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November 20, 2010

Faulty Web References

On several of the rare occasions when I want to find out more information about something on the news or in an advertisement and head to the web references listed, I've failed to find the information about what was featured. If I care enough, I'll resort to asking Google to find the information if I can remember what it was, I've already had to remember the URL, remembering the content too is unlikely. I understand that listing a simple URL is much easier to remember, usually just the base xyz.com, but if I can't spot what I'm looking for on the front page, I'm not going to find it at all. So get with it and understand your audience, your impact is entirely lost if you fail to hold on to any interest you've captured.

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November 18, 2010

Terminal Experience

I remember using debit terminals back in the early 90s when they first started they arrive. The technology was new and was a powerful and useful alternative to other payment methods available. Nearly 20 years later the technology doesn't seem to have changed much, but the user experience is approaching total crap. In the early days the terminals did one thing, accept payments via debit cards. They had a very simple interface: a small LCD to present simple instructions, a numeric keypad to enter PIN numbers and basic OK and cancel buttons. It was obvious and intuitive what to do with them and they just worked.

The modern debit/credit terminal has a few new features but runs at an abysmal speed. Forcing users to extensively wait, far longer than I ever remember waiting for the old terminals, even though current terminals are connected to a much faster network and have access to vastly superior hardware. The interface on a current terminal has exploded in both number of buttons and variety of different terminal styles and software. One of the most annoying and complex user interface traits of the modern machine is the variety of confirmation buttons used during a single transaction. It is not uncommon to use 3 different buttons to confirm actions during a transaction, often these buttons are small and have only soft labels. This is just plain stupid and a horrible interface design. The variety of terminal designs and operation is bewildering to a user. Every time I use a terminal I have to look at it carefully to figure out what to do, and I have to keep doing that for every step. Not to mention I have to continuously poll it to see if I should be waiting or if I forgot to push some button I didn't see. There seems to be very little in common between the various hardware and even less between the software on the same hardware. The other oddity is that these terminals need to be told to look for a credit or a debit card, I don't understand why they just can't read the card and then determine which it is. If they are told one thing and get a card of the other, they know it's wrong, so why can't they auto-detect?

Another two things have been bothering me lately about these terminals. On most machines when I use my Mastercard, I get asked what language I want to use and on every one the method to change and/or select a language is different. So not only am I wasting time selecting what should be a one time setting, I have to struggle to figure out how to do it each time. The other issue pops up on some machines and not others. Many machines just change the screen once the transaction is complete and remind you to remove your card. However, several varieties of these machines have an additional screen in between steps that indicates something is complete or ok and NOT to remove your card. Well, the message is entirely useless as I don't care what step the machine has completed, since as a user I just have to keep waiting. The message can easily cause problems as I might see the screen change and with it containing the words 'remove' and 'card', I might just do that. But once again I carefully have to study each machine and each screen carefully every time and react. None of them just work how I would expect.

I really don't understand how they have made these terminals worse. They are doing the same job they always have, albeit with one or two minor new features. Technology has skyrocketed ahead and these terminals seem to be left in the dust, forcing consumers and business owners to suffer.

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