Minimize Training with Intuitive Designs

Most companies assume that training is inevitable, but we've proven that that's not necessarily the case. Tests with the Wendy's and Starbucks POS showed that employees need only a short 2-5 minute orientation to start taking orders successfully. After seeing how intuitive the Subway design was, store managers involved in the pilot canceled training and just had employees come in at their normal time and start ringing orders almost immediately.

The strategies for making a no-training-needed user interface vary by client, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Leverage Prior Knowledge. Even new employees have a history with technology, and we can make learning easier by making the POS consistent with their past experience (where appropriate). Here's a simple example: many POS companies make the mistake of arranging on-screen keypads in 10-key format with "7", "8", and "9" along the top row. But if we copy the layout from phones and calculators—things that the user is already familiar with—we can make the system easier to learn.
  2. Mark the Path. Design the interface so as to focus user attention on those actions that are most likely needed in a particular context. Optimize for the most common path, with less common features presented elsewhere or at a lower "volume". For instance, if your customers rarely pay by check, any "Check" button should be diminished when compared with the "Cash" or "Credit" buttons.
  3. Layer the Interface. Make frequently-needed options self-evident and immediately accessible, with less important options relegated to a deeper layer or sub-process. This not only makes the interface easier to use, it also streamlines the most frequent tasks, which in turn provides for the greatest improvements in Speed of Service.
  4. Group Similar Items. Once you've established an optimal categorization scheme for your situation, create groups of options that "go together". Grouping happens at several different layers—across screens, within screens, even with groups using (color or some other mechanism). As a rule of thumb, I typically try to keep groups to five items or so, with no more than nine per group, if possible.

Spending a little extra time making the system intuitive can return tremendous cost savings in training, especially if employee turnover is high. For instance, Starbucks expects to save enough that our entire project fee will be returned hundreds of times over in training costs alone. That's a great ROI!