UX in our every day life

User Experience is not only important for websites, mobile devices or games, but there are many examples in our everyday life that we can adapt for our work or learn how not to do things.

Some days ago I had a rather confusing experience with an ATM (automated teller machine that allows people to withdraw cash from their bank accounts) around our office that gave me the motivation to write about this topic and start a series that will cover some good or bad examples from the world around us. When I told my colleagues I was to write about ATMs, all of them had something to add, but more of this later. Let’s start at the beginning.

I’ve been using my debit-card for many years now, all around Germany and abroad and I would say withdrawing money from an ATM is a quite automated task for me by now. I don’t really think about the process or read instructions anymore, because I regard myself an experienced user in this area and, as I thought, “all ATMs behave more or less the same”.

Until this very day, when I inserted my card into an ATM as usual and it just gave me a general error message: “Card not accepted”. It took me several minutes and a couple of attempts, until I realized that nothing was actually wrong with my card, but I was trying to insert it the wrong way. It seems like EVERY ATM I was using in the past years wanted the card with magnet stripe bottom left, but this one bank had its ATMs configured differently. Here, I had to enter my card with the magnet stripe pointing top left. They even had a visual hint explaining this, right next to the slot where you enter the card, but I unintentionally ignored it.

In our business we also try to explain everything to the users, give them help and tutorials. But as I experienced myself, all of this is useless, if users simply ignore provided help. And ignoring these hints or tutorial messages often happens unintentionally, because a user considers him-/herself experienced and thinks “I know a lot about XYZ, so I don’t need help cause I know what I am doing. Help is only for newbies.”

The question that came to my mind after this incident was: Why does this specific bank not stick with the behavior of 99% of the ATMs out there? Is it on purpose? Is there maybe even a reason behind it? We don’t know, but we do get annoyed. It is not like ATMs are very new being invented 1965 in the USA by a guy called Don Wetzel or that there never has been a usability-check for ATMs. Actually, a short Google search just brought up two large studies conducted on ATMs, both concerning the change to touchscreen-ATMs: Wells Fargo (USA) hired Pentagram in 2005 and FIDUCIA IT AG (Germany) hired User Interface Design GmbH (UID) in 2006.

Yet, these two studies only covered the software issues and didn’t cover the whole UX an ATM provides. All I could find in these articles was about the UI and that touch and non-touch hardware should work with the same software during the migration process, which is long and expensive, especially when considering the amount of ATMs. Researching and improving the whole experience, not just the usability of the software is also an important point in our daily business. UX is not just about software and UX is not just about Usability. UX is a very big package and one should not forget the “simple” details around the software.

Now back to our example and let’s end this article with some pictures that show good examples what one can forget to consider but is also part of the User Experience: