“3… 2… 1… Ideate!”

Rapid Design Thinking: Designing an ATM for Children

CT Phiri
CT Phiri
Jan 28, 2019 · 4 min read

Time: 2 hours; Goal: Empathize, Define, Ideate and Prototype to design an ATM for children.

Photo from rawpixel

1. Empathize

What is an ATM?

An ATM is an Automatic Banking Machine. In many ways, it’s a substitute for a human bank teller. An ATM allows you to use your debit/credit card and a secure PIN to access your banking information. Most ATMs allow you to withdraw money, deposit money, transfer money, view your account balance and pay bills. By using an ATM you may be able to manage your money better, (e.g. by encouraging awareness of your financial situation by giving you access to your bank details or limiting the amount of cash you carry around.)

How and why would a child use an ATM?

For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll imagine that our users are kids of between the ages of 5 and 12. By the age 5-6, most kids can read and have a basic understanding of the concept of money (according to PBS, money habits can be set by age 7, so the earlier kids learn to manage finances, the better!). And after age 12…well, those are teenagers with different needs and responsibilities, so that’s a whole different story.

A child might use an ATM to:

  • Save money they earned, received as pocket money or as a gift (i.e. use it as a piggy bank). This could be saving for a specific goal, or simply storing the money somewhere.
  • Understand how banks work (parents/guardians might prompt this)
  • Imitate their parents/guardians
  • Entertain themselves (there are already ATM toys out there on the market. Who knew.)

I imagine an ATM for children would also be a good opportunity for parents to educate and their children about managing their finances. An ATM for kids could teach them:

  • Instant gratification vs. delayed gratification: if they use their $5 allowance this week, they can buy x, but if they save it and wait till next week, they will have $10 and can buy y.
  • Budgeting
  • Saving
  • How debit/credit cards work

2. Define

How should the ATM look and what functionalities should it include?

The ATM should be simple to use, and allow children to perform 3 basic tasks:

  1. Deposit money (Cash, coins and cheques)
  2. Withdraw money
  3. View their account balance

In performing those functions, it should also be:

  • Easy to understand: words like “account balance” and “withdraw” are not familiar to young children.
  • Secure, but accessible: Children might not be able to remember PIN numbers or understand the importance of privacy/security while using the ATM — an alternative authentication method, such as fingerprint- or facial recognition may be better.
  • Easy/intuitive to use: Children are probably more familiar with touchscreens than they physical keypads, these days. That being said, a Breil keypad and/or audio jack should be available for visually impaired kids.
  • Physically accessible: Children vary in height, so there should be a step ladder or adjustable height mechanism
  • Fun, inviting and familiar in terms of how it looks, unlike Adult ATMs which could look boring or even intimidating to children.

3. Ideate

For the ideation phase, I chose to focus on possible user flows for a child using an ATM to deposit, withdraw and view their balance, rather than the physical design of the ATM:

I ultimately kept coming back to a virtual ‘piggy bank’ idea, because I thought that idea would be familiar to kids and easy for parents to explain. I explored various ideas during this phase, and went back and forth on a couple of things:

  • Should I use a PIN to authenticate the user? Maybe fingerprint authentication is a better option, seeing as fingerprints don't change as we age.
  • Should the child access their account using a card? Would children even be performing transactions, and thus need a card at all?
  • Should the user have the option to view stats and/or a log? Maybe this feature is more useful for the parents than it is for the children.

4. Prototype

After concluding the Ideation phase, I tried to think about what each of the steps from my ideation user flows would look like in more detail. Here is an example of what each screen would look like if a child wanted to add money to their virtual piggy bank:


This was a fun design challenge. If I had had more time, I would have explored more features, such as:

  • Setting goals to save up for specific items
  • Withdrawal limits
  • Parental controls and integration with parent/guardian accounts
  • Safety: making sure kids using ATMs are not targeted by thieves or bullies
  • Functionality that adapts as the children age: as the children get older they could have access to more features, like debit cards or bill payments (e.g. cellphone bills) to teach them different levels of responsibility. They could even start learning about earning interest on savings accounts.
  • Gamification: designing the experience to create positive associations with saving money and rewarding good money management.
  • Stats and dashboards to encourage positive financial behaviour (e.g. “Good Job! This week you added $10 to your piggy bank, that’s $5 more than last week!”)

CT Phiri

Written by

CT Phiri

Digital Marketer, UX Designer, Poutine Enthusiast — not necessarily in that order.

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