Design Matters

file6691334414281For a dozen years or more, I have used Associated Bank’s ATM machines. After selecting “English,” the screen says “retrieving preferences.” What a strange message. I don’t recall ever setting preferences, and if I did, wouldn’t language have been a preference rather than a separate selection? And If I hadn’t set preferences in the past, it certainly wasn’t intuitive how to set them now.

This bothered me. It was inefficient that I always had to answer the same questions. Every. Single. Time. What language? What account? Receipt or no receipt?

Lo and behold, my wife enlightened me just a few weeks ago. Apparently, you have to select “next screen” and after pushing a few more buttons, you’ll find a place to set preferences. I finally set my preferences, only a decade or so too late! Some may disagree, but I don’t think I’m that oblivious that I couldn’t have figured it out at some point. The only logical explanation is that it is poor design.

If a reasonably intelligent, high volume user is struggling, there’s got to be a better way. Couldn’t the machine learn customer preferences? My behavior makes it really easy—I always answer the questions the same way. What about a simple prompt that asks if you would like to set preferences, and then gives the choices of “yes,” “no,” or “don’t ask again?” Could it ask if I would like to save this transaction as a favorite or default?

I wonder if anyone has ever checked what percentage of ATM users have set preferences. I’m guessing it’s very small, putting me in the majority who repeatedly go through the same questions each time that don’t add any value to the transaction. It’s not like ATMs have changed much over time—they do the same basic withdrawals, deposits, transfers and balance inquiries they’ve always done.

Understanding the customer experience and how to design an interface that is simple, understandable, and without extraneous required inputs doesn’t have to be that hard. Saving your customers years of frustration is worth it.

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