Basically all the credit cards in Canada are now “chipped”, which is to say that there are visible microelectronics toward one end. To pay, you slip that chip into the reader, confirm the deal and enter your PIN. This allows for a surprising amount of variation in user-experience quality.
It’s a huge time-saver in restaurants because the little reader doohickey is wireless and they bring it to your table with the bill, thus avoiding one round-trip for the service person. [At this point, Europeans are wondering why I’m treating this as news, they’ve had it for years.]
Anyhow, there is an amazing amount of variation in the amount of work you, the customer, have to do accomplish the business of paying. To a point, this is reasonable. If there’s a tip in the transaction that’s at least one more step; and then some machines give you an option to tip by percentage.
The song-and-dance differs at nearly every business, and you’d think it’d be hard to screw up something this simple, but some of the user-experience designers out there have managed to make the process confusing, error-prone, and long.
The systems also vary in performance. Some dial up at what is, if I’m reading diagnostics correctly, 1200 baud, then wait for an overloaded mainframe. It’d be faster to count out the payment in pennies.
There’s a local liquor store that I don’t like much but is on the same block as our main grocery store, so it gets our business when I want wine or beer with dinner and lack the time to visit the nice bottle shop. They’ve made payment optimal: the cashier scans your bottle, hands you the reader, you stick your card in, it displays the amount and says “Enter PIN”: five strokes and you’re done. Also it seems to have fiber-to-the-reader broadband, it’s often accepted your payment while your PIN finger’s still in the air.
Given how much variation can infest a transaction this simple, and how badly it can be done, should make you think with more respect of the user-experience designers who try to make managing your privacy preferences or seat selections tractable.
I worship good UX designers myself; and the world has so, so few of them.