User Experience – Supermarket

There are two supermarkets around my place and I visit there around twice a week. So, let’s see my grocery list (basically essential items for everyday’s living) … yogurt, juice, fruit, canned food / soup, ice-cream, meat, eggs, vegetables, bathroom tissues, beer, newspaper, magazines etc. etc.

So as a typical supermarket wanderer, I spend around 20, 30 minutes in the shop and seems to me the ideal “line up” of the goods in the aisles should be:

  • Non-frozen food and products (e.g. canned food / soup, eggs, bathroom tissues, beer, newspaper etc.)
  • Fresh items like meat, vegetables, fruit, juice
  • Lastly, frozen food like yogurt, ice-cream etc.

The idea is rather straight forward (at least to me) because I don’t want the ice-cream to melt, or yogurt get warm, or the fresh food get “un-freshed” in my 30 minutes shopping time.

But then, how these two supermarkets placed their products ?

  • From the entrance, you will first see ice-cream freezer … then, fruit, then vegetables, meat, yogurt …
  • In fact, the goods closest to the cashier are the bathroom tissues …

And further complaints … why can’t they put TV foods (i.e. chips, cheese balls 😎 just next to the beer section ?!

Lesson Learnt: Oh yes, I reckon even a supermarket needs to improve the “Usability”.

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”

What Have They Done Right ?

After years’ of planning, construction and testing, the theme park in the city is finally opened today. You know, there are so many bad presses about this theme park in the past few weeks that I think people are getting a bit over-reacted …

I mean, what have they done to deserve this ?

Somehow people in the city has developed a very strange habit – i.e. keep complaining … and keep yelling “What have you done wrong …”.

My point is, instead of focusing what have someone done wrong, why not spend time in finding out “what have they done right?” and learn ? The theme park company did a great job for 50 years, you know. They have so many other parks in other countries / cities that they know what they can do to fix problems, and to give best services to their customers.

Learn from them first, then complain ….

Lesson Learnt: If someone can do something you cannot do with all your effort; then learn from them first …

Maintenance Hours

After weeks of heavy rain and finally we had a sunny weekend. Other than going out for some work-out, I decided also to fill up the day with a good movie, so I surfed to one cinema web site in town.

Fired up the FireFox, entered the URL and I was greeted with an ugly message – “The system is under maintenance”.

Oh great, a cinema web site is working on something new, but in a Saturday morning ? Are they crazy ? What kind of IT team they have ? Do they understand that they develop the web site is for doing business ?

Lesson Learnt: Fit your maintenance hours with customers’ schedules, not yours.