Kiosk Series: The app presents and controls the experience

This is a post in a series exploring the use of Android tablets and the iPad as kiosks. The kick-off post can be found here.

One of the challenges of a tablet kiosk is in resolving a conflict: tablets were designed to encourage people to do all kinds of different things, but kiosks are for a focused set of activities. Imagine this scenario: you get your tablet, set it in its enclosure, and put the kiosk in a great spot. You have some great Web content on your kiosk, so you bring up the tablet’s browser, type in the URL, and your kiosk is ready to go, right?

Not quite. It’s easy to see the problem here. This setup will work for a few minutes, until the customer taps away to some other website, or closes the browser. The customer has wandered away from the experience, and now has no way to find his way back. It’s easy to see that a tablet’s built-in browser is just not going to do the job.

How can you build a great tablet kiosk experience and still keep your customers in bounds?

In early enclosure designs, the answer was simple: cover up the tablet’s home button so the user couldn’t touch it. There are still good reasons for enclosures to cover the home button, but it’s not a good way to keep the kiosk on task.

There are some other problems with the tablet’s built-in browser:

  • Valuable real estate is used up with a top toolbar for managing bookmarks, searching, and changing the URL.
  • More real estate is wasted for browser tabs.
  • The user can easily move to any website.

The answer is simple: put the whole experience inside a single app, and keep customers in the app. Your kiosks need a special kind of Web browser that takes your unique needs into account.

Managing the customer experience is the first problem to solve, but there’s another: scalability. Kiosk deployments can be massive, with many kiosks serving different customer needs across dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of business sites. Once the kiosks are in place, there has to be a way of managing them from a single location.

MokiMobility created the app MokiTouch to solve those two critical challenges:

  1. Providing a consistent user experience.
  2. Making kiosks manageable on a large scale.

The consistent experience comes by displaying Web content in a custom browser app. Instead of relying on the built-in features of a default browser, you use a browser designed to be managed in kiosks. MokiTouch displays the content from the home page you have designated, keeping the customer in the right experience.

If you want to make a change, simply touch the screen with seven fingers, and a config screen appears. The config screen can be protected by a password for an additional precaution.

From the config screen you can set policies for the user experience, controlling things like the home page Web address, printing, zooming, tapping, idle time, what to display, custom buttons, colors, night mode, and so on. You can set some bounds on browsing by stating what websites are acceptable, and setting time limits on browsing.

MokiTouch takes care of the first part of the challenge, creating a great user experience, by presenting a Web interface in an app that you control. It also takes care of the second part of the challenge, managing your kiosks by leveraging the power of cloud computing.

Most importantly, you can enroll the device with MokiManage, a cloud service that allows you to set all of your config parameters from a single, central location. It’s great to be able to walk up to any kiosk, tap it with seven fingers, and configure it, but it’s far more important to be able to control all of these settings across all of your kiosks without having to go there. MokiManage makes this easy to do.

In summary, MokiTouch provides the essential finishing touch for your tablet kiosk, with the following capabilities:

  • Centralized management of all your kiosks, using the MokiManage cloud service
  • Provide a customized browsing experience that you can control
  • Optionally show a toolbar with up to six custom buttons, each connected to a Web address
  • Optionally show the Web address and navigation controls
  • Provide controlled browsing on the Web with a whitelist of acceptable websites
  • Optionally allow printing
  • Disable touch for signage use cases
  • Cache content, while clearing private data

That’s MokiTouch: a custom Web content app designed for kiosks, that lets you control the customer experience from a single, central location using MokiManage.

There’s one more thing: if you want to show images or videos, MokiMobility also offers MokiTouch Pro, a manageable app that in addition to showing Web content, also lets you display videos and images in a variety of combinations.

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