Bad UI Design – ATM

Mon, June 23, 2008, 03:59 PM under UserInterfaceDesign
The goal: to withdraw some cash from one account and deposit it to another. How hard can it be? Isn't ATM user interface design an established known thing? Apparently not, as I found out...

I walked up (with a helper friend) to a cashpoint (the "hole in the wall") which had a big colour screen with buttons either side of it and more buttons in a keypad below. The screen rotated through some adverts and included no instructions as to what do: I inserted my card to make a withdrawal. Nothing happened. We both stared at the screen and start pressing some buttons – nothing. Eventually she went in to the bank to ask for instructions while I continued tapping on the screen and buttons for a little longer. I got bored so withdrew my card... and after a couple of seconds, guess what? It asks me for the PIN number! Wow! You have to pull the card out in order for it to operate... good thing I didn't walk away immediately as the next person could have come along and played "guess the PIN" without ever getting hold of my card! Anyway, in the end the withdrawal succeeded and I had $500 in $20 denominations which is what it gave out. Next step: deposit that cash into another account.

I insert the other card, nothing happens but now I know the trick so I pull the card out and I get prompted for the PIN (after a brief delay). It asks how much I want to deposit. I enter the amount of $500. It dispenses an envelope and instructs me to insert the cash in the envelope and stick it back in the slot; it states that the envelope must not contain more than 10 banknotes! How am I to deposit $500 that it just gave me in 20s by using only 10 notes?! If that is its limitation why didn't it state that before asking me how much I wanted to deposit? This is yet another example of getting the steps in the wrong order. Anyway, since I couldn't find a cancel button (or some other Ctrl+Z option) I put $200 in the envelope and stuffed it in the slot. It gave me a receipt thanking me for depositing $500 :-) By this stage, the person working at the bank comes out and after hearing the story says: "Yeah that happens all the time, I'll correct it on the computer". Sigh.

Why do we put up with such systems? I don't think we'll advance our profession as long as users have already decided to tolerate the crap we serve them.