The smartest ATM in the world

As a traveller I get to use ATMs of different banks in different countries a lot. As a geek I like to pay attention to small details and especially usability. The most common problem with ATMs is that they give you money before returning your card, thus opening a door for forgetting your card in the ATM. Some ATMs try to solve this problem by beeping after you get your money thus reminding you about the card. The solution which makes no sense whatsoever, when it would be much more logical just to return card first. Another problem worth mentioning is an over-confusing user interface requiring unnecessary user actions. Why do you need to answer mundane questions all over again every time when you are about to get cash. It is like most installers in the Windows world, making you press buttons with no purpose. Anyway, In Singapore I had a pleasure to use a Citibank ATM, which blew my mind in terms of usability. The money withdraw process goes something like this.

  1. You insert your card. First, it greets you by your name. Now this is a small, but very nice detail. I bet it is technically trivial to extract information about your name from your card, but how many ATMs actually bother to do that.
  2. It checks the card and then asks you to remove the card to continue. This way there is absolutely no way ATM would snatch your card. Simple and effective.
  3. You select withdrawal amount
  4. You enter PIN code as the last step.
  5. You get your cash.

There you go, no tedious questions, nor unnecessary actions. There are only two steps which require your action: withdrawal amount and PIN code. As minimal as it can get. Compare with most ATMs where you at least four-five steps for the same procedure. Well done, Citibank.

In Nokia Ovi Suite days I was responsible for implementing UI of the software. Even that we had a comprehensible specification describing all parts of the UI, there were many open issues and just things that could not be specified. I got into a habit of thinking things through and how UI would be used by end-user instead of how it should be implemented from a technical point of view. At that time I had an epiphany that most of user interfaces we had to deal with on a daily basis are simply implemented without any thought on how it would be used. The result is often an over-complex UI with unnecessary information overload and too many parts requiring user attention. To see something like this Citibank ATM is always a pleasure. Something that is not simply copied making same mistakes all over again, but seeing a thought and effort behind the end result.

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