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I've noticed that all (or nearly all) the point-of-sale displays that accept credit cards with the chip in the US follow a pattern of flashing different messages during processing. Once the chip card is inserted, it will cycle through various messages like Please Wait, Do Not Remove Card, etc. I find it causes quite a bit of cognitive overhead because each time the screen changes, it may have finished and gone to Remove Card or it may still just be telling me to wait. Although the systems at different stores have different displays and particular messages, they all seem to exhibit this behavior (e.g. comparing Publix, Trader Joe's and CVS).

Why would this design be used over just displaying a constant message while processing? Why do all these systems seem to have this in common? As a side question, is this a US phenomenon or do you see this in the systems in other countries as well?

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The messages instruct the user and gives them feedback that the machine is working.

Sure, a processing message would show what is actually happening, but the user already assumes that. They need to know that they need to wait. They need to know that they shouldn't remove the card. The messages are instructions for the user during the processing. They also represent the requirements of the user for the machine to fully process the card; time and the card in the machine.

By having these messages change, it can direct the user's attention to the message, further reinforcing the requirements for processing the card. This also reinforces that the machine is working. If the display only had one message for the entirety of the processing, the user might begin to think that something isn't working and that it's "stuck". Even if the processing step behind the scenes was "stuck", if the messages displayed to the user continued to change, they may not initially assume that the machine was "stuck" when it takes longer.

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    It also helps to switch back and forth in messages in case the user gets distracted and misses the "Don't remove card" the first time it shows up.
    – DasBeasto
    Oct 13, 2016 at 17:06
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    Couldn't it simply display Do Not Remove Card, Please Wait as a single message with some simple animation to show it is working? The difference between flashing to Do Not Remove Card and Remove Card is subtle.
    – Jake Cobb
    Oct 13, 2016 at 17:47
  • @JakeCobb Although I've never seen it followed. The official recommendation is not to use the word "remove" in the message when telling the customer to not to remove the card for that reason. You are supposed to use a message such as "Please Keep Card Inserted In The Device" (or something like that) so that there shouldn't be confusion.
    – yitzih
    Oct 13, 2016 at 17:55
  • Please see ux.stackexchange.com/questions/105302/… which is related but with a little different take.
    – ErikE
    Feb 23, 2017 at 0:23
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I feel like the solution is too simple and obvious, sine we're really not doing anything new. There are plenty of similar actions people perform daily without the process causing much stress or anguish.

Every day I use a chip card to enter into my building and don't spend an extra moment thinking about it. I then insert my credit card into a machine to get my parking validated at the end of every day, which is the same physical action as using a chip reader though that machine technically reads my magnetic strip.

Here's the two things these processes do that make them so successful:

For one, they don't make a noise until the interaction has succeeded. Currently, the card reader beeps and boops and flashes the whole time through. What does one beep mean compared to another? Why does it go crazy if I don't remove my card soon enough? People get anxious about hearing that annoying beeping noise so they sometimes pull their cards out preemptively to avoid hearing it. It feels like you're being punished for doing something right. The system should chime pleasantly once the transaction is completed: the user then feels rewarded, takes their card, and doesn't feel like society as a whole is collapsing because everything won't stop beeping at them. If the transaction fails, show the user that, but don't make a noise. The worst thing ever would be if everyone in line heard that your checking account is overdrawn.

Secondly, they focus on what the user should do, not what the machine is doing. All we should have to think about is putting the card in the reader, waiting, and then pulling it out. The user shouldn't have to care what is going on in some server farm in Germany. We can break this down to three easy steps:

  1. Insert Card

enter image description here

  1. Please Wait (and provide a signature if needed)

enter image description here

  1. Remove Card

enter image description here

Was that really so hard? NO. Now take your card, go home, and enjoy your new collectible Tanya Harding baseball bat.

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  • Still way too complicated Wireless payments are well established in the UK.
    – PhillipW
    Apr 24, 2017 at 20:04
  • @Phillip, I know, NFC-enabled cards are great, especially at the drive-through.
    – user69458
    Apr 24, 2017 at 22:10
  • Completely agree, but here in the US change is too scary for us to implement something better :p
    – invot
    Apr 25, 2017 at 15:36

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