When a Standard is a Distraction

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I stopped off to get some gas and found myself spending way too much time analyzing the user interface, trying to figure out how to pump my gas.  I don’t want to sound so negative but gas pumps rank right up there with Adobe products, when it comes to non-intuitive UI.  At first glance, the UI was comprised of two areas.  One, there was a monochrome screen with four button on either side.  I’ve seen this layout at other gas pumps so I was ready for visual queues to come from that.  The other area was a 16 button keypad.  Fortunately, there was a slot for me to insert my credit card, otherwise, I think I would have just driven to another gas station.  The problem started 10 seconds after I inserted my credit card.  It actually took roughly 10 seconds for each action to be registered on the screen, leaving me feeling frustrated throughout the process.


The first text to appear on the screen was In Payment Card. I complied and 10 seconds later the text Debit Card or Credit Card? appeared. I expected the choices to align to one of the 8 white buttons flanking the screen. I then looked at the keypad. Nope, no Debit or Credit keys, which I’ve seen on other gas pumps.  Just before cancelling the purchase, I noticed two unassuming grey buttons to the right of the receipt dispenser. They were labeled Outside Debit and Outside Credit. I grumbled to myself and selected the Outside Credit button. Ten seconds later (I’m not kidding) Enter Zip Code appeared on the screen.  I typed in my zip code via the keypad.  I waited a solid 10 seconds before Press Enter If OK or Clear appeared. I located and press an Enter OK button on the keypad. The text Authorizing then displayed for an additional 10 seconds. Just as I thought it would tell me to select my grade of gas, Would you like to print a receipt? appeared.  I located and selected the Yes Receipt button on the key pad.  The screen then took an additional 10 seconds to state please see cashier inside for receipt. I stood there dumbfounded (for an additional 10 seconds) when the screen then changed, stating Select your Grade.

Here comes the comparison.  Simple processes like buying your gas should not be this painful.  The same goes for your business processes.  Don’t put so much emphasis on things that you’re not going to need.  They become wasteful distractions.  In the case of the gas pump, the most important steps of the process were hard to locate and navigate.  I wasted a lot of time just trying to figure out how to do the next step, when I already knew what I needed to do.  On the gas pump, the two unassuming buttons were critical to move forward in the process but weren’t even in my line of sight.  You need to think about this when customizing your business processes.  Standards (and processes) are good, as long as they provide value, either by increasing quality or lowering risk.

 

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