How to Create a DIY Kiosk (aka cheap kiosk)

DIY kiosk Cheap Kiosk

Small business owners recognize the value of self-service because it allows them to serve more customers with minimal staffing overhead. This article gives you the components to piece together a very economical do-it-yourself kiosk for your small business or startup for under $1000


The Components That Make Up Your “Cheap Kiosk”

Firstly, I want to clarify that when I say “cheap” I’m not referring to using shoddy hardware or a free hosting service that could be unreliable.  Your kiosk is going to be a reflection of your business, so the last thing you want to do is leave a bad impression with your customers because your kiosk is constantly out of commission.

By cheap I mean affordable, because in order to do this on a tight budget you’re going to be selecting proven reliable hardware that’s not the latest and greatest on the market.

Let’s start by examining the components which make up your typical kiosk solution.

  • The kiosk hardware
  • The kiosk application
  • The kiosk lockdown software

Kiosk Hardware

Most kiosks are either a freestanding design or else deigned to sit on a tabletop or be mounted to a wall.

We’re going to use a tablet with a secure enclosure designed for a tabletop in this example because it’s a very economical and practical option.

Craig Keefner put together this handy list of kiosk tablet enclosures.  It’s important to select a tablet enclosure designed to handle the abuse of a self-service environment.

This list is also a good starting point for selecting your tablet.  There’s no point in selecting a tablet which no one builds a secure enclosure for.

We’re going to go ahead and use the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablet because it’s a proven device running Windows 8.1.  At the time of this writing the Surface Pro 3 has been out for a while so you can get the Surface Pro 2 for a good price.

The list price is $899, but a quick search on Amazon shows that I can get a new one for $529.99.

Next we need a tablet enclosure designed for a tabletop and secure enough for a self-service environment.  We’re going to use the Full Metal Jacket + Figure 8 Base from ArmorActive which costs $289.


Full Metal Jacket + Figure 8 Base – Surface Pro 2 Kiosk by ArmorActive

Kiosk Hardware Total Cost: $818.99

Kiosk Application

The kiosk application is the software or website that makes up the user interface and potentially controls payment devices and other kiosk hardware.

Your kiosk application can either be a native application or a website, but for the sake of doing this on the cheap we’re going to create our kiosk application as a website.

One of the easiest ways to create your kiosk application is to use WordPress.  Their CMS makes it really easy to create all of your own content without ever having to touch a line of code.

Here is a "Shady Kiosk" from Dollar General store. Does this appear to be DIY you think? From the collection "Not the Best Idea" . Click for full image
Here is a “Shady Kiosk” from Dollar General store. Does this appear to be DIY you think? From the collection “Not the Best Idea” . Click for full image

You’ll also need a hosting solution.  WordPress recommends a hosting company called Bluehost whose WordPress hosting starts at only $1.95 per month.

Just signup for a WordPress hosting account and you’re ready to start designing your kiosk’s content in this easy-to-use CMS.

Kiosk Application Total Cost: $23.40 (1 year of WordPress hosting)

Kiosk Lockdown Software

The purpose of kiosk lockdown software is to ensure that your kiosk application (in this case a WordPress website) is always running and that malicious users can’t tamper with the OS.

This kiosk software is essentially a security product which ensures that your content is always on the screen and your customer’s data is secure.

Without kiosk lockdown software the kiosk can be hacked and your customer’s sensitive information could be compromised.

KioskSimple is an economical kiosk lockdown software for Windows which costs only $149 per kiosk (one-time cost) and makes it easy to put your website on a kiosk.

Kiosk Lockdown Software Total Cost: $149.00

Total Cost: $991.39

As you can see, putting together a self-service tablet kiosk solution can be very economically provided you select the right components and are willing to create the kiosk application yourself.

If you get stuck, it’s not hard to find WordPress developers online for a reasonable rate.

Your new tablet kiosk will allow you to serve more customers and even save on labor costs through the use of self-service.


Editor Notes:

For your “cheap kiosk” remember for this example the cost is referenced to direct up-front costs, not subsequent costs.  A service call is 2 hours of somebody’s time, usually at $60/hour.  Computers which are End of Life are naturally cheaper, just like consumer models.  The reason is odds are a year from now it won’t be available as a replacement.  And instead of a Surface 3 for $500  you could use a $250 ASUS Transformer.  Which one will need replacing first?

DIY Android Kiosk

For an Android kiosk there are multiple Android lockdowns.  KioWare and Sitekiosk should be considered at the top. Both of these come with robust kiosk remote monitoring options.

Then there is also Chrome Kiosks another option. It has the Chrome management console.

Whatever people touch, people will eventually break. Figure on that and you should consider your keyboard (if used) and your touchscreen.  Poorly mounted tablets which are banged around by people poking at them end up costing money.

And remember DIY kiosks generally always appear to customers as DIY.  Maybe that is a profitable strategy for some (dollar store e.g.).

Below are some “not such a good idea” examples.  And thanks to Andrew Savala of Redswimmer for the core article.
Follow Craig’s board NOT the Best Idea… on Pinterest.

For more information contact Kiosk Industry