Mostly a week of rest and recovery but with a few notable moments.

Monday – a long recovery walk up a hill

Last day in Lisbon and time for a recovery walk up a very long hill rewarded with the most amazing visual backdrop for a picnic lunch. 

A trip to Lisbon isn’t complete without mentioning the ticket machines. I’ve been fascinated by these beasts since my MSc when I did an assignment on the UK train ticket machines in Sheffield. You may have views on those (they have improved since my MSc days but could still do with some more work), but the Portuguese machines come with a reputation that sets poor expectations long before you touch down. The airport  website, no less warns you of delays in using the machines (and about apparently altruistic locals, who will then expect payment for their aid). Others have written long ‘how to’ articles which makes you wonder why do you need to? 

We were staying out of town on a tramline so we used ticket machines a lot and do indeed present some difficulties for novice users, but I think they score higher than an LNER one any day. 

For a start they work in several languages (and I’m not talking railway-speak). They step you through the process and print just the ticket you need rather than the wodge of ticket-lookalikes you get in the UK that inevitably result in you pulling out the wrong one when asked by the inspector.

The challenges in using them lie mostly in the hardware and positioning which creates a contextual problem of use. The machines have a very large, slightly angled, touch screen with a low contrast interface. When placed in a bright area, such as in the sunshine at our ‘home station’ of Monte Estoril, this made the screen almost impossible to read without contorting yourself to block out the sun as you read around the screen. 

Ticket machine where arrow points – photo credit Rapsak

The process of choosing between a new ticket or reusing is a little confusing for novices, but once learned it’s straight forward. All the machines I encountered were the same so consistency means that learning carries over. Unfortunately in this case consistency means that an interface designed for indoor use in station foyers is also deployed to outside environments like Monte Estoril. A note to remember to always include contextual research to understand where your designs will be used and how the situations will interplay.

Friday – dinner with a sporting heroine

Friday was a quick pack up after work to head to Sheffield for dinner with my sister and a very special guest – a friend of the family and my sporting heroine. Jane is in her late 80s and was in town to continue her world class swimming at the Swim England Masters meet at Ponds Forge. 

Jane is an inspiration because she has swum all her life, never giving in to the “I’m getting old story” and she continues to have adventures around the world in her cossie. And in the last few years she’s put a wetsuit over that cossie and discovered open water swimming and loved it. 

Not everyone is blessed with long years or the agility to continue in sport but I for one will aim to follow Jane’s example as long as I can. 

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