experts.  It did pass the mom test, though.  I think it would have anyway.

11th Screen Score:  BARELY PASS

Interactivity – This experience is entirely touch-based.  The screen responded well to touch.  Buttons and scroll bars were large.  I could essentially do anything I wanted in 1 touch.  In this sense, it didn’t utilize the technology for what it’s capable of.  Give me multi-touch, at least.

11th Screen Score:  BARELY PASS

Information – Here’s what the experience includes:

Time – I can get this on my watch or on my phone.  If I don’t have either, look no further than here.  It takes up 1/4 of the screen throughout the entire experience.  They could have hidden it so it’s easily accessible while allowing more room on the screen for other, more important information.      

News (and scroll) – the irony here is that the hotel gives away free copies of USA Today on every floor.  Here, I only get the headline and byline.  I’d love some photos, at least.

Weather – as Herb says, it would be great to see weather where I’m going.  Much more important than where I’m staying.

Dining – the only dining/restaurant option this serves up is the restaurant in the hotel.  From here, I can see the menu and make a reservation.  Both of which are handy. 

Attractions & Events – there are a number of sub-sections in each one of these categories that could be useful for out-of-towners.  They each include various views of maps, which can be helpful and confusing at the same time.

Stocks – as Herb says, is this really needed?

Overall, the amount of unused space really reflects negatively on the brand.  No photos, no videos.  Just white space.  Even if I thought that interacting with this touch screen was more convenient than my phone, all of this information, through apps on my phone, looks better and functions better.

11th Screen Score:  FAIL

Personalization – If I went back next week or next month, I’m pretty sure I’d get the same exact experience.  It would be great if this were tied into their rewards program and it had some sort of bar code reader/scanner so every time I scanned my rewards card, I could get tailored content around my history and preferences.  Then, all of a sudden, this is an entirely different experience and one that is hard to duplicate on my phone.

11th Screen Score:  FAIL

I like the concept of these virtual information/concierge experiences in hotels.  To me, it makes a lot of sense.  But it must be planned and executed in a way that makes it useful instead of a novelty.  The novelties are never sustainable.  And we need sustainable solutions in this industry if we want it to grow.

What do you think?  Have you seen any useful experiences like this in hotels that you have stayed in?

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