Blog: October 2015

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Yes, user experience matters

Today I used Uber for the first time (aside from a shared ride a couple months ago that someone else booked). It wasn't mainly because of the better price, though that's nice too. And it wasn't mainly out of objection to the monopolistic protection racket that runs transit in my city, though yeah, that too. It was mainly because of UX.

Here's how things go with Yellow Cab:

  • Attempt to make online reservation. After completing all fields, get told that online reservation is not possible and I need to call. Every. Single. Time.
  • Call, wait on hold for too long, and eventually make reservation with brusque or disinterested agent.
  • Usually but not always, cab shows up. If it's going to be a no-show, you won't know until it's too late.
  • Get bombarded by video ads in the cab until I figure out how to make it stop, which is hard because the LCD touch-screen is at a bad angle so I can't see the buttons well.
  • Pay using that same bad touch-screen. I seem to be incapable of seeing the UI for specifying a tip amount without opening the car door and half-lying on the seat. Buttons for 20% and 25% are easy to access, presumably by design.

So I got disgusted enough to try the competition. You can't make a reservation, which concerned me a bit, but I checked the app earlier than I needed to leave, saw multiple cars within a couple miles, and relaxed. When I was about ready to book, the app told me we were in a higher-price (prime time) period that would end in two minutes. So I waited. When I called for one it took no more than five minutes. I could watch the driver's progress on a map.

The driver was fine and the car was clean -- that and punctuality are really all I require.

Payment was simple, through the app, with an emailed receipt. The trip cost about 65% of what the last cab trip on the same route cost.

Yellow Cab's user experience is terrible. Uber's is good. I know which one will get my business next time.

I do have to ding Uber on one thing, though. When the driver heard that this was my first time using them he gave me a promo code for a significant discount. I tried to enter it during the ride and the app said I couldn't use it on an in-progress trip. Fine. But later I tried to enter it for future use and the app said it was only good for a first-time ride. So... if it's not available until it's too late, what's the point? If the driver had never given it to me I wouldn't have noticed the lack, but because he did I feel Uber goofed here.

This time is different, part 2

This is a slightly edited version of a locked post.

A few months ago I wrote about some discord at my first synagogue board meeting (of this term) and how I was trying to guide newer people in the ways of getting things done appropriately.

I think I'll just assume that my role on the board this time is "curmudgeon who is, nonetheless, right". Tonight's board meeting really made me think of this classic Ivanova scene from Babylon 5, which I would dearly like to share with a few people on the board but I dare not lest I be accused of excessive ego. But...sheesh.

So, at our previous meeting the board asked the executive director for some data on why people leave. This is part of a broader effort to understand our members and their needs. (We haven't had a lot of departures, but we had a few more last year than usual, in a year with some major staff changes.) Some high-level data was sent out by email before the meeting. Somebody replied (to the whole list) asking for the names of the people who've left. The president said no for privacy reasons; the person sent a couple more messages insisting and saying that we should trust board members with sensitive information.

Cue me. Read more…

An outing

Our director of engineering paid a visit to our local office today. The meetings were productive and didn't have too much growling and snarling.

It was a nice afternoon to visit the Pittsburgh Zoo -- temperatures in the 70s, and not crowded. (I didn't know they were still open in October, actually.) The penguins and sea otters were fun to watch (but hard to photograph), and I always enjoy big cats.

Photos: Read more…