Who Designed That User Interface

Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

Who Designed That User Interface

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One of the problems with knowing something about programming, computers and user interface design is that when you run into a poor design in the real world it really makes you wonder. I get this every time I use an ATM. Some of the commands require you to press buttons on the side of the screen and some on the keypad. Not all of these make sense. For example, given there is an enter key on the key pad why do they often have you push a button on the side of the screen? Why not use that enter button?

And data entry. The instructions say that the amount must be in a multiple of $20. Fine so why does the user interface even allow you to enter data in the ones column and the cents columns? Shouldn't what ever first number you press show up in the tens digit column? I haven’t tried to enter invalid data though. The way things are I am just too afraid of the possible consequences. I haven’t been burned by these poor interfaces so maybe there are enough fail safes and data checking to prevent most errors. But still a poor interface should be a concern for everyone who uses a system.

I’ve been thinking I’d like to mock up my idea of how an ATM interface should work. I think it would make an interesting classroom project. But I want to also think about other common ways people interact with computers. Point of sale machines possibly? I remember an interesting soda (pop for some of you, Coke for you in Atlanta, tonic for New Englanders) dispensing machine interface project. That might be interesting. And pizza orders are common.

But real existing interfaces that are redesigned and imagined by students seem to me to be the best idea. What sort of examples should I be looking at?

  • ATM interface project sounds fun!  Definitely a system that could be improved upon.  Reminds me of the Chase commercial where they show the ATM accepting both a check and cash deposits very easily.  Aspects of the Redbox (dvd vending machines) impressed me the first time I used it.  After you use the system once, the next time you swipe your credit card it remembers your e-mail address which is where it mails the receipt.  I'm sure there are other examples.

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