An ATM without letters…


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I recently had the pleasure of birthday shopping for my two year old cousin.  With my own daughters well past toddlerhood, I welcomed the excuse to meander around the toy store.  What fun I had exploring some new toys as well as classics sure to fill countless hours with enjoyment.  After several loops around the store, and making some tough decisions between dolls, my little ponies, and various crafts and books,  I brought my final selections to the register.  As the manager rang up the items, I reevaluated my choices and decided my little cousin would certainly be pleased with her birthday surprises.  Mrs. Potato, I thought, would be the biggest hit!
I opted to pay for my purchases with my ATM card.  Being a small non-franchised toy store, the ATM system required the clerk swipe my card into the bank device and then I would enter my PIN number on a separate handheld key pad to validate the purchase.  When the clerk announced the purchase total, I presented my ATM card for swiping.  Once he swiped the card in the bank device, he gave me the cue to enter in my PIN in the key pad of the separate hand held device.  
My PIN is composed of a number and a series of letters and another number.  I entered the first number of my PIN on the key pad and then quickly realized that unlike like most ATM key pads, each key on the hand held device displayed only numbers, not the corresponding letters like other traditional ATM key pads.  Ordinarily that may not be an issue, but in my case, five digits in my secret PIN are letters which I have never associated with numbers.  I attempted to select the appropriate number keys that I thought may contain the corresponding letter of my secret PIN however, when I pressed enter, I realized my number selections were not accurate.  As a result, I was not be able to use my ATM card to complete the transaction and had to resort to making the purchase with my credit card which didn’t require I enter a PIN.  
Although the clerk was very patient and understanding, my overall user experience related to my purchase was negative.  Initially I questioned if there was a problem with my ATM card.  Plus it was confusing to be presented with a device which skewed so far from the norm and rendering the transaction unable to be completed.   Now when I think about returning to that toy store, although I had fun browsing, this negative experience will continue to be associated with the store as well.  
My experience underscores the value of creating scenarios during the business requirements process of systems design to better understand needs of typical users of systems being developed.  It also highlights the value of usability testing during the design phase of the project development lifecycle.  Even an abbreviated testing effort using paper prototypes of the device has the potential to reveal issues and design opportunities prior to investing in actual product development saving significant dollars late in the development lifecycle potentially jeopardizing budgets and planned time lines.   So go ahead and advocate for user testing, early and often, during the development lifecycle for your rewards will likely be great!  

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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