User experience of purchasing a subway ticket

No, I am not talking about purchasing a ticket of the subway in Hong Kong, as you know the system and the vending machines here are really among the best in the world. Instead, I would like to share with you from the experience I had in the Washington DC trip last month.

In fact, I am not the only one get frustrated by the subway ticketing system (they call it “Metro”), there is even a presentation prepared on why there is a need to redesign the Metro ticket vending machine. Following is a picture of the vending machine and according to the official site of Metro, you need to follow these steps to purchase a ticket (they call it farecard):

To buy farecard, you need to:

  1. Select B (single farecard) or C (multiple farecards). If buying more than one, select the quantity you want.
  2. Use the (+) or (-) button to choose the value.
  3. Press C to view your selection.
  4. Press C again to confirm your selection.
  5. Insert money and/or farecard.

Please note that the buttons “A”, “B”, “C” are the tiny buttons next to the big orange color circle labeled “1”. In fact before step 1, you need to search around the ticketing lobby to find the up-to-date map / poster for the correct fare, also check the time as the fare is based on the time of day (!!) and destination.

And for step 2, instead of key in the fare amount (the vending machine is not that smart …), you have to use the (+) and (-) buttons to choose the dollars AND the cents – yes there are two (+) buttons and two (-) buttons underneath the tiny screen in the middle, one for the dollar amount and one for cent amount.

And can you see how confusing of step 5 ? In summary, very very poor user interface and therefore user experience of just buying a cheap subway ticket !!

And talking about User Experience, how can you miss the UX Conference in Hong Kong (UXHK) early next year ? Check out the office site – for details and register now. Great stuff !!


Mumbai in 80 hours

It’s quite obvious, 80 hours (or even 80 days) are not enough to explore this dynamic city. And in fact out of the 80 hours, I spent most of the time in meetings so not much photos were taken in this trip. Pictures aside, found something interesting in the trip …

  • There are lots of private jets in the airport taxi area (i.e. lots of rich families);
  • The Hyatt Regency Mumbai Hotel is high-tech and traveler friendly;
  • The Kindle works perfectly in the plane and a great way to kill time when waiting in lounge (no free Wi-Fi);
  • The in-flight entertainment system of Cathay Pacific, the movies District 9 and Inglorious Bastards are great;
  • The GMail is smart enough to insert a pull down menu in the editing area to let me input Indian characters;
  • You can live like a James Bond, or Jackie Chan … just hire a cab;
  • And yes, the Indian food in ITC Maratha Hotel is really delicious.

Okay, here are some photos:

Running Gmail with your Kindle 2

Imagine the following scenario …

  • You’re a stranger in a foreign land / airport;
  • Your smartphone is out of juice or you don’t want to pay hefty data roaming fee;
  • You cannot find a (free) WiFi hotspot for your laptop;
  • And you need to answer some emails via Gmail.

Sounds familiar ? Now you can do that if you have a Kindle 2 (or Kindle 3), as long as you can live with some constraints. As many of you already know, there is a very simple browser come with the Kindle 2, and there is a mobile version of Gmail with minimal graphics. Therefore, it makes sense to use that simple browser to access the simple web application. The constraints and preparation works are:

  1. It works only for countries / cities that support by Amazon Kindle 2’s WhisperNet  (the flip side of this is you don’t need to pay expensive data roaming fee to check emails !!)
  2. The screen of Kindle 2 is relative small;
  3. The keyboard of Kindle is hard to type;
  4. There is no scroll up and down function (you need to use Next Page and Prev Page keys);
  5. You cannot read / write double byte / Unicode characters;
  6. You will not able to attach files.
  7. In the settings of the browser, turn on Advanced view mode and turn on Javascript

Still want to continue ? OK, let’s start, step-by-step :

  1. Turn on the wireless in your Kindle. Then go to “Home” / “Menu” / “Experimental”, and select “Basic Web”
  2. You will see the bookmark page, and “Menu” / “Enter URL”, and enter
  3. You will see the basic login page and enter your Gmail account information.
  4. Somehow, Gmail will display the usual Gmail screen with all the mails which makes the screen very busy. I believe Gmail do this because they know that the request is not from a mobile device. Now, go to the URL bar on top, and enter again !!
  5. Now you shall see the mobile Gmail email list page.
  6. Press “Next Page” key till you reach the last page, locate “Compose Mail” command …
  7. Enter the from address, to address, subject line and mail content. Add CC, or BCC if needed. Press “Send” and that’s it …

Don’t forget to “Sign out” (in the mobile Gmail page footer) before you turn off the Kindle !!

Enjoy …

Olympus Colors – E-P1 or E-1 ?

As a owner of the legendary Olympus E-1 for almost 6 years now, I am still keeping this camera for many reasons. The rock solid body, the excellent handling, and of course, the signature Olympus color. Even I also have the E-300 and E-510, I still think in most of the times this “old” E-1 camera can out-perform the other two cameras I have easily – as long as you compare the output colors only.

And then six months ago, Olympus released their first Micro Four Thirds camera E-P1 and I am very pleased to find that the straight-out-of-camera JPEG colors are as good as the E-‘s1. In, there was one member gave these two cameras a blind test and it confirmed my findings. Looks like Olympus again did some magic in the latest image processing engine.

In fact, the more I use my E-P1, the more I have a feeling that I can leave my E-1, E-300 and E-510 at home … followings are some E-P1 pictures from Australia.

Sydney Bridge

Hervey Bay pier

Kata Tjunta