The UX Critic: Square – An Awkward Receipt

The payment processing company Square has spent the last few years revolutionizing payment processing. For many years I consulted with businesses of many sizes with ecommerce. I don’t know how many companies I walked through the process of getting a merchant account, and explaining to the customer all of the pain they were about to suffer. Many companies came along and offered very, very small improvement for a significant increase in cost. From my perspective, Square changed all that. Suddenly a friend who self funded and self published a children’s book could setup a table at another friend’s event and take payments with ease.

Square has set the bar pretty high. So when a couple months back I ran across a really, really irritating issue with them, I was quite surprised.

Often when we purchase from a vendor that uses Square, we probably don’t care about a receipt. It gets emailed to us, and that’s good enough. But what happens when we need to use that receipt in an expense report? I know that’s clearly not their primary use case, but it shouldn’t be an edge case that gets ignored. However, Square ignores it. Let’s take a look.

Square-Receipt

That’s at a reduced size and it’s already awkward. My first thought was “That’s great for mobile, but there’s got to be another option.” Square has thought of all sorts of polished aspects of their service, but the receipt is not one of them. The width of the receipt is fixed and won’t go any wider. I thought there has to be a printable version – but there’s not. I’ve designed & built dozens of ecommerce sites, and I don’t recall any one of them not offering printable receipts.

I reached out to their customer service. I thought for sure there had to be a way to get a version that would easily print. Here’s their response:

Hi Forrest,

I apologize for the delayed response — thanks so much for your patience.

If you’re experiencing formatting issues with printing, try readjusting your printer settings. If your receipts are printing on multiple pages, adjust the layout (portrait or landscape) or set the page range from 1-3 pages to just one page.

You can also take a screenshot of the receipt. Once you save the file, you should be able to crop it to exclude any sensitive information, and then print it. Sorry there’s not an easier way!

Let me know if you have any additional questions.

This reminds me of something from the 90’s. Back when Internet Explorer 4.5 came out, one of the new features they touted at its release was the better print preview and printing. Now we’re back to having to give advice on setting up a printer or giving a link to a tutorial on how to take a screenshot.

Square has some brilliant people working for it, there’s no doubting that. But their receipt format could still use some help.

Tip #1: Design for the golden path, but don’t completely ignore other common use cases.

There are several things about this receipt that could be done better. The first would be to not include the signature. I am not of a good reason why it should be on there. In order to print it out, I have to print out the version with my signature on there. Who wants that? Sure I can Photoshop that out, but most people don’t have Photoshop. (Paint would probably work too…)

They layout could also be less restrictive and flow base on the width of the viewport. That said, email clients aren’t the same as web browsers when it comes to CSS support, so it’s not going to be perfectly responsive.

There’s also a lot of extra content. The Twitter icon yields a 404 on twitter.com. I’m not entirely sure what this is for. I would never tweet a receipt.

Tip #2: Keep your content focused. Receipts are not a new thing, though there’s always room for improvement.

Tip #3: Don’t force users to print personally identifiable information, or sensitive information like their signature. Years ago, credit card processors dropped putting the full credit card number on receipts. This is a good thing.

This is an interactive receipt. It allows me to reply back directly to the merchant. I can rate my experience, view their website, their online store, see their location on a map… those show great polish. But…

Tip #4: When you’re designing and have found yourself far into the weeds – so deep into the little details – don’t lose focus on the big picture. It’s a good idea to write down your goals and intentions when you start a design. That way when you have looked at it for days, made dozens of tweaks… you can look back and remember what you were trying to accomplish.

At the very list, there should be a link to a printable version that is ugly, doesn’t have the features… but is functional enough to print.

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  1. I completely agree with your assessment, which I how I stumbled across your website. I have a mountain of square receipts in my inbox that I need to process for my expense report and I´m dreading the time it´s about to take me to go through them all, printing and cutting. I remember how long it took me on my last expense report. They need to fix this, as so many small vendors in cities and conferences now accept square.

  2. Agree as well. My company uses an online tool for expense reports, so because I can’t attach an email to an expense line I need to print the email, take a picture of it, and then upload the picture of the printed email to attach to the expense!!!