Trying to get into one of those after-hour ATM airlocks at my local Bank of America, I came across this card reader; it took me a couple of swipes until I was finally granted access (I’m sorry, Dan, I’m afraid I can’t do that …).
The reason it took me so long is because in order to activate this specific card reader you need to insert your card backwards and upside-down. I’d argue that a card like an ATM/credit card has a natural orientation to it: the front of the card is where all the good stuff is, including your photo (if present on your ATM card) and/or the bank logo, and the back of the card is where the mag stripe is. The right-side-up / upside-down distinction is likewise dictated by the orientation of the text/graphics on the front.
Given this ‘party in the front / business in the back’ nature of a card and the fact that humans generally like to read text right-side-up ….
- The most user-centric design for a card reader would have the card inserted facing the user with all the text and logos (and my picture!) facing up.
- Failing that, I’d be ok with inserting my card right side up, but admiring the beautiful brownish-blackish mag stripe facing me instead of my ugly mug.
- But for chrissakes, don’t make me insert my card backwards and upside down!! (I’m convinced that the good folks at Parabit Systems, Inc. would have me insert my card inside out if it was possible)
Oh – my bad – i didn’t see those instructions on the card reader. Seriously? If you design something as simple as a card reader that performs only a single task, and still requires written instructions (with no other affordances) then I consider that to be an ultimate fail (in case you can’t read them in the photo, the instructions read “ERT CARD WITH MAGNETIC STRIPE DOWN”). At least throw a graphic or something on there that shows the user how the card should look as it’s being inserted into the reader.
A good example of a card / card reader system is the Chicago El card. Both the graphics/branding and the functional part (magstripe) are contained on one face, so there’s really only one way that makes sense to insert it. Also, to help guide the user in this task, the card has three arrows which face down, leaving no question as to which way this should be inserted in the card reader. Granted, there are instructions on the card, but there are several other affordances, such as shape and graphic, that obviate the need for instructions.
If only the rest of the El worked so well
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