Summary: Even a small delay can have noticable impacts on user experience. In the case of withdrawing money from an ATM, added time to receive your debit card can create the risk of forgetting to take the card out of the machine.

User experience design and ATMs

This year I used ATMs in over 10 different countries (primarily in Southeast Asia and Europe). Witnessing the seemingly minute differences while using different ATMs, made me realize that even a  small change from anticipated user expectations can have a profound effect on the user.

Before traveling, I worked with a California-based web design consulting firm, which got me curious about user experience design topics. During my time at the consulting firm, we interviewed people to understand why they visit a particular website. Some of the expectations that the users (people who use the website) have, can be very different from the assumed expectations from the computer programmers and designers (people who plan the website).

User experience design is not just specific to websites, but any interaction between humans and a planned interface or product. An ATM (Automated Teller Machine) is one such interface in which people interact with the machine to withdraw money from their bank account.

Forgetting the debit card in the ATM

Earlier this year, I was traveling with a good friend in Thailand, and we were in a hurry going from the hostel to the bus station. Along the way, we needed to stop and get some cash. The taxi driver parked the car near a convenience store, and we used the ATM. When I went to use the ATM, I noticed that the machine used more time to return the debit card after I had received cash. I didn’t think too much of it at the time. Then my friend used her the ATM and took her cash, and we quickly jumped back into the taxi.

When we arrived at the hostel, I quickly heard my friend exclaim: “My card!! Where is it?” She had left it in the machine. Why had this happened?

I believe a few reasons caused my friend to forget her debit card in the ATM:

  • We were tired (we had just arrived to Thailand, a new country and culture for us)
  • We were in a hurry
  • The ATM gave cash before returning the debtit card
  • After receiving the cash, the time to return the debit card was 2-3 seconds longer than we expected (compared to using ATMs in our home country, United States)

Rough sketches to illustrate the user journey

I created some sketches to illustrate waiting times while using the ATM. The drawings are really rough, but are more about communicating the idea rather than being a beautiful drawing 🙂  The drawings were created with pen, paper, and the Tayasui Sketches mobile app for simple coloring.

Here are some articles relating to international experience design and comics for communication if you’re still curious 🙂

Learning Resources:

The Definition of User Experience (UX): Nielsen Norman Group

International user experience design

User Experience Design International
UX Design Across Different

Comics and visuals for communication:

Spin, Weave, and Cut: Nick Sousanis