The Supermarket experience

(pic courtesy: yourstory.com)
(pic courtesy: yourstory.com)

Ever since the online grocery guys came into the picture (read as bigbasket in our home), one recurrent topic at my place has been – “would we miss the supermarket experience?” Some common points that would typically come up were:

  • It was a nice once a month outing that we may probably miss out on.
  • We would miss the new product introductions
  • The supermarket experience was always a mind-hack, where you usually went to shop with a 5 item shopping list (which would have totalled to about Rs500), but invariable came out with a cart full of groceries (which would have totalled to Rs1500). This part would not be missed – especially by my wallet.

Yesterday, I went to Nilgiris and Reliance fresh (for two different items that could be got only in these two places), and I realized that, perhaps, I may not even miss the shopping experience. The experience was far from optimal. I noticed that there were more grofers (and other hyperlocal delivery guys) grabbing stuff from the shelves than regular shoppers.

Instead of seeing new products, I saw new hyperlocal delivery company names – I saw a company named Ninjacart. These guys were in a mad rush to get stuff, billed and run out, so that their SLAs with their demanding home delivery customers could be met.

My dad tells me that this is often the story in retail supermarket chains in Chennai too. I do not yet think, this has caught on with larger chains such as SPAR. But it will not be too long, I think. Are we becoming lazier? Are we going to lose out on that one enjoyable outing? I do not know. But time will tell – since we will only know the true picture after the VC funding dries out.

Shaun the Sheep – The Movie

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In recent times, as most of my readers know, the only movies that we have been going to, are cartoon movies. Two reasons behind this are – this way the kid and we can enjoy together (RoI is very important – since we are spending a sh** load of money on movie tickets) and secondly, the wife and me have started becoming impatient with respect to movies (partly due to watching recorded movies on Tata Sky Plus at home – where we can forward all the unwanted junk!).

Anyways, the cartoon movie scene in Bangalore does not help too much. Except big scale movies from big movie houses (read: Disney), all other cartoon movies barely cross a week in theatres. Same was the case with “Shaun the Sheep”. It release the weekend of the Independence Day (Aug 14 weekend) and by Aug 21 weekend, it was running one show in one theatre (and irony – the theatre farthest from where we live). But no, that did not deter us. We hauled it from Koramangala to the Orion Mall Rajaji Nagar for the 4PM show.

The wife and me (and the kid, incidentally) have been big fans of Shaun the Sheep cartoons on tv. If you have not, go to youtube and search. They are fun, clean, and smallish cartoon strips about a bunch of sheep, one of them being Shaun. Ofcourse Shaun, being the pratagonist, is smarter and more quick witted than the rest.

We went to this movie with a single thought – how could you make a cartoon strip which typically runs as a filler in the cartoon channels (most of the strips are 5-7 minutes long) as a whole movie. But the director has done a commendable job. The movie does not leave you fidgetting your thumbs. It is a fast paced movie.

The jokes are clean, which will leave young and old chuckling – very typical of the usual Shaun the sheep strips. None of the jokes leave you cracking up, but keeps you chuckling through the movie. Very nice animation. And hey, get this, there is not a single dialog in the movie – just like in the strip. The only person capable of speaking, the farmer, also just makes unintelligible noises, but that is it.

Very well done movie. One hour and 15 minutes of pure fun.

Nandi Hills

Last weekend, my sister, brother-in-law and their kid visited Bangalore, and we used this as an excuse to visit Nandi Hills (which we had never visited so far in the seven years we have lived in Bangalore!).

We started early – around 7:00Am from Koramangala. We took the usual route to the airport that most cabbies take: Viveknagar -> Mother Theresa Road -> Residency Road -> MG Road -> Golf course -> Mekhri circle.

As per plan, we took a slight detour off at RT Nagar and had breakfast at the Vasudev Adigas – at 730AM.

Left Adigas around 830AM and took to Bellary Road. Road is just awesome. Beautifully paved 6 lane road. Pleasure to drive. But do beware of cops who stand with radar speed detectors and can book you (apparently happens very regularly).

After a while, you will see a board to Nandi hills heading left. You will also see a restaurant complex of sorts in that junction. Do take that road even if your GPS does not say so. My MapMyIndia GPS asked me to go straight on and take the next left. The road quality is super bad in the second route.

The Ghat section is a pretty intensive ghat section – not too long, but quite a few hair pin bends. Honk at every turn – because it looks like this ghat section is a favourite for bikers to show off their speed biking skills (especially given that, it is a favourite romantic spot for couples).

Once you reach the top of the hill, there are parking areas. The one at the very top apparently gets filled up very quickly and overflows to the lower level, which is where we parked. This is an area under a larger number of trees and some weird tree house type structures with little or no flooring.

Interesting observation: 5 of the 10 cars that were parked there were zoomcars.

This parking area is just super windy and chill. Do make sure you take a jacket.

You climb up to the actual Nandi hills area via a little walkway and a few steps.

You have a large Shiva temple which looks pretty old. And a Kalyani (temple tank) inside it. This tank is fed by fresh water springs all year long. It is believed that this tank (and its springs) is where three rivers originate – Palaar, Pennaar, and Arkavathi.

There are some neatly maintained gardens and pathways nearby, where you can take a stroll. The two 5 year olds played a bit of football for a while.

There is a Nandini ice cream parlour, where we all had ice creams. There is also a small cafe (small eats like idli, dosa, tea, and coffee are available), where all had tea/coffee.

Warning: There are a large number of monkeys. Even if they see you having something resembling food, they will come and grab from your hand. In fact, if you do even so much as to sit on some of the park benches, they think, you are going to eat, and approach you.

The monkeys scared the living daylights out of us, and we left in about an hour. Over the course of the half hour, we saw monkeys snatching chips packets from small kids, snatching ice-cream bars from older people’s hands, and such.

We left from there around 11am and back in the city by around 1:15pm.

Overall observations:

  • Nice views from the top
  • It is a good picnic spot – but without food.
  • Beware of monkeys
  • We missed an old temple at the base of the hills – with two 5 year olds, this is how much we could cover.
  • It is a place that you can visit once – nothing more to do multiple visits – would be boring.

Pictures:

 
Nandi - @ Nandi Hills
Vista from Nandi Hills
Temple/fort on top of Nandi Hills
Steps - Nandi Hills

Padhinettaam Peru

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(image courtesy – subbu’s kitchen – where you can find some yummy recipes as well for this festival)

Today is Padhinettaam Peru, or as some people call it Aadi perukku – the 18th day of the Tamizh month of Aadi (mid july – mid aug in the Julian Calendar). On the average year, this is a typical spring day. This is celebrated as a Spring Harvest Holiday. This is not a typical harvest festival to thank the Gods – that is Pongal (Sankranthi). The ritual in this festival is to make simple mixed rice dishes (such as lemon rice, tamarind rice, etc), take it to a river bank or beach, and have a picnic. I kid you not, that is the ritual, and people did it a thousand years ago, and still do it. What a beautiful culture that we have.

If you want a detailed description, read the first chapter of Ponniyin Selvan by Kalki Krishnamurthy. The first scene is when the protagonist, Vandhiyathevan rides into the sunset, along the banks of the Veeranarayana Lake, fed by the Ponni river.

If you just want to read an abridged version, here is my PS-Chapter-1.

Read the rest of the abridged volumes here.

Railfanning – 18th July 2015 – Byappanahalli

The son and I headed off to Byappanahalli (took scooter to Trinity and then metro to Byapannahalli) at around 11 and had a good 2 hours rail fanning :)

 

IoT in the Kitchen?

This idea just struck me today evening. This is in close heels to the IoT usage with the gas cylinder post that I had done a few weeks ago.

Problem to be solved: Get an accurate state of groceries that is stocked in the kitchen and potentially order them (online?). This is a very common task that is done on a fairly regular basis in most households (typically on the day when ‘monthly shopping’ is done,

Initial setup/infrastructure:

  • All grocery items to be stocked in identical pre-calibrated clear jars.
  • Item stored in the jar is bar-coded.
  • Threshold for ordering is to be set initially – by a sticker or using marker pens.

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UX:

  • User invokes a smart phone app.
  • Snaps a picture of the shelf with the stacked clear containers.
  • App automatically figures out the jars with groceries lesser than the threshold set by the user.
  • The details of what is stored in the jar is obtained from the bar code.
  • User either adds the list of items to buy to his to-do list (Google keep? Wunderlist?) – or – directly adds it to his grocery list on the Bigbasket app.

Bigbasket? Zopnow? Anybody listening?

UX review of Instamojo website – part 2

Creating a payment link (continued)

After you have dragged and dropped the digital goods, it would be nice if you could say that, upload would happen later. Since I did not see any upload status scroll, I assumed, but in perfect design, nothing should be left for assumption.

When uploading a preview image, can you probably preview the image immediately – like you did for the PAN card upload? That would be nicer. Else, the same ambiguity/assumption as previous point happens here also.

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I tried making it pay what you want and wanted to put a base price of Rs.5. I got the below. Firstly, I do not understand why the Rs.9 restriction. Secondly base_price seems to be the variable name. You should make it Base price.

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I wanted to do the “Pay What you Want” model. And below is how it looks. It is not immediately apparent to my customer (who want to buy the book) as to what “minimum Rs.10 is”. Is there any way you can indicate what the publisher means by “Pay what you want”? Perhaps by putting a note below the “pay button” saying – “The seller has indicated this to be a ‘Pay what you want’. The seller can pay how much ever he/she wishes to pay over the base price indicated above”.

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I tried finishing up my profile, and I added my photo to my profile. Again, I wish you could immediately preview the pic.

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And oh, after a while, after I finished typing up my bio etc, I got the below. Looks like you were uploading the photo in the background – which is good – but it would be nice if I get some indication as a user.

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Love love love the analytics page. Super awesome. One small pet peeve – please please give me a refresh button. I do not want to refresh my page each time I want to see. I usually have all my analytics page open. And want to be able to refresh on demand.

Hmm. Analytics and Advanced Analytics are the same?? They atleast seem to lead to the same page.

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UX flow issue leading into the app store

Before I click on the app store

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I now click on App store

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Ideally by now, the Advanced Analytics should be ‘de-highlighted’ and App Store should be highlighted and some form of a landing page for app store should have come in the main body frame. However, you see above that two selections are highlighted and the previous (stale?) selection is still active on the right main body panel.

I went into the app store, and I see a bunch of apps there already. One big UI nitpick I have. The cards should all be same size and aligned. insta22

And in general, I feel that the apps concept seems to be a little more of an advanced concept. And perhaps you should have a separate tutorial/documentation for this. Could not find it on the site.

* All of these are on Firefox latest version on Windows.

 

 

UX review of Instamojo website – part 1

I recently tried signing up with Instamojo and gave it a spin. Instamojo is a pretty cool payment related startup. Their moto is to democratize payments. It should be dead easy for anyone to be able to sell (start a business) and be able to set up a payment mechanism for customers. Instamojo would do the heavy lifting of the payment gateway etc.

Following are my thoughts on the UX/UI of the website.

Signup:

In the screen which asks for how I got to know about instamojo, why is social media conspicuously absent?

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In the next screen, your KYC is collected (incidentally, there is no place which gives the full form of KYC – Know your customer – if someone from outside of India in the future tries signing on, they would be clueless). Also, what if I want to sell an ebook for Rs.49 (a fairly common denomination to sell an ebook in India), there is no option for this.

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Then, in the next screen, I tried uploading a PDF (scanned pan card) and this is what I got. Also, there should be somewhere it says, only image files (GIF/JPG/TIFF etc).

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The following also is confusing. Is the status bar saying .. half way through uploading my pan card picture or is it saying I am half way through uploading my documents? If it is the latter, should it not be 50% (1 out of 2 documents?)

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While I understand that by the time he has finished uploading kyc, the user is expected to know about payment links etc, I would still recommend a (?) link here next to the payment link leading him to the support page.

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When I click on share your referral link on twitter/facebook, the below appears when I click on twitter. I would prefer not just the link, but some template text such as : “I am using Instamojo. Are you? To sign up click here -> url”

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Facebook is slightly better, but it could be better.

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Create a Payment Link

I got to the file-picker page (which is awesome by the way! – the options are truly exhaustive).

I dragged and dropped by file. But after dropping the file, I realized that the file was named wrongly (similar scenario to I dropped the wrong file). Now how do I delete this file and put the correct file? No intuitive UX for the user for this action. I would have liked the file (Samkshepa Ramayana.pdf in the case below) to be in a table, with a trash can in a last column, giving me the option to delete the file.

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The only way I could do it was to navigate away from this page (to Dashboard) and then click on Create Payment Link. I see two problems here.

  1. You should warn the user if he is going to navigate away from a page which he has filled in mid-way.
  2. I get this thought that – what happened to the file I dragged-and-dropped, was it uploaded, aborted, cached – where did that go? When I went back to creating a new payment link, it is not even reminding me that I was doing one half-way some time back.

Minor CSS nitpick – spacing between the i,? and the text

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By this time, my account had already been verified – awesome speed. Love it. Is this manual ?

I got the following email:

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While a lot of services do this, I have always liked to be addressed by name instead of my userid. And then I went to the Settings -> Accounts to see if you had been able to capture my name. And I saw that the names were blank.

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I am wondering if you could have auto populated the name somehow – from my name on my PAN card that you collected during KYC.

Phone verification:

The below UI is very confusing. The 1234 is very confusing. That is not the norm. Either put * * * * or – – – – or just blank or put 4 squares.

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Also, I was updating my settings (one by one), at the end of verification, why do I get the option to only go back to dashboard? I want to go back to the settings page.

Profile Settings:

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Minor English suggestion. I would prefer Connect to your Social Networks and “Connect to Twitter”.

Also, why not Facebook and g+. I saw those two in other places along with twitter.

Also, the “We will not post …..” should probably be darker. It is a very reassuring message and should be prominent.

Well, that’s about it. Hope the Instamojo teams gets to these minor nitpics from an amateur UX reviewer. In my opinion, getting these small things right is one of the key drivers to showing your classiness in an already crowded market place (in the case of instajojo – the payments marketplace).

 

 

Sringeri July 2015

 

  • Weekend trip
  • Onward: Talaguppa express (16227) from Majestic (SBC) – Pf 9 – AC coaches get added at Bangalore – in the front – next to engine. Reaches Shimoga town (SMET) at around 4:50AM.
  • We had booked a taxi from Sringeri – You can call Sudhakar at +91 94487 23382 if you want to book. Good guy. Understands Kannada and Tamil (potentially English and Hindi too, I did not try). Cost (at the time of this writing) is Rs.2250 for pick-up.
  • For staying at Mutt rooms, check in main reception (the driver will take you there).
  • Lunch and dinner were had at the Mutt. For breakfast and evening tiffin, we frequented Hotel Maruti. This has been there for the last 20 years (second generation family that I am seeing that is running it). Restricted menu items, but guaranteed not to affect your stomach.
  • We did a Hornadu visit from Sringeri and back. Takes 2 hours to get there and 2 hours back. And about an hour for darshan. We took the same cab. Rs.2250 (almost same distance).
  • Return was also using the same cab (Rs. 2250). Though the train is at 10:30PM, we were advised to leave around 6PM so that we can come to Shimoga around 8PM. Dinner places are open (and relatively less crowded at this time). We had dinner at the Mathura Paradise. Decent vegetarian North Indian food.
  • Return train is Talaguppa-Bangalore express (16228). Comes in at Pf 2. Comes in mostly bang on time. AC coaches come coupled. Train stops only for about 5 minutes.
  • Arrives in Bangalore at an unearthly hour at 4:25AM (apparently some times even earlier).

 

Tech Enabled Restaurant Experience

There are two segments to this post. First is a fictitious sequence of events in a tech enabled restaurant, that I would like to see. The second is my take on how there exists bits and pieces of this experience, but not quite the entire flow yet.

  • We walk into a restaurant. Greeted by the Maitre’D and guided to a table.
  • Waiter heads over to our table and hands us a tablet and gives us general instructions on how to use it.

ipad1

ipad2

  • Once the orders are punched in, and ‘Done’ has been clicked, the waiter comes and takes away the tablet.
  • When the food is ready, the waiter brings in the food and he exactly knows which food goes where (because he can find out from the backend version of the app)
  • After the meal, the waiter brings back the tab, where the app can either take payments by splitting the bill or one person pays the bill. The payment can be done through any of the existing online payment mechanisms or by cash.
  • Folks tip the waiter for the service and leave.

A few observations/opinions about the above experience.

  • To my knowledge, the above ordering experience is not yet present in any app/service. A slightly manual version of this exists in some restaurants. The waiter have the tablet with them and punch in the order as the guest rattles out what he/she wants.But even here, I am not sure, if the app that they use help the waiter by table position. It probably takes the order for everyone together.
  • This would improve waiter productivity immensely. Apart from the time it takes for the food to be prepared, the biggest bottleneck is the order-reciting part to the waiter.
  • A related productivity benefit is the billing part. The order is directly translated to the receipt. It results in exponential productivity improvement especially when the guests would like to split the bill.
  • With the whole tech experience, it is only natural to complete the payment also through an online gateway such as PayTM or PayU or Instamojo.
  • A side feature that could be built in from the restaurant side is the capability to get very focussed reviews from the guest (eg. how was the paneer tikka?) or getting feedback on a new menu etc.

Mock-ups courtesy the awesome online tool – moqups.com