Designing for the 21st Century Consumer

Published February 17, 2022


Bringing any new product to market requires an army of designers, engineers, and marketers to map out the myriad aspects of new product release and adoption.

The challenge is even greater when revolutionizing a product that’s been around for decades. That's why we need to communicate usability and accessibility upgrades, front and center. NCR goes through rigorous design processes to meet or surpass all requirements. We rely heavily on our User Centred Design team, based in our NCR Research & Development Center in Dundee, Scotland. They are behind our award-winning NCR SelfServ 80 series and latest digital-first NCR SelfServ 60 series. They’re lifting the lid on how they go about designing ATMs for the 21st Century consumer. 

Where do you start when beginning to design a new ATM?

When we start the design process, we begin with looking at what the market wants. And for us, that’s two-fold. What do our customers, the financial institutions, need? This can be a combination of solving the business challenges they need to overcome, as well as designing to the physical constraints of the branch, offsite locations, and through-the-wall environments – such as reduced footprint for smaller branches, easy replacement for legacy units, or shifting new transactions to self-service

Then there’s the consumer. What are they looking for from self-service technology? What technologies are they accustomed to using already and how can we reflect that in the ATM experience?  It’s also about designing for the future – the average lifespan of an ATM is around eight years, so we need to consider what could be coming around the corner. Every new technology advancement sees faster adoption rates by consumers, so we need to consider the suitability of some fledgling technologies in a self-service environment, whether that’s embracing them at an early stage or considering retrofitting in the design process to enable financial institutions to easily upgrade their offering and meet their customers’ expectations in the future. 

Where do you take your inspiration?

It’s not just about designing a piece of hardware. For us, it’s all about the consumer and how they interact with the technology. We spend time in branches doing empirical research – we observe people using and interacting with the technology. Where is the friction? Where is the confusion or difficulty? In looking for existing pain points, we can ensure that we find ways to overcome them in the next evolution.

And it’s not just looking at technology in a financial environment – where can we take inspiration from other consumer environments. The automotive industry, for example, is increasingly raising the bar on technology interaction and integration. Take a look at Tesla, which is setting the benchmark for other industries to emulate. We observe and analyse how they use internal lighting or illumination for customization, or how they are evolving their user interface as cars become increasingly software driven.

How important is accessibility in your process?

Most importantly, we have to ensure that everyone is able to use an ATM. Financial inclusion, and access to cash, is a basic human right. We need to cater for everyone – and let’s face it, not everyone has a smartphone, or in many parts of the world, reliable internet connectivity, so while we design with a digital first approach to embrace how digitally led the world is today, it’s not digital only. It’s vital that the products we design enable everyone to engage.

And that inclusivity spans everything we do. When observing how people use self-service technology, you see the challenges in accessibility first-hand, then you feel personally invested for designing in ways to make it easier. It makes you realize the importance of independence – for instance, we spent a lot of time working on how to make encrypted touchscreen technology accessible for visually impaired people. It took persistence and resource – but we did it – and now visually impaired customers no longer need to share their card and pin with someone else to withdraw cash on their behalf.

How we designed the ATM pocket interface on the latest SelfServ 60 series has been driven by improving accessibility. The shape of the pocket, product lines, and the lifting of the notes on dispense are all designed to make it easier to securely extract your cash. We design for most optimal extraction of cash and for multiple grip options, including for users with arthritis or motor skill limitations. You can’t underestimate the impact such developments have on those who need them. We are the voice and advocates for all users.

What other important considerations do you take in your process?

In designing a new ATM, it’s not just about designing a piece of kit, we’re designing an overall experience. For our customers, their experience is a top priority, so our role is to help ensure our ATMs deliver that same great experience.  So, we are looking to have a final ATM that is modern, stylish, and great quality. It’s got to have kerb appeal – to attract people to use it. Durability is therefore important. If it’s on the street, then it needs to withstand all types of weather conditions. And we sell our ATMs globally, so we need to consider rain, typhoons, extreme cold or heat – even sandstorms. Then, there’s testing all the components to make sure they withstand thousands of uses over the product’s lifecycle.

When it comes to the user interface it needs to be universal and understood by all. It needs to be intuitive, so that someone who has never used an ATM before is able to easily navigate their way. It’s vital that our designs deliver great experiences – and certainly no bad ones!

In banking self-service, there are over 60 accessibility guidelines, regulations, and standards that we take into consideration. These requirements are not an afterthought but are integral to the design process – they are baked into every product that we design, rather than being assessed after the fact by a third-party agency.

Does sustainability play an important part?

Our customers are increasingly looking for products to be more sustainable and we’re constantly looking at ways we can innovate to incorporate sustainable design. For instance, how can we reduce the power consumption on our ATMs, increase the use of recycled materials in our manufacturing process, reduce the amount of coatings that are applied, and also design for deconstruction so more parts can be reused or recycled?

When bringing new self-service technology to market, we are committed to designing for the future –to develop an ATM that really meets the needs of the consumer and the financial institution not just for today but for the next 5 to 10 years.

Thanks to members of NCR’s user centred design team - Steve Birnie, Phil Day, Marshall Munro, Maggie McKendry, Cara Henderson and Andrew Smith. 

Stay on top of what's trending in self-directed banking

Download NCR's new banking magazine.­

Need more information?