In this series, we’ll break down the different elements of Change and walk you through our design considerations. We’ll discuss the pain points we targeted, how we attempted to solve those problems, and the final touches we added to really make it shine.

This week, we’ll walk you through how Change manages drawers and tills. Tills seem pretty straightforward - after all, they’re just a bag, a supply, or batch of money most often found in a cash drawer. What makes them difficult to design around is the fact that every restaurant manages their drawer and money differently. So this whole process felt a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Our first attempt was too simple, the second was too complicated - but in the end we built something just right.

The Papa Bear Solution (Too Simple)

In May 2012, Change was first tested by real, live baristas at Mars Cafe. Since they only needed one cash drawer, we assumed we could ship this version of Change with a very simple solution for managing their drawer. The following diagram represents what we thought they needed:

We assumed the baristas would only need one till for the entire day. They would open their drawer in the morning, count the till at the end of each shift, pull or add money after each count, then close the drawer at the end of the day and print a report.

The reality was much different. What the baristas were actually doing was pulling all the money from their till at the end of their shift, then counting it while another barista dropped in a new till and started his or her own shift. It was a bit of a "smack yourself in the forehead" moment when we realized they needed to be able to swap, suspend, and close tills at different times - something more like this:

 tilldiagram01

We assumed the baristas would only need one till for the entire day. They would open their drawer in the morning, count the till at the end of each shift, pull or add money after each count, then close the drawer at the end of the day and print a report.

The reality was much different. What the baristas were actually doing was pulling all the money from their till at the end of their shift, then counting it while another barista dropped in a new till and started his or her own shift. It was a bit of a "smack yourself in the forehead" moment when we realized they needed to be able to swap, suspend, and close tills at different times - something more like this:

 tilldiagram02

So we went back to the drawing board.

The Mama Bear Solution (Too Complicated)

After receiving feedback from the manager at Mars Cafe, we quickly implemented a new solution where they could operate two drawers at once and swap between the two. We added a few more options to the settings dropdown to fix this - but right away, we made the mistake of overcrowding the interface.

 Mars Home

We also added a few more options for balancing and closing a drawer. The problem was, each option provided a separate (and very different) context. One would ask how much you're pulling from the drawer, another asked how much you were leaving, and another assumed you were removing everything.

 ChangeOldTriangle copy

It wasn't intuitive. You really had to read and think about your answer before typing it in. We weren't surprised to find out most of the baristas would just skip this screen, if they could.

Our fixes were overwhelming. Even we were getting confused when using these screens! We knew we needed to find another solution. Once again, we started from scratch - but this time, we took into account all the things that didn't work in those first two versions.

The Goldilocks Solution (Just Right)

Here are the main things we focused on during the design of our third and final solution, one that seems juuuuust right.

1. Guide The User and Only Show What's Relevant To Them

If you're only using one till, that's all we show you. If you are using two and one is suspended, we make it very clear which one is active. If you have two tills suspended, we show you a button to add another. We made a concerted effort to only show what's important to you based on your current position in the app.

 Tills

Remember that dropdown with all the options? Well, we also tried to narrow the options on view at any given time. For instance, the till dropdown shows two options for an active till: suspend and swap. These actions only involve the active till. If you click the options gear next to the till name, you're taken to a list of balancing options. If we showed all these options on one screen for every till, it would be overwhelming. By breaking them up, they become easier to digest.

 Tills2

2. Use Direct and Specific Language

We struggled with the following terms:

Drawer vs. Till - This can refer to either a physical drawer or the money inside it. So we decided to reserve the term "drawer" for the physical drawer and use the term "till" to represent the batch of money inside. You can use multiple tills, but only one drawer.

Day vs. Session - We originally assumed everyone wanted to track transactions by day, meaning from 12 a.m. to 12 a.m. This assumption was, in a word, silly. Why should we decide how a business should track their transactions? Instead, we decided to change this to "session." A session can be a shift, a day, a weekend, a week - whatever you want, or need, it to be. This term keeps things flexible for businesses like bars, which often open one day and close in the wee hours of the next.

Payout/Petty Cash/Deposit - There are many terms for adding and removing money from a till, but for baristas just wanting to make a simple adjustment, we simply ask them how much and why. This keeps the learning curve low and makes them feel confident about what they're doing.

3. Create Visual Representations Of Abstract Things

Moving around money and tills in your head can get confusing pretty quickly, but instead of asking what you're doing with your money, we show you.

 ChangeTriangle copy

The Add/Remove Funds screen (shown above) does your math for you. If you add money or remove money, the amount in the till automatically adjusts based on the number you put in. If you change your mind, it adjusts to any new number you put in.

We also took this same approach to the tills list. If you suspend (but not close) a till, it remains in the list so you know it still needs to be counted or closed. Our goal is to subtly guide you along, but not get in your way.

Taste Testing The Porridge

A lot of trial and error went into the process of figuring out how tills should work. Some of our initial solutions failed miserably, but we knew we couldn't ignore them. We were able to learn from those failures - and instead of just fixing them, we improved the whole design. We've ended up with a solution we're really happy with. It's simple, flexible, and easy-to-use.

But don't just take our word for it. Test this stuff out for yourself. Download Change for your iPad in the Apple App Store and tell us what you think!

Want to read more about our design considerations? Check out other posts in our Behind The Design series.



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