User Research, Part One

As you might have seen in our proposal document, these first few weeks are dedicated to finding out exactly who our users and stakeholders are, what they want and need, and who our competition is in this marketplace. With that in mind, here’s what we’ve done in the past week.


On Monday we drafted interview questions for cinema owners/managers/employees that we hoped would help us understand the ticket sales process better. We reached out to several theaters, but corporate policy precluded them from conducting formal interviews. We did manage to get in touch with one manager casually and ask several key questions. That gave us some insight into that theater’s experiences with ticketing machines being slow and jamming, as well as how important location is. We also started working on a survey which we will distribute shortly. This, along with discussions with moviegoers at the cinema, will help us understand ticketing from the buyers’ point of view.

Competitive Analysis

We looked at ticketing kiosks at several theaters, ticket-buying mobile apps like Fandango, and movie theater websites. We found that offsite options, like the app or the website, carry convenience fees and in some cases still require buyers visit the box office or kiosk to actually pick up their ticket. Ticketing kiosks have a lot of functionality built in. The most common features are the ability to purchase tickets for today, purchase tickets for the future, pick up tickets, check gift card balances, and reload gift cards. This functionality does come at a price, as machines at two of the theaters we went to were out of order. The newer versions of machines have small (roughly 18 inch screens via visual approximation) touch-screen interfaces with very minimal imagery. Older versions with physical buttons seem to be in the process of being retired.


We went out to several theaters at various times during the week to see what buying tickets was really like. There was some variation between the theaters, with some having a roughly even mix between machine and box office buyers, and others tipping toward either extreme. At one theater, the machines were out of order and everyone had to buy from the box office, resulting in long lines. There are several emerging behavior patterns that we are beginning to recognize. Some validate our initial problem statements while others will require creative  problem solving in our future design work. Next week, we hope to have a full research report (Milestone 1) that contains the summaries of our findings. During observations, we also took note of current movie poster locations, sizes, and number at theaters. Movie posters appear to be placed in locations with high traffic which potentially means our machines could occupy highly valuable locales. Very few customers seem to spend more than a few seconds glancing at posters which necessitates the need for a more engaging medium.

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