Chip card readers' bad sound design


Here's a little gem from Roman Mars of the excellent podcast 99% Invisible. A recent episode was about sound design, specifically the NBC chimes, which are one of the few sounds ever successfully trademarked - worth a listen! Anyway, quoth Roman: "My current least-favorite sounds are from credit card chip readers that blare an obnoxious warning buzz that clearly signals to normal humans that something has gone wrong, even though it actually means everything went right, and it's time to remove your card." He's right: people do need to be reminded to remove their cards, but there's a huge disconnect between the intended message and the received message. Is there a more pleasant sound that also gets attention? Or can it be accomplished with any of the other senses? ("That smell means it's time to remove your card" - nah.) It's definitely a design problem in need of a good solution.

2 comments:

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Al Dente said...

NNPI is one of the most compelling PC's out there, and just last night I was having a discussion re: the bad sound design of those readers. Afterwards I wondered what Roman would think about this topic. Not surprised he has already jumped on the band wagon. Many electronic devices have the same sound chip installed (The Design of Everyday Things- Don Norman). My microwave and heater use the exact same sound for 2 of their functions. Understandable. One company producing one chip sold to many machine mnfctr's. But since the chip readers were a brand new, emerging tech only a year back, I really feel that they could have blazed their own path and gone with a positive reinforcement sound as opposed to a negative one. The buzz reminds me of a wrong answer on a game show, so a fun game I play is to say "What is Hungary?" right before the buzzer, and then say "Dammit" right afterwards.