There is something strangely satisfying about swiping a credit card. There’s just enough friction between the card and the reader to provide a thrilling sense of accomplishment as you slide your Mastercard or Visa. Sadly, this experience is being replaced with a motion that is far less gratifying. Our new chip cards may provide us with heightened security, but inserting a credit card and waiting for it to process is far less enjoyable a process than its predecessor. Heck, it’s not even as satisfying as opening a hotel door with a magnetized room key. At least in that case you get to “dip” your card.
While I am already nostalgic for the days of wanton credit card swiping, I am more disappointed that Verifone, the maker of the leading chip card reader decided that a “Danger, Will Robinson” alarm was the best way to indicate we could now remove our lifeless, inert chip card from their device. This results in a vague feeling of lingering regret at the end of every transaction. It is the retail equivalent of the “Game Over” sound in video games. It might as well just say to you, “Money is gone.”
With a focus on functional flow, it’s easy for designers to forget about the sense of hearing–but it can play an important role in enhancing the user experience. In this case, Verifone missed an opportunity to end every single retail purchase with a sound that positively reinforces purchasing and to have consumers associate that delight with their brand name. Making a purchase should sound like you just fist bumped Tinkerbell–a sound that connotes victory and new possibilities–not the impending doom of your credit card statement.