Thursday, August 30, 2007

Warning! Cool new feature!

Despite their best attempts to hide this sign on the filthy wall behind the ATM (is that a spider above it?), I noticed this the other day at the local Hy-Vee. Its pretty lame, but I unfortunately know what they are talking about. The Sprint campus had one of these, and its communicated even more poorly. Check it out: Danger, envelopes are prohibited. You jerk. Now, I know what they mean and why they are doing it. There's a not very new law that everyone is finally complying with to save money. Your checks are basically destroyed at the receiving bank; a scan (and a file of meta-data) flow electronically across the countryside to move the funds about appropriately. Scanning at the ATM probably means they can skip several steps, and just toss your paper check in the shredder. You do the scanning work for them, instead of the box of checks and envelopes going to a fulfillment center where they are opened, scanned and so on. Speeds payment also, which is always supposed to be good. Though I always like the delay in fund removal that giving someone a check affords me. In practice, to the end user, this is pretty cool, and you get to see your check on the screen before confirming everything, so its pretty clear the system worked correctly. But, as you can tell, I have problems with the way at least Commerce did this. I suspect most other banks did just as poorly, assisted with obtuse ATM designers.
  1. As you can see above, the communications is awful. Take a feature, and turn it into a constraint. It practically reverses the standard joke to "its not a feature, its a bug." I am not a communications designer, but I am sure there's a way to communicate this technical requirement, without it being a prohibition on user behavior. Sure, it says please, but aside from the warning-like graphic, there's not a positive word on there; nothing about the new feature and just insert the checks alone. Its not even that close to the slot. Anyway, there are no envelopes, and I don't think they would even fit in the slot, so its not a huge risk.
  2. Speaking of no envelopes, why not? No, I know its supposed to scan the check, but placing deposits in an envelope has been going on for...ever. Before ATMs, you were given little envelopes (or similar devices) for cash or check deposits thru the pneumatic tubes or power drawers at bank drive thrus. Almost anyone who has banked at all will be used to this system. So, why not a transition period? Provide envelopes, but encourage users to try the new envelopeless service. You have a full-color interactive system, so nifty interstitials or banners (better) can be loaded into the process. After 6 months, remove the envelope rack, and after a year remove the capability of accepting them at all.
  3. And this envelope habituation brings up another real-world issue I, for one have. I never endorse checks going into ATMs. Its not required by law (I am very sure) and doesn't seem to be an issue in ATMs (never had one rejected). Also, I forget. I don't carefully prepare for my trek to the ATM, and they NEVER have pens on site. So, by the time I am there, its impossible to sign them. No, I am not a girl, so I don't have a purse with pens. Okay, see any pens on that Sprint location ATM? Neither do I. Yet, they seem to be scanning for endorsement, and get mad if its not present. This is just poor design. Provide a pen, or two for when it gets stolen. Provide a bucket of them like envelopes, and don't worry about the loss rate as its free advertising. Or, don't require it, and if some new anti-terror legislation does indeed require it, provide a way to authenticate in some other manner.

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