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170. A New ATM.

atm.jpgA great post by Holger Struppek about the new Wells Fargo ATM interface is up at Physical Interface. (I came across the link through The designer, formerly at Pentagram where the project was completed, shares his perspective on the choices that were made during the development of the interface – and I couldn’t resist posting. ATMs have always been frustrating in their sometimes illogical loops of options and every machine added to the frustration with seemingly unique input restrictions. And forget about depositing a check – that would require an engineering or computer degree. Wells Fargo decided to go the touch-screen route in 2005 and hired Pentagram to design an intuitive interface that would take full advantage of the touch-screen capability while also correcting the sins of all ATM machines that had come before. It's just now bieng implemented across their netowrk of 6,900 ATMs.

The article highlights a few key decisions:

  1. Eliminate the need for the ATM ‘side buttons’, as well as the need for content/choices to line up with those buttons. (Personally, I never thought they actually lined up and I often would guess which button I should select. The difference was often between withdrawing $20 or $160.)
  2. A more transparent check depositing system, that allows users to see each check they submit and correct errors.
  3. Make a quick transaction even quicker while allowing easy access to other sub-features of the machines like stamp purchasing.
  4. A history of recent transactions that allows the machine to learn what an individual user does most often and make it easier to repeat.
  5. Extremely large buttons were used to compensate for the aquarium effect the thick glass covers create for the screen.
  6. Simplified buttons allowed for many button choices without visually overwhelming a customer.

Old vs. New:


Deposit Check Screen:


Many other banks are improving their interface on ATMs too; take Bank of America for instance. If their machine isn’t able to make a transaction it displays a list of the closest alternative ATMs in the area, instead of only the annoying ‘temporarily out of service’ message (see below). Pretty helpful. There’s a lot of room for improvement across the board and it’s an important branding tool for a bank – as branches and tellers are used less and less. Information design expert Eliot Phillips writes that it’s a key touchpoint for a bank and can make or break the relationship with the account holder. Check it out here. More evidence that design can be a powerful business tool - though probably not enough to offset lending people with atrocious credit enough money to buy a 5,000 sq. ft. McMansion.

The Helpful BofA Screen:



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