POS Design Tips

It really is an unfortunate name. POS stands for Point of Sale, but it has another meaning...

Especially among users.

I have worked with a number of point of sale systems. All of them are bad. Some are far worse. That's basically the state of the industry, but what do you expect when you call it a POS? We seriously need a better name for it. Names are important. A good name aids functionality and encourages good choices, but a name like POS just encourages the idea that it's slap-dash, made in a way where the operator is there to cover up its defects and try not to pass their frustration along to the customer.

Here are some critiques of POS design that could use some improvement:

First thing's first. Observe the three choices on this screen. There are two buttons present. Customer is... and Customer isn't...

The third option is the "Get in trouble immediately" button.

A button like this basically is a "gotcha". It subtly implies that the team you are working for expects you are not doing your job and is out to catch you. A lack of trust hard-coded into the machine like this will cause problems. Basically, by trying to measure how many employees are not doing their job, you alter those employee's behavior. Now they don't think they're part of a team, and you, their employer are the enemy. This kind of a button actually will encourage bad behavior.

POS Design tip 1: If you're using metrics to track bad behavior, be sure you don't cause the behavior you're trying to detect.

Better yet, use metrics to track what you want. Leave it to the managers on duty to identify and correct problems.

Suppose a customer wanted a Chocolate Chip Cookie. Time yourself. How long does it take you to find it?

Keep in mind the clock is ticking. The customer is not expecting a delay, and they have questions for you about the ingredients in your drinks. You see the problem?

In order to use this system, you have to stop interacting with the customer and read carefully.

True, assuming the menu never changes, a cashier will memorize where the button is, but why waste time putting words there in that case?

POS design tip 2: Don't make the cashier read. Don't make them even think. It's not that they can't read or think. Of course they can! But their attention needs to be squarely on the customer, creating a positive business relationship that increases sales. Down-time reading isn't sales.

Here's a pretty common thing: a pop-up window asking for an e-mail address. This is great. It draws attention, is very clear, but there is still a problem. Remember the cashier doesn't have time to read the text, so that's mostly wasted. Also, they're busy with customer interactions, so a certain percentage of the time, they will accidentally hit the wrong button.

POS design tip 3: Make the buttons different colors so that the cashier doesn't have to think, they can just make the magic of the sale happen.

Now this is tricky. You're the cashier and don't have time to read too carefully. Youre looking for keywords. Here's what you see:

"Enter to Continue. Clear to Enter. Enter. Clear."

Now that's some confusing wording! Better clarify this by thinking about the key words a cashier will see as they look at this screen.

POS design tip 4: Think of your instructions in terms of how someone will skim them. they won't be taking time to read them thoroughly if they're being a good cashier. Make their jobs easier by simplifying language, or making it obvious without the instruction.

In this case, delete the instruction: Have the buttons say "Get E-mail" and "No, go on without it".

Finally, be sure to upkeep the system. A person skimming these buttons will not be reading out each item individually. They'll be ignoring all that as noise and focusing on something that helps them see quickly. In this case, the letter codes in double parentheses are a quick way to see what you need. Problem is, what if someone orders an Arnold Palmer?

That's a Black Tea Lemonade, ((BTL)) on the cup. Notice the problem? This will slow you down and derail any sales conversation or rapport you've established.

POS design tip 5: Use logos pictures or symbols, they're much easier to see without having to take the cashier's "system resources" away from a sales pitch or upsell.

So we've seen a number of examples of what is wrong with a great many POS systems out there, but let's boil it down and bring it all home.

Basically in all of these examples there is one common theme: Don't make the cashier think about the POS.

That way they can get to work building your brand, establishing loyalty, and selling your product!