June 16th, 2006 by Judith
A trip to the local ATM machine is a rather unexciting experience. After all, I know these machines by heart as I use them at least 2 to 3 times a week and can push the buttons in my sleep. However, I was awakened to a whole new experience to interacting with ATMs when my local bank had been one of the candidates to receive a brand new ATM machine. For once, I was actually excited to interact with this machine because it looked fun to use. The screen is much larger than the former design, the keypad inputs are larger as well as the buttons on the screens. Lights flash appropriately to indicate the input areas for the card and output areas for cash. Better yet is the audio echoing of keystrokes as you key in your PIN, cash amounts and make on screen selections. The experience is rich. I couldn’t help think how inviting interacting with this machine might be to someone who might be shy about using an ATM, like my Mom, as she is a luddite when it comes to having to interact with anything that smacks of technology save the TV remote.
Based on my research of older adults and learning, my mom (like many older adults) views technology as an odious substitute for real human interaction. Why learn a simulated task when I already know how to do it in “real life”, as she would put it. As the older adult population increases while computers proliferate as substitutes for cashiers in grocery stores et cetera older adults are increasingly forced to wrestle with the inevitability that computers are here to stay. Older adults are more willing to engage with technology if it seems made for them. For example, the larger button sizes aid the visually-impaired while the rich audio and visual feedback aid the user’s expectations of typical sequences and responses that occur in “real life” interaction. The richer the experience the more confident the user is, thus increasing the willingness to accept computers as part of everyday life. I think this new ATM design is onto something.