Ideas & Innovation

Case Study: Redesign of the ATM Experience – By Gregory Onyeahialam

Having been frustrated many times by the ATM (Automated Teller Machine), I decided to move from a complainer to a problem solver. I took upon as my first UX project, the redesign of the ATM experience.

Project Goal

  • To reduce the number of steps taken to withdraw money from the ATM and thus decrease the overall time spent at the ATM.
  • To improve the overall experience of using the ATM.

Gathering User Research

The main user research methods I employed were:

  1. Contextual Enquiry — here I observed users as they used the ATM.
  2. User Interviews — I interviewed users to discover their goals and pain points in using the ATM.
  3. Expert and Stakeholder Interview — As a UX designer when designing solutions you need to balance business goals and user’s goals. So I interviewed some bank staffs to know the bank’s goals.

Although I am a regular ATM user, I used the ATM myself to gain fresh insights and build empathy.

Apart from user research, I evaluated the ATM experience through the following means.

User Flows

I developed user flow diagram to identify frustrations and unnecessary steps a user has to take when withdrawing money from the ATM.

Extended User Journey Map (Mind the gap)

As a User Experience Designer, I believe in catering to the needs of the user which one might think to be minute. When a user uses a product they hope to be taken from their current situation to a better situation. From having no cash at hand to having cash for their daily activities. I asked myself what happens in between, well the user journey shows us that but then what happens between each step in the user’s journey. I ask myself “What happens in between?” then “How can I help them.” To design great solutions you need to “mind the gap” and pay attention to the details because the design is in the details. Do not let the user deal with it. After applying this I was able to discover more user pain points.

Heuristic Analysis

I evaluated the current ATM interface against the 10 recognised usability principles or heuristics. They are:

1. Visibility of System Status

2. Match between System and real world

3. User control and freedom

4. Consistency and standards

5. Error prevention

6. Recognition over recall

7. Flexibility and efficiency of use

8. Aesthetic and minimalist design.

9. Helps users recognise, diagnose and recover from errors.

10. Help and documentation

Affinity Mapping — Making sense of Research Data

In order to summarise and make sense of the data I got from the research, user flow diagram and heuristic analysis I decided to create an affinity map. I picked out relevant information from the research data and wrote them on sticky notes. I arranged the sticky notes with related information into clusters. I reassessed the information in each sticky cluster and wrote them on a sticky.

These are the main pain points gathered:

1. Long queues.

2. Forgetting ATM card at the ATM after withdrawal.

3. Unnecessary receipts.

4. Being asked to select withdrawal account i.e. Savings, Current or Fixed account.

5. Constant input of pin for each transaction.

6. Slow process and network issues.

7. Inability to withdraw bulk cash at once.

8. ATM allows you to go through the whole process of withdrawing only to tell you at the end there is no money or some other heart breaking news.


I rephrased each problem and used the popular ‘How Might We’ technique. I picked up one pain point at a time and tried to come up with as many solutions as possible. Next, with my knowledge of behavioural design, I decided to employ the help of Persuasive Design Patterns — they include different design principles based on insight driven by psychology. So I explored how some of these persuasive patterns can be used to improve the experience.

Evaluating Ideas

Even though I went about his alone I came up with a lot of ideas but not all ideas are to be implemented. So I filtered and prioritized my ideas using these two sets of criteria.

Impact Vs Effort Graph

I assessed my ideas and plotted them on the graph based on their potential impact and the effort required to implement them. The ideas that entered the holy grail of low effort high impact and few surrounding ideas were selected.

Effort vs Impact Graph

Business Vs User Goals Matrix

As a User Experience designer you are constantly seeking to balance User goals and Business goals. So you focus more on ideas that fall within the sweet spot of good for the business and good for the user.

So I plotted the remaining ideas on the matrix and picked the ones in the sweet spot as the solutions to work with while keeping a backlog of the other ideas.

Business Vs User Goals Matrix

The final solutions are:

1. Use of USSD to ‘pre-withdraw’

When customers find themselves on a long queue they can use their mobile phones to pre-select the amount they want to withdraw. So once they reach the ATM they just slot in their card and collect their money.

Here is a sample scenario:

Emeka needs to withdraw 5000 naira for his mother’s drugs. He goes to the ATM and finds a long queue. He joins the queue then brings out his phone types the USSD code to pre-withdraw (e.g. *432*ATM Pin*Amount to withdraw#). He is sent a One-Time-Password (OTP) by his bank which lasts for about 30minutes.

When it reaches his turn to use the ATM, he slots in his card, input his pin and proceeds, inputs the OTP and proceeds, money comes out, he takes his money and goes.

Because most of those on the queue with Emeka know about this method many of them do it thereby reducing the amount of time Emeka would normally have spent on the queue by about half.

2. ATM prevents users from collecting money before ATM card

The ATM lets users collect their ATM card before collecting their money to prevent users forgetting their cards at the ATM after withdrawal. The prompt “Do you want to perform another transaction” comes while “Transaction is in progress”. Users can hardly forget their money.

ATM transaction page Mock up

3. When Withdrawing bulk cash — cash above the ATM limit — instead of withdrawing in bits and going through the whole withdrawal process for each bit the ATM allows the user to select the bulk cash. The money doesn’t come out at once but in batches of whatever the limit of the ATM may be. One might say why not let the ATM bring out the money at once but after speaking with some bankers, I figured out that this solution better balances user goals and banks goals.

4. When withdrawing from the ATM, you reach a page where you are shown a list of amounts to choose from and an option to select other amounts. From my observation of many ATM users, despite having used the ATM several times they still haven’t learnt the arrangement of amounts on that page. Each time they reach that page they scan the whole list to find the amount they want to withdraw and if it is not there they then click the ‘Other’ button. A bank tried to optimise this page by putting only one amount there, I don’t know what led them to choose that specific amount but from the users I interviewed they seemed not to like this development.

ATM screen

So my solution is for the banks to tailor the amounts shown on this page to the user’s top four frequently withdrawn amounts. I chose four instead of the normal eight because the user’s mind easily interprets this without much cognitive load and I put them closer to the centre so it would be within the user’s central vision instead of his peripheral vision like the normal ATM arrangement. Finally, I put a fifth option for the user to type in the amount he wants on that same page.

5. ATM automatically recognises the type of account you have once you slot in your ATM card instead of asking you to specify whether it is a Savings, Current or Credit account.

6. Receipts should be scrapped!!! From my research many people do not take receipts from the ATM, even when they choose to, the ATM tells them printer error and even when it comes out they throw it away. The summary is that ATM receipts hardly ever reaches home. Receipts serve as a proof of payment so the email and SMS sent to the user should do.

7. Banks whose ATM booths/galleries experience much traffic should play calm music (that ASA kind of music) or instrumentals to relief tension and make the queueing experience more pleasurable. Studies have shown that music affects emotional states of humans, reducing stress and anxiety.

Some other ideas that didn’t make it to the final list are

1. Giving the ATM a personality.

2. Adding progress bar.

3. Upgrading the ATM UI from mainly text to a highly graphical UI…


Unlike other services or products whereby if a user is frustrated he could easily leave and go to a competitor, for the ATM user, he doesn’t just leave the bank and go to another bank. Changing banks requires much more effort. But when the trouble of using the ATM is coupled with repeated poor experiences from other bank services it gets to a point where he decides to change his bank. So it is important to provide the user with a functional service and delightful user experience across all touch points.

This article first appeared on Medium, and is republished here with the permission of the author, Gregory Onyeahialam. Minimal corrections, mainly punctuation, have been made to some parts. The author asserts his rights to be regarded as the original creator of this work. Read more from Gregory. Contact him at


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