In the fall of 2005, Wells Fargo hired a design firm to redesign the user interface on their ATMs. The old design was deemed clunky, partly because it had to deal with two kinds of machines: those with touchscreens, and those with buttons along the left and right sides of the screen. The new design would work only on the touchscreen models, introducing a new flexibility in layout and interaction design.

Designer Holger Struppek recounts his experience on the redesign project in his excellent article, That design is money! A better ATM experience from Wells Fargo. The article covers a series of anecdotes about designing a better ATM experience, which astounds me for two reasons: first, that an ATM experience can be good; and second, that the ATM screenshots shown in the piece actually exist in the wild (it's like banking in the not-too-distant future. I'm not a Wells Fargo customer, but this ATM design is bank is still stuck in the 80's, apparently. Here's a sample from Struppek's article:

A great feature of the Wells Fargo ATM UI has always been the Quick Cash button. It allows you to quickly withdraw an often-used amount from your checking account with the press of one button. There is no need to go through the steps of selecting an account, selecting an amount, and confirming the transaction. However, few people knew that this feature could be customized with a different amount and account. The functionality was always there, but it required pressing the My ATM Preferences button, followed by a tedious multi-step procedure to change the settings.

We thought that the new UI could be better than that. Instead of just offering generic choices and complicated customization procedures, the ATM should learn by itself what individual customers do most often, and then make those things easier to accomplish.

The new UI still offers the Quick Cash feature, but in a much smarter way. Instead of one Quick Cash button, we introduced a whole column of shortcut buttons that behave somewhat like the History menu in a web browser. It is still possible to customize them through Set My ATM Preferences, but hardly necessary since they always reflect the most recent transactions.

Read the rest for an interesting story on user interface design.