User Experience – Smart Elevator System

There are now many “Smart Elevator System” installed for new commercial buildings in town. Here’s how it works:

  • Let’s say you have 4 elevator cars in the building lobby;
  • Numeric pads are installed in common areas where elevator passengers wait. Passengers enter their destination floor on the touch screen.
  • The requests are processed, and a message is displayed informing users to ride one of the four cars.
  • And in the cars, there are no floor buttons (!).

In a way it works like magic – because it groups passengers to different cars to minimize travel time.

So, is it a good system ? I think it depends on who you are … I mean if you work in that building, this design is pretty good.

But what if you work for DHL, UPS or Fedex ? In other words, you are a courier and need to deliver packages to say 3/F, 11/F, 21/F etc. etc. ? There are no buttons in the elevator cars, you know 😎 So, you have to press “3” in the lobby numeric pad, get into a car, go to that floor, deliver the package; then go back to lobby and press “11” in the numeric pad, get into yet another car. etc. etc. etc.

Lesson Learnt: It’s good for you, but may not be good for others.

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”

Another Slide Show Flash Utility

May be it is buyer’s remorse, right after I bought / installed / implemented the SlideShowPro, I started to find the next better slide show tool. And I found a pretty good one – Showitfast (what a name).

So, the comparison … Showitfast is more expensive (US$ 99 vs US$ 20), it is easier to use (no more Flash 8.0 installation and extension manager needed), but the generated Flash is uglier (I hated the function icons), however it include some nice effects (e.g. image slightly zoom out when display) …

What is my pick ? Stick with SlideShowPro for a while …

Have nothing to do in another weekend …

No matter which photo album I use, I find their slide functions are no good. I finally found a good slide show utility in

It costs US$ 20 and a few hours of work – installation, configuration, testing and integration with my other site. Good stuff indeed. Enjoy !!

Have nothing to do in the weekend …

Worried about upgrading any software, I kept using Gallery 1.3 for many many months. With nothing to do one weekend, I decided to something special …

… so I decided to do something to my photo album – such as integrating Google Map into it. Then, I

  • Downloaded the Gallery 2.0.2, the latest version and installed it
  • Migrated all albums / photos from Gallery 1.3.3 to the new engine
  • Twisted a few graphics, logos and css
  • Downloaded the Google Map modules and themes; installed it
  • Applied the Google Map API Key from Google and installed it
  • Found all the GPS coordinates of the major albums, map to the Google Map.
  • Twisted again some more graphics, logos and css

Dah dah …

How’s that ? For a three hours work ?