This example examines the transaction of ordering and paying for a cup of coffee. Starting with the payment issue first, and then to ordering the coffee. There are two problems with cash points and digital payment solutions. The first is related to the PIN-code. Through habit, the sequence of numbers has turned into a movement, a gesture. Luckily, the keypads of the digital payment systems are equal, at least most of them are, regretfully, not all. In most of the cases you find the 1 in the upper left corner, in few cases you find the 1 in the lower left corner. It will create embarrassing situations if – like me – your PIN is a gesture. This is one of the situations where standardization is critical to usability.
Standardization can increase usability but does not improve the user experience. Digital payment systems, even when there is a human cashier, feel rigid and inhuman. There is an interruption in the (albeit limited) social exchange. It is as if the person paying disappears for an minute and a half, while he interacts virtually with his distant bank and then reappears to take his product and the receipt. The cashier, in the real world, extends the receipt to the customer holding back the pressure of the next customer in line. More times than not the customer doesn’t want the receipt and, blindly returning from the virtual to the real world transaction takes it and either throws it away, pockets it distractedly or worse, walks away leaving it in the hand of cashier who repeatedly suffers the abrupt interruption of natural human interaction.
Even in human-machine interactions much could be done to improve the experience. For more than 10 years I have withdrawn cash from the same bank, and for more than 10 years the machine has asked me whether I want a receipt. In all these 10 years, the number of times I wanted a receipt is probably less than a hand-full. Those data exist somewhere in my bank and could be used to make my visit more pleasant and less stilted. No one likes answering an obvious question. Returning to the coffee transaction, I like to drink coffee and, living in an Italian culture, I have come to appreciate a nice espresso. Probably because of Dutch roots, I prefer an espresso-lungo; one with a bit more water. It took the barman at the company where I was working (and I was one of about 300 people working in the same building) between two and tree days to remember I preferred my coffee ‘a bit longer’. Not 10 years, but less than 10 visits.
In the mean time, the cash collection points of the bank have improved slightly. Designing for humans still seems to be an alien concept, and it still does not know what I want, but it allows me to select ‘the same as last time’, which means same amount, same way of payment and no receipt. Starbucks would be proud.
See workshop handout chapter 2.