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.
Monday, June 23, 2008 5:22:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
forgive me, I am still trying to fathom why you would stand in the cold, being watched by god only knows who so you can use an ATM to transfer large amounts of money.

But good point about the ATM UI, on the rare occasions that I use them (not to transfer money, that's what txt | phone | online banking is for) they don't spit out the card until you have finished finished what you are doing.
Monday, June 23, 2008 6:15:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
G'day Moth, I totally agree (been thinking up a post for a while on this one). ATM's should have a $20 and $50 button - why can I specify to withdraw $2.11 (at least I can at one ATM I use) when they only dispense $20 or $50?

And depositing is a nightmare - I remember being beeped at incessantly by an ATM while trying to bundle notes into an envelope and eventually giving up and going into the branch. Funny thing was, the ATM was actually beeping at me to press an "I need more time" button!

Cheers, Thomas
Tuesday, June 24, 2008 12:53:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
I don't really understand, in 2008, why, if I can produce two cards, put them into a machine one after the other, provide PINs for both, AND both are registered to me, why I can't simply choose to transfer money between the two of them. It really shouldn't matter any more what sort of card they are or who issues it.

I guess writing ATM software is an expensive business (security, encryption etc) and UI probably played a less important part than it should have in the design stage. Now that the thing works, the banks are a bit unwilling to shell out serious money employing security/encryption ppl to play with the UI.

Just my copper 2 sterling pence ;)
Tuesday, June 24, 2008 8:21:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Another bad design choice of ATMs that I saw in Russia was that some would dispense the money before returning your card. Many people would then forget to retrieve their ATM card.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008 2:28:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
What we do expect of a well-designed ATM is to give us an unlimited amount of money not just from our own but from other people's bank accounts as well. That would be a cool feature, I can assure you!
Wednesday, June 25, 2008 7:22:00 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Hey Daniel, maybe you should take a look at the CEN/XFS specifications (used to be WOSA/XFS started by Microsoft)

Anyway, here in europe we like to favor the motorised card reader, but in your new location your going to come across these DIP card readers, where you literally have to dip them in and out again :)
Saturday, June 28, 2008 11:09:41 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
steven: The answer t o that is simple. I needed to transfer money from a UK account to my brand new US account and the US bank (or at least the specific branch) would not allow me to do this in any other way.

Thomas Williams: Good point, I forgot about the beeping! Same experience I am trying to get notes in an envelope trying not to attract attention and the machine is beeping like hell...

tom: I couldn't agree more, also see my reply to steven.

Mark: Yes I recall that in my early days of ATM usage about 15 years ago. Luckily they fixed that one in most UK ATMs that I've used since.

Anonymous: he he, except for the case when you are the "other people" ;-)

Nic Bedford: You know far too much about the topic :). You are correct of course.
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