Designing point-of-sale (POS) systems

Point-of-sale user experience (or POSUX to combine the 2 acronyms) can be slightly different - and sometimes contrary - to best practice user experience for other digital products. We've worked on creating interfaces for a number of POS systems so here are a few things we've learnt from the research and design that we've carried out.

pos image1. Complexity isn't necessarily bad

Store workers often don't mind additional complexity provided the system can be learnt and that the complexity ultimately increases speed/efficiency. For example, people are often willing to take the time to learn keyboard shortcuts or set up saved searches as this will save time in the long-term. This is contrary to the design of almost any other system which should be simple, intuitive and easy-to-use out-of-the box. Be careful though - users will only accept complexity if they're sure that it'll improve longer-term efficiency. General complexity or poor usability will - as is the case with most systems - lead to low levels of user acceptance.

2. Existing workflows mustn't be forgotten

Any POS system absolutely must fit in to existing workflows. When designing a system for staff you've got to take the time to understand existing practices, processes and pain points. Spend time with system users, shadow them whilst performing their jobs and ask lots of questions. Winning hearts and minds is key to the success of any system. If people feel they need to change how they work then a new SYSTEM can make them unhappy in the short-term.

3. Speed is crucial

Using a POS system tends to be the most boring part of store workers' jobs so speed-of-use is absolutely key. Allow store workers to do what they do best - interact with customers - and have them spend as little time as possible with the POS system. Thoroughly scrutinise every single interaction and data entry requirement - are all of these absolutely necessary? If so then be sure to explain why as store workers can get irritated by mandatory data entry when they don't understand its purpose.

4. Touchscreen may be best

Interfaces controlled by keyboard/mouse are generally OK... But with the smartphone/tablet proliferation people are often expecting (and preferring) touchscreen interfaces. POS systems are an important part of store workers' jobs so it's important that the experience is as good as possible. Touchscreen can also be quicker to use than other interfaces and indeed mobile POS systems are starting to become more commonplace.

5. Don't forget the users!

Following best practice design and user experience guidelines is a great start... but the most important things by far are the specific needs, goals, behaviours and requirements of end users. Some questions to ask yourself might be:

  • What are store workers trying to achieve with the POS system?
  • How does it fit into their workflow and customer interactions?
  • What problems does - or should - the system solve?

Find answers to all these questions by carrying out research with POS system users, and then carry out user testing throughout the design process to ensure what you're creating is indeed in line with user needs.

In conclusion...

POS interfaces and user journeys simply have to offer the best possible experience and ease-of-use for their users. The easier they are to use, the quicker store workers can complete tasks and the more sales can be made. It's that simple. Invest in creating really effective POS system interfaces and you'll likely see a return on investment very quickly.

If you're interested in improving the user experience of your POS system, we can help! Check out our UX design services or we can teach you how to get started yourself with our training courses.

(Image credits: Jade Choi, Behance)

Elizabeth Cornwell says 12:23am 08 Sep 2015

POS System seems to conquer the world of business. POS systems can also track staff themselves ensuring consistency across the board, in pricing, stock and accounts.

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