Human-Centered Automated Teller Machines

I use an ATM almost every week, and no matter what bank I use, it has always been an irritating experience. Here we have a device used consistently by billions of people, that is making money to its proprietors, yet have failed to keep up with the advancing technology.

Despite being invented in the late 1960s, the only true improvements this beast have seen were 1) the adoption of ATM cards instead of paper cheques, and much later 2) the touchscreen.

Few years ago I read about IDEO’s work in this area and since then it has been impossible for me to get it out of my head. Here are few ideas on how I would improve an ATM, from walking to the machine to receiving my money.

  1. Malfunctioning/disconnected light indicator: many times I find an ATM, park my car, and walk to the machine only to find a dreadful “out of service” message. A light indicator would save people time.
  2. RFID/Touch-free ATM cards: why do I have to pull out my ATM card, gently slip it in, and hold my wallet until the end of the transaction? At the end of a transaction, both card and cash are given back to the user simultaneously. When this happens, I always find myself racing against time to put back my card inside my wallet and then take the cash before the machine eats either of them.
  3. Early network authorization: just after showing my card, and while I am entering my pin, the machine should connect to the bank and get meta data on my account, such as balance and permissible amount to withdraw. That way I do not have to wait 8-30 seconds doing nothing after I choose my transaction.
  4. No more choose-your-language screen: I told you my preferred language a billion times. At the very least, make an assumption while having a “change language” button in a corner.
  5. Offer my most popular transactions: I almost always withdraw SAR 400. I do not want to go through the many screens and enter that amount every time.
  6. Option for receipt only after the transaction: after I choose to withdraw money, the machine should not slow the transaction with yet another question “do you want a receipt for that?”. Instead, the option for a receipt should be available for 5 to 10 seconds after I receive my money. I have a feeling that the reason why we have so many receipts lying on the ground is that people are always in a hurry, pushing “next next yes” and therefore unconsciously answering that question. This also explain why some people ask for a receipt but never pull it out of the machine.

This is what I have so far. In retrospect I notice that all of my suggestions are time-saving improvements, which is probably a reflection of how I perceive an ATM machine should serve me: not by giving me health tips or impress me with new animations, but by giving me money when I need it and then getting out of my way as soon as possible.

A perfect experience would require exactly five pushes on the keypad: four for the pin, one for the common transaction, all in less than ten seconds.

Share your ideas in the comments!