User Experience – Octopus Card

Octopus card is one wildly popular “contactless” card being used in the city. What it does is rather simple, certain “value of money” is stored in the card such that you can go to subway, take a bus, or even buy something from convenient store … without cash.

It’s so popular that over 8 millions cards were produced and used. So far, I believe everyone in town has this Octopus card.

The usage scenario is like this …

  • You somehow need to pay something (goods, fare etc.) – e.g. in a bus, in a convenient store, entry gate of the subway etc.
  • You take out the card – by itself or if it is stored in your wallet, take out the wallet.
  • Wave the card or your wallet over a rectangular shape card reader (you know, it is “contactless”).
  • You will hear a “beep” or “dooo” sound to indicate the payment is done.
  • Then you can take away the stuff you just bought, or go into the bus to find a seat, or cross the gate to the subway platform etc.
  • If there is not enough money in the card, you will hear another “beep” or “dooo” sound and you need to find some service desks to “recharge” the card (of course, by paying some money).

Rather sleek, isn’t it. Now for my usability observations:

Case 1

Children use this card extensively to buy drinks, snacks and the card is recharged by their parents. In other words, they don’t need to touch any physical money bills, coins etc. (the real “money”). And you know what, they no longer has the concept of “more money”, “less money” or even “how to save money” !!

Case 2

Also related to children … other than not having the concept of money, many of them don’t even have the concept of the card – because the parents always keep the card inside the children’s small bag or wallet. I’ve seen a children complained to his parent that his little wallet was not working any more (to buy something), simply because his parent took away the card from his cute wallet !!

Case 3

This time it is about adults … in my apartment the main entrance is protected by some “advance” technology. That is, you don’t need to push any button to open the main entrance door, all you need is to wave your hand over a sensor. And the sensor will indicate the door is going to open with a “beep” sound.

And you know what, I saw a lady (probably a new tenant) take out her purse, wave over the sensor, waiting for the “beep” sound … and you know, it works as if the Octopus card opens the door for her …

Lesson Learnt : New Technology, New Usability “issues”

Author: Michael Yung

Michael possessed over 30 years of experience in Information Technology with focuses on complex application development, database technologies and IT strategy. He also spent the last 20 years in Internet technology, eCommerce development / operations, web usability, computer security and Public Key Infrastructure technologies.

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