Map trace by mobile

I have been thinking about this for a while. And yes, this is one of my dream product posts – there might be hints of technology possibility inside, but no means an algorithm. I will spell out a couple of use cases first.

Use case1: I hail an uber from home. The pickup location is picked up either through physical GPS on the device or by wifi triangulation. Now that is passed to Uber for pickup. Now, let us say, I take my phone, and walk to the end of my road, to the main road. I want to be picked up from there, because there is too much traffic inside my side road. Uber cannot be notified of that. Can uber triangulate to my phone and locate me?

Use case2: I call customer support for fixing my washing machine. Ideally, there should be one final question from the customer support representative – “Can I send the technician to the place where this phone is?” The system should figure out the address and send the technician.

There are several more use cases where this could help. There are obviously privacy concerns here, but there must be someway to fix that problem. I have been facing this issue so many times in recent times, giving directions to people, when they should just be able to locate me.

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.

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.

kitchen_iot

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).

 

 

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

Personalized Hotel Rooms ?

There were serviced apartments that started popping up in cities like Bangalore a few years back. These were good alternatives to expensive full service hotels. A lot of frequent IT travelers liked these service apartments, because they were really good quality rooms, and they were inexpensive because they were no-frills. No service. Mostly no restaurants attached. This fit their bill perfectly.

But there was a problem. These service apartments were unorganized. You could only book them by calling them by phone. Some of them had a website, but most did not. Discoverability was a problem. This is being solved by a slew of new start-ups like OyoRooms, Ziproom, and stayzilla.

Now, allow me to add one more level of complexity into this problem – which could be a potential area where start-ups can spring up.

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Personalized rooms. Seasoned business travelers love service apartments because of their no-frills approach, and are the ones who are fueling the reservation of these rooms through the new startups. But that does not mean to say that these travelers would not mind some personalization.Let me list a couple of immediate ideas that come to mind:

  1. Toiletries – For those who follow me on twitter, you would notice that this is a big peeve of mine. I am not a big business traveler, but I get irritated every time I am put through the “you-cannot-carry-toiletries-in-cabin-baggage’. This is the biggest bummer that happened after 9/11 in the US (which naturally percolated internationally). I would love to not carry toiletries at all during international travel. And you might ask – hey most hotels give you soap and some of them give you paste. I would want my brands to be there – cinthol/dettol soap + vicco tooth paste + fresh new brush + gillete mach3 razor+blade (disposable is fine) + nivea after shave gel. Now, if this is an add-on package to any of the room booking start-ups, I would glad plonk money on it.
  2. Travel – What if I can book a day cab or a cab for airport/station pickup or whatever need I have, while booking the room. Would that not be awesome? Sure, again, you might ask me, I could always use Uber/Ola/whatever to get the cabs on demand. But when I am on a business trip, I would like everything to be perfectly planned. I may sound pompous here – but I want my car waiting for me every time I want it. I would not want to be fiddling with my phone and getting a “No cars in your vicinity” message and getting stressed about it. Sure, the hotel could very well book an uber/ola on my behalf – I dont care, but I want it to be waiting for me.
  3. Food – What if the hotel can offer me a fixed simple veg meal when I return back to my room at 8:30PM. A simple Mast Kalandar HP2 would be perfectly fine. But I would not want to be the one ordering it on the way back to my hotel, and giving directions, picking it up, paying, and all of that. It would be so much value for money for me to just get into the hotel, my food is waiting ‘hot’ in the reception, for me to take to my room, and have it in peace. Sure, the hotel can tie up with swiggy, mastkalandar, urbanspoon, whatever. They can even ask me where I want the food from. But again, sounding as pompous as I can, I want the food waiting for me, when I get to my room, after a tiring day. Hey they can get fancy too – they can save my preferences, and just confirm if I would like to order the same as last time. I know a lot of travelers do that. You could get fancier, by enabling the service apartment reception to call you once just to confirm if you would be needing dinner (what if – you suddenly get pulled into a client dinner type situation); or perhaps a push notification on your phone. A lot of stuff can be done in this area.

Well, enough dreaming for now. Got to get to my boring day job. 🙂

Hyperlocal for daily milk?

The current proliferation of Hyperlocal is awesome. I love it because of at least 2 reasons:

  1. I get stuff from my local area – a lot of times I am used to getting stuff from nearby where I live. These goods may or may not be available elsewhere.
  2. I get it from the local grocers and shopkeepers – so they are not affected by the so-called “e-commerce boom”. In fact hyperlocal enables ecommerce for these local guys who cannot afford to go and sell online.

Now, with that, out of my mind, let me get to a problem that every household faces. The problem of getting milk (and related items) every morning.

Daily home delivery of milk can be categorized into a couple of types:

  1. People who always order the same type of milk (full cream or toned or slim) and the same quantity every day.
  2. People who have coupons given by the milk guy for different quantities and types of milk. They drop these coupons in a bag outside the gate, and the milk guy delivers per the coupon dropped.

Even the first category guys have an on-demand requirement for other dairy and other bakery products such as curd, ghee, and bread (which, ofcourse has varieties – sandwich bread, milk bread, wheat, brown etc).

If you notice, one thing that is uniform across all the requirements is the fact that, in most times, the requirement is remembered only at 10PM the previous night and is required the next day morning. 

This is the official pain-point that is to be addressed.

Mockups courtesy the awesome moqups.com

mock1  mock2  mock3

This is not an extensive mockup, but you get the drift.

Additional features could be:

  • Location could either be the address that you signed up with, or can be configured using the GPS in your app.
  • The Date screen could have a way by which you can add recurrence. This would make it slightly more complicated, but might be useful for those who order the same thing again and again.

For best ease of use, I would recommend an online wallet. The delivery is most likely going to be very early hours in the morning, and hence could be cumbersome for COD.

Need for a new special logistic solution 

The one thing different about the logistics of this delivery problem is that, in most cases, the delivery would need to be drop into a bag/basket tied on the gate and leave. If the delivery is going to be at 5AM, this would probably need to be the case. This goes against the traditional delivery logistics of getting an ack from the customer.

This could be potentially be solved using:

Trust method. The customer trusts the hyper local delivery guy completely that he would delivery what he had asked for. He would just get an SMS or a push notification that the goods have been delivered.

Proof method: The delivery guy has some kind of a proof method that he did deliver the goods at the appropriate time. Perhaps he could place the goods in the appropriate location, click a snap with his logistics app which would imprint date/time on the snap and send it to you as part of push notification. More sophisticated RFID technologies could also perhaps be used – but I cannot think of any at the moment.

Well, @grofers, @amazonIN are you listening? Can we see this happening any time soon?

 

Solar for the home

Disclaimer: I am no expert in Solar power generation, nor am I an Electrical Engineer. So what I am about to request/propose might be the most absurdest thing – but for me, ignorance is bliss, and I shall propose.

The biggest problem that I see about solar power is that it is available only during the day and that is not the time we consume most of the power at home (work-places is a different issue – I am addressing only homes here). We need a lot more power at night to light up our homes, drive our fans and ACs, and our televisions, and routers and what not. And for doing this, we need to store this energy in batteries.

A premise that I make here is that a lot of us have inverters and they have batteries in them. But with this inverter arrangement, while we keep our batteries fully charged, we use them only if we lose power. Else it is lying unused (dormant).

1. Decouple the battery from the inverter.

2. Split wiring at home into low load and high load. For those who are using an inverter, this would have already been done by now. Keep the high load circuit on direct power (from the utility company).

3. Charge the battery during the day using solar panels. Once the battery is fully charged, divert solar power to the low load circuit to run any day time uses such as fans, TVs etc.

4. For night time power in the low load circuit, use the power stored in the battery. If the battery goes below a certain threshold, switch to main line from utility power company. If there is still power in the battery, even after day breaks the next day, continue using power from battery, switch to utility company only after battery discharges

Couple of advantages that I see here:

1. We use the power that we generate in the day time first, and then, only if needed switch to main line power in the night. So there is definitely a big component of night time power consumption that is offset. If load is low, we can perhaps offset some day time power consumption too.

2. A battery that is charged and discharged continuously lasts longer.

While a lot of this is based on my imagination, I am pretty sure this is doable in the realm of current age electrical circuitry. 

My question: Has someone done this already? Any commercial solutions?