Need help choosing a product for your project?

Early Decision Making Article

Early Decision Making

Kiosks for Dummies

Written by a former kiosk idiot

Kiosks for Dummies


I will admit, before interviewing with my current employer, I had never even heard the word “kiosk”. Today I have been immersed in the kiosk industry; utilizing kiosk jargon, researching kiosk related key terms in search engines on a daily basis, and helping clients understand the different facets of kiosk projects.

When I started working I felt like I was floundering. I had no technical background and I was in my first job out of college with no clue as to what I was doing. I immediately tried to learn everything I could about the industry through online and print publications, but still felt at a loss.

I found it difficult to find publications that described the basics of a kiosk project. What would have helped me ease into the industry and learn about kiosk projects? A white paper for self-proclaimed kiosk dummies.

Through my experience, I want to introduce novices to the kiosk industry to develop a basic understanding of what is involved in creating a successful kiosk project.

In any self-service kiosk project, there are three major components needed to determine its success: the hardware, the user application, and the kiosk system software. The purpose of a kiosk is to interact with users; and all three components are necessary to bring users to the kiosk to accomplish its task.

Determining Kiosk Functionality

Before choosing hardware, the application and software, the function of the kiosk must be determined. Outlining the tasks of the kiosk will help ensure the kiosks are used and, more importantly, used as intended. This can involve a large checklist of kiosk goals that can vary as widely as the amount of vertical kiosk applications currently in the kiosk industry. Preliminary questions to ask are who is the end-user and how will they be using the kiosk? More specific questions vary on the application. For instance, if the kiosk is selling something, how can I grab the attention of potential users that would otherwise walk by? Or, if the kiosk displays secure information such as web-banking kiosk, how do I secure the information on the kiosk and make the user feel that they are physically safe while standing at the kiosk? The answers lie in the successful integration of the hardware, application and software.

Kiosk Hardware

The hardware not only entails the kiosk itself, but also its enclosure and any peripheral device used to enhance the function of the kiosk. Choosing the kiosk hardware is similar to purchasing any electronic device, you want to shop around. After you have determined the purpose of the kiosk, compare hardware based on price, quality, material or features. For example, if the kiosk displays highly sensitive information, features to look for would be privacy screens that black out the monitor and panels that block the screen to people standing on either side of the kiosk.

The material of a kiosk enclosure can range from metal to wood to injection-molded plastic. Again, the function of the kiosk determines the best material. For instance, if the kiosk is located outdoors, the enclosure would have to be more rugged than a kiosk located indoors. Generally metal kiosks are more durable and secure, wood kiosks can give a more refined look, and injection-molded plastic kiosks are great for eye-catching designs as they can be created in almost any color.

In addition to the kiosk enclosure, peripherals need to be incorporated into the kiosk hardware design as well as the application or software. There are several peripherals to choose from including security mats, proximity switches, mag stripe readers, bill/coin acceptors, barcode scanners, and printers. These peripherals must be configured either into the application or kiosk system software in order to function, and should also be integrated into the enclosure for aesthetics and security. For example, printers that print sensitive information should be locked, secured, and enclosed within the kiosk. These types of printers should also utilize printer retractors and security mats, ensuring that as soon as users step away from the kiosk, the printed information is retracted back into the kiosk. A security mat can also be used in applications so that as soon as the user steps on the mat, the kiosk recognizes a user is there and brings them to the start page. More importantly, a security mat will recognize when the user walks away from the kiosk and configured with the kiosk software, will clear all cookies and cache for the next user.

Kiosk Application

The second component in a kiosk project is the user application, which focuses on user interface and design. Application development is also dependent upon the purpose of the kiosk. Many deployers will have the option of deploying an existing application such as a company website, or creating an entirely new application.

Whether the application is existing or new, it should be short and simple as typical kiosks require the user to stand during use. Users should be able to easily navigate to the information needed within a relatively short period of time. The design of the application should also consider whether the kiosk utilizes a touchscreen or a trackball. If the kiosk uses a touchscreen, then links and buttons should be large enough for a human finger to touch. This is especially important if deployers are using an existing application where the links are currently only large enough for a computer user’s mouse to click.

If you choose to create a new application, experienced kiosk developers can custom-develop a kiosk application specific to your needs. Consulting with a kiosk application developer will help you uncover the user interface issues related only to kiosks. Additionally, there are numerous types of kiosk applications, be sure to find a developer that has detailed experience for the intended use of your kiosk. For example, if your kiosk is a ticket-dispensing kiosk, you would not want to work with a company that has only developed applications for digital signage kiosks.

Kiosk Software

Many kiosk issues, such as security, idle time and remote monitoring, can either be programmed into the kiosk application or provided by kiosk software, the third component of a kiosk project.

Kiosk software runs the application in a “kiosk-mode”, which deters users from maliciously attacking the kiosk. Kiosk software does this by wrapping around the application, allowing users access only to the application. This prevents access to the desktop, file system and URLs not applicable to the function of the kiosk. If the kiosk includes a keyboard, the kiosk software also disables all problematic specialty keys such as ctrl+alt+del.

During idle time, kiosk software can be configured to rotate through an attract screen cycle to make users aware of the kiosk. Attract screens are a great way to capture the attention of users that otherwise may become passersby. They also act as a screen saver without opening the kiosk up to security threats that a screen saver would. Attract screens can offer additional protection by beginning as soon as the kiosk becomes idle, clearing all cookies and cache from the session of the previous user.

In addition to kiosk security, kiosk software can offer remote monitoring features to manage multiple kiosks from a central location. Remote monitoring consists of receiving a daily update of the kiosk activity and email or text alerts when there is kiosk error, such as printer paper jam. Other features include the ability to push content out to kiosks and the ability to upload performance statistics such as usage statistics. These metrics can help measure the performance and ROI of the kiosk.


Be sure to do background research and ask for references from all of your providers. You should know if the provider has a proven track record for on-time shipments. Also, are they known for their customer service? Are they well known within the industry? Do they have specific kiosk development background? Kiosk projects have issues that are very kiosk-specific and different than any other field. Choose providers that have explicit and proven knowledge in the kiosk field; experienced kiosk deployers can bring issues to your attention from their past deployments.

There is no one component that will guarantee the success of a kiosk project. Understanding the end-user as well as kiosk issues such as security, performance metrics and durability are important factors. Consideration of these factors along with the integration of kiosk hardware, the application and kiosk system software, creates success in a self-service kiosk deployment.

Want more? Here are some related posts:
Creating a Successful Self-Service Kiosk Project
Kiosk Software: What is it and why do I need it?
The Three Main Components of a Self-Service Project
Kiosk Software Questions

Back to top