#72 Online transaction – when things fall through a crack

Here is my recent story.

Bank called me for a suspicious online transaction

I ordered something online from a merchant that I don’t usually use. Then I got a call from my bank saying that they detected an online transaction that was suspicious.

This was actually my own purchase, not a fraud so I told the bank person.

But she said because they thought that it was a fraud and blocked the transaction, I had to place the same order again to the merchant.

So I placed the same order again at the merchant’s online store following the bank’s advice.

After placing my second order and a few minutes later, I received two emails from the merchant saying “your item has shipped”.

Apparently, my first order was not blocked. It went through against what the bank staff told me.


Canceling one of two orders

Now I had to contact the merchant, and explain the situation to cancel my first order.

The merchant customer support responded back to me that they put a cancel request to my first order, but there was no guarantee that their request went through.

After my order arrived, I checked the tracking for both of my orders. On FedEx tracking site, it showed that my first order that I canceled was pending. It’s a good sign that their cancellation might have worked.


Duplicated charges, then refund posted

But when I checked my bank credit card statement, it had charges for both orders.

So I called the bank and explained the situation.

The bank staff was friendly, and said that they could see the refund was coming from that merchant, which was not processed yet. The banker suggested that I check my account a few days later to see if the refund was posted or not.

When I checked my account a few days later, the refund was still not posted.

After about a week from when I contacted my bank, the refund from the merchant finally appeared on my bank credit card account.

This should have been the end of everything.

But it wasn’t.


An online transaction resulted in 5 items total

Because my initial report to the bank about the duplicated charge was considered as a dispute, the bank also credited back the same amount.

This resulted in having a duplicated “refunds”, one from the merchant, the other from the bank. Now, there was a total of 4 items:

  • The initial charge from the merchant
  • The second charge from the merchant
  • A refund from the merchant
  • A refund from the bank based on the “dispute”

Because above 4 items canceled out transactions to zero, the bank added the 5th item, which was to subtract the same amount from my account, so that only a single amount was charged to my credit card after all these pluses and minuses.


Closer look at the problem

At the end of the day, it all worked out.

But it took quite some time, I had to keep checking my account for several weeks, and I had to make several phone calls and emails to confirm all these.

Maybe I was too anxious.

I’m still wondering if there was a better way to handle the situation.

What exactly did the bank block?

Was the blocking towards that particular transaction, or the merchant?

Was the blocking towards that particular transaction, or towards the merchant?

Since the transaction did go through after the bank unblocked it, I have a feeing that the block was against the merchant instead of the transaction. If the block was against this particular transaction, it should not have gone through.

Now, this is still my assumption, so I could be wrong.


Service to service integration in online transaction

Fixing this kind of systemic flaw should also reduce customer support efforts on banks, credit card companies and merchants side significantly too. 

But who owns this type of issue could fall into a grey zone somewhere in between.

I hope that more and more UX designers get involved in solving this type of service to service integration problems moving forward which might fall through cracks otherwise.


Check out YouTube version too.

Other articles around service top service integration:

#39 Amazon’s customer service chat experience part 2

#71 Shredder scissors: interesting idea with issues

So here’s a pair of shredder scissors. The one that I have has 5 pairs of blades.


Cutting narrow papers with shredder scissors

First, I’m cutting narrow papers that are narrower than the blades of the scissors.

Because the stack of papers are narrower than the blade, I was able to cut those in one shot.

Still, to complete a single cut, I had to use both of my hands.

This might be because a paper with a postcard thickness was included.

As I kept cutting papers, some of the shredded pieces got stuck between the blades.

So here is the summary of when cutting narrow papers:

  • It works OK if papers are narrower than the blade
  • Requires both hands when it gets stiff, such as when you stack more papers, or when you have thick papers

Cutting wide papers with shredder scissors

Let’s move on to wider papers. Here are some stack of US letter papers. This is more typical use case.

When the papers are wider than the blade, I cannot cut through in one shot. I have to continue moving the scissors forward.

Because 5 pairs of blades are biting the papers in 5 positions simultaneously, when I move forward with my second cut, I started to feel a resistance. 

Here is the summary of cutting wide papers:

  • Cutting wider papers require moving forward with multiple cuts, which introduces a few problems
  • Papers get wrinkled, making it harder to continue cutting forward
  • Shredded pieces get stuck between blades 

Conclusion

Based on my assessment, shredder scissors works for a small amount of narrow papers.

However, when it comes to shredding stacks of papers of all sizes, I have to say that a typical electric shredder machine still gives me a much easier, stress-free experience, even though it’s bulky, takes up space, and needs to be plugged in to a power outlet.


Shredder scissors spark curiosity and creativity

But in spite of some usability issues, shredder scissors attracts me.

It sparks curiosity and creativity, despite some issues.

Would it work better if it’s a cutter instead of scissors?

What about a cutter attached to a cutting board base that fixes the position of stacked papers?

Are there any middle ground between shredder scissors and a shredder machine?

Apparently, there is a decent market for this niche product category.

Amazon gave me 277 results.

Looking at physical products gives you fresh insights.

It’s a great exercise for a UX designer to have a closer look at a physical product, find some issues, and try to come up with some solutions that may address those issues.


Check out YouTube version too.

Other articles on physical products:

#70 Annoying bluetooth switching: am I doing something wrong?

There’s this annoying bluetooth switching problem that I encounter all the time between my phone, my wife’s phone and our car audio.

1 – When I am on a phone talking to someone in my room, all of the sudden my phone’s audio gets routed to a car audio when my wife starts an engine of our car in a garage.

2 – When I start the engine of the car in the garage, the car audio immediately connects to my wife’s phone and starts playing her music, instead of connecting to my phone.

Why do I experience these problems?

My use case seems nothing special, but it caused an undesirable outcome.

To be precise, I should say technology still worked as intended.

It’s my use case that was outside the scope of the supported use case.

So what is the supported use case then?

The supported use case is based on a single person using a bluetooth headset. The bluetooth headset, a phone A and a phone B all belong to this one person.

Within a bluetooth specification, there’s a feature called “Bluetooth multipoint”.

This allows a bluetooth device such as a bluetooth headset to simultaneously connect to two source devices.

I can listen to music from my phone A and still receive notifications or business calls from my phone B.

The bluetooth headset, the phone A, and the phone B all belong to this one person. The use case is centered around a bluetooth headset.

In contrast my use case is based on two people sharing the bluetooth car audio from their phones. 

The bluetooth car audio is not always on, it turns on and off.

I wish the car audio was smart enough to connect to a phone inside the car, rather than a phone further away behind the wall inside the house.

Even if the car audio has a proximity sensor built in to detect the distance to the phones, it gets tricky.

What if both my wife and myself are in the car with our phones at the same time? 

At that point, the decision factor is no longer about the proximity of a phone to the car audio.

It’s all about human context and intention.

To solve this, it may need a voice prompt asking users “which device would you like to connect to the car audio?”.

Context is one of 3 elements that make up a user experience.

A product, a user, and a context are those three elements.

This example once again reinforces the importance of context in user experience.

It’s so critical for a user experience designer to consider a context when she designs a user experience.


Check out YouTube version too.

#69 Just following a UX process does not make a great design

Design is inherently subjective.

UX process tries to bring in objectivity to what’s inherently subjective.

But even after going through a user research and understanding core user needs, how to craft that experience is completely up to a UX designer to decide. 

Throughout the design process, a designer makes hundreds of micro decisions for all these details to compose the design.

A typical UX process of coming up with a concept, validating it with a user, then iterating based on the feedback is good in general. But it has a tendency to drive designs toward something that people are already familiar with.

On one side, it’s good because there’s no surprises.  Everything looks familiar to most people. This means they can navigate products without any problems.  That’s great!

From the other side of the coin though, things get boring. Everything looks the same. There’s no uniqueness to any of the products out there.

I personally think it’s extremely important for design to carry some sort of character, or a playfulness, or a uniqueness. Obviously, a product needs a baseline usability that does not confuse the user to begin with.

Classic Macintosh bomb icon is one of such examples.

Even in a very depressing, frustrating moment when a computer system crashes, the bomb icon brings in a sense of humor to ease the frustration.

At the time, this made a stark difference from Windows blue screen.

Pinch zoom interaction on mobile devices have become something we are all familiar with by now.

From a strict usability point of view, it does not give any visual queue that you can do the pinch zoom on a screen.

But once you know it, it’s natural, intuitive and pleasing interaction.


Striking the right balance between a baseline usability and some additional touch that sparks user’s excitement, delight and joy, is what makes great designs great.

Following a UX process still remains as a foundation of what a UX designer does.

But things tend to go towards something very dry and boring, if you don’t work on that “additional touch”.

I’d strongly advocate for adding such “additional touch”.

Initially coming up with that “additional touch” often starts by a very small number of individuals with creative minds. It doesn’t always have to come from designers.

A lot of times, this “additional touch” is viewed outside of MVP from priority perspective.

But I think it makes a huge difference.


Check out YouTube version too.

#56 Useful, usable, delightful

#68 How I moved my LLC from California to Arizona

Here’s my user journey with 11 steps.

Let’s take a closer look one by one.

Step 1: Initial research

When I initially researched about LLC move in the internet, I found various information. It gave me 3 options:

  • Option 1 – Transfer an LLC from one state to another for a permanent move 
  • Option 2 – Keep an old LLC and register in a new state as a foreign entity
  • Option 3 – Dissolve an old LLC and create a new one for a fresh start

I went with option 1.

I also found out that this is called “domestication”.


Step 2: Identified responsible organizations in both CA and AZ

I knew that California side was California Secretary of State.

Arizona side was called Arizona Corporation Commission.


Step 3: Contacted both organizations over the phone, and identified required documents and steps

I called California Secretary of State and asked requirements on California side if there’s anything that I had to do to “move out” my LLC from California. It turned out that there’s nothing except dissolving my LLC once it’s domesticated in a new state.

Then I called Arizona Corporation Commission and asked requirements to “move in” my LLC to Arizona. They said that I had to submit “Statement of domestication” form. But it turned out that I also had to submit Article of organization.

After researching on both states, it turned out that there’s no linkage between two states.

So here are the full requirements that I needed to submit to Arizona Corporation Commission in order to transfer my California LLC.

  • File a Statement of domestication
  • File Articles of organization with Member structure attachment and Statutory Agent Acceptance form
  • Pay a total of $100 filing fee by check
  • Send everything via traditional mail to Arizona Corporation Commission

Step 4. Subscribed to an agent service

In order to file articles of organization in Arizona, I had to get a new agent in Arizona.

After some research, I subscribed to an agent service called ZenBusiness, and had them sign Statutory Agent Acceptance form.

Their cost was $99 per year, and they are quite responsive.


Step 5. Subscribed to a UPS mailbox

In order to protect my privacy, I subscribed to UPS mailbox as an address for my home office-based LLC.

UPS mailbox service fee varies based on region. In my case in AZ, it was $252 annually plus a setup fee $15 which totaled $262 for the first year. In California, the same service was $599.


Step 6: Submitted my LLC filing to Arizona Corporation Commission

Here’s AZ Statement of Domestication form. It’s a 2 page form.

On page 1, 

1 domestication entity name, I entered my LLC name.

1.1 domesticating entity jurisdiction of organization: I entered California.

1.2 For domestication entity type, I entered LLC.

1.3 domesticating entity original date of incorporation/organization: I entered the date I filed my LLC in California.

2.1 domesticated entity jurisdiction of organization: I entered Arizona.

2.2 domesticated entity type: I checkmarked “Arizona LLC”

On page 2, at the bottom, I entered entity name, which is my LLC name,

Signed with a date, printed my name and title.

As for the title, I made a mistake by typing it initially as “Founder”. Which was the reason my initial filing got rejected. This had to be “Member” instead as written in member structure attachment of Articles of organization.


Here’s Articles of organization. It’s a 2 page form.

On page 1,

1. Entity type: I selected Limited liability company.

2. Entity name: I entered my LLC name.

3.  I left it blank as my LLC was not professional limited liability company.

4. Statutory agent for service of process

4.1 I entered statutory agent name, address that I got from Zen Business.

4.2 I checkmarked as the mailing address of statutory agent is the same as physical address.

5. Principal address

5.1 I selected No, as the Arizona principal address for my business is different from the address of the statutory agent.

5.2 I entered my principal address for my business, which is my UPS mailbox address.

7. I checkmarked as my LLC is member-managed LLC.

At the bottom of the form, I signed with a date, and entered my printed name.


Here’s Member structure attachment.

1. Entity name: I entered my LLC name.

2. Members:  I entered my name with my business address.


Here’s Statutory Agent Acceptance form.

This is the form that has to be signed by your agent.

I sent this form to Zen Business, had them fill out and sign, then send it back to me. This was pretty quick turnaround with a day or two.


Cover sheet

This is just a minor detail, but Arizona Corporation Commission also asked me to attach this cover sheet per document.

In my case, because I had to file statement of domestication and articles of organization, I attached a cover sheet for each document.


7. My filing got rejected

As I mentioned earlier, I put “Founder” initially for my title instead of “Member” and my filing got rejected. This had to be “Member”, as described in Member structure attachment of Articles of organization.  All the LLC owners are called “Members”.


8. Resubmitted my LLC filing

I corrected my mistake, and resubmitted my filing.


9. My filing got accepted

Yay!!!


10. Notified agent about the acceptance

Once my filing was accepted by Arizona Corporation Commission, I notified Zen Business, so that they were able to close a loop on their end as my agent.


11. Dissolved my CA LLC

This was a simple online process, and it was very quick.


Learnings along the way

Looking back, the whole process is totally manageable to handle by myself.

And I’m glad that I did not hire someone else to do this for me for a fee.

But there are a few things that I learned from my experience.

  • The good thing about LLC in Arizona compared to California is that you don’t have to pay for LLC annual tax of $800 like in California. For a small business, this is a huge saving by itself.
  • EIN (Employer Identification Number) that I obtained from IRS was nothing to do with my LLC move.
  • There was no single online system that handled LLC move from one state to another
  • Things I did on each state were totally disconnected with each other
  • Forms in Arizona were paper-based, and the filing was via a traditional mail

I wish if there were a single inter-state online system that allowed me to simply select my old CA LLC, then select a state that I’d like to move my LLC into, and complete everything online. Ideally with online chat support as well so that I can ask questions along the way.

But that might be a tough ask as each state operates independently in the U.S.


Check out YouTube version too.

#67 Why is user journey important?

A user journey is one of methodologies / tools and techniques in a UX design process.

Basically you put yourself in user’s shoes, think through and write down the steps you would go through focusing on a high-level journey of a user.

Let me give you an example.

Here’s a user journey that I wrote down based on my experience when I participated in a food packing volunteer work previously.

  1. Signed up as a team of 5 people prior to the date
  2. Showed up on that day and checked in on-site
  3. Received a cap, stored personal items in a locker
  4. Got an introduction presentation of the non-profit organization
  5. Got an instruction on how to enter the site and what to do
  6. Each team was called one after another 
  7. When called, washed hands thoroughly
  8. Moved to an assigned station
  9. Got on-site instruction
  10. Started packing food with music
  11. Count down started and stopped at 2 hour mark
  12. Did a clean up based on the instruction
  13. Left the station, disposed gloves and cap
  14. Watched a closing presentation with results

Once you format these numbered steps into a diagram like this, it’s called a user journey map.


A user journey could also be written as a story that consists of a few paragraphs.

I decided to participate in a volunteer work to contribute to my local community. So I looked for nearby volunteer opportunities, and found one that is close by with dates that work for my schedule.

It turned out that this volunteer work required 5 people to form a team and participate, so I signed up as a team of 5 people prior to the date.

When the scheduled date arrived, I showed up at the specified location, and checked in on-site. After checking in, and entering the building, I received a cap, and stored my personal items in a locker.

Once the majority of the participant checked in, we saw an introductory presentation of the non-profit organization who was organizing this event. The presentation covered an instruction on how to enter the site and what to do.

After the presentation, we were instructed to wash our hands thoroughly, then were guided to an assigned station.

At the station, there was an on-site instruction which covered details on how to split tasks within the team members. 

Once the on-site instruction was finished, the music started and we started packing food.

The food packing work continued for about 2 hour straight. During all that time, we were focusing on trying to do our given tasks efficiently. As we repeated the same task again and again, we got better at it, and started to enjoy the rythm of it with the music.

The session went a lot faster than expected. Right before the 2 hour mark, the staff member started counting down. As the staff counted zero, we stopped the food packing work.

We did the cleaning of our station based on the given instruction.

Once the cleaning was done, we left the station, and disposed gloves and caps to a trashcan.

Lastly, we watched the closing presentation.

The organizer showed us how many food packages we packed collectively during this 2 hour session.

They also showed us how much impact those food packages will make.

This closing presentation informed us the actual result of our work in an understandable way.  

As a result, I had a very satisfying volunteer work experience for this 2 hour. It was pleasant.


As I was translating my journey map steps into sentences and paragraphs, I ended up adding more information in terms of how I felt, how it transitioned from one step to another and so on.

As you can see, user journey can be described in different ways.

Steps make it easy to grasp an overall flow because it’s like bullet points with shorter descriptions. Steps can easily be visualized into a user journey map format. This is great for clear and logical thinking. From here, you could easily see how a specific step could be broken down into more granular levels such as task flows and wireframe flows.

On the other hand, paragraphs make it a good story with some richer nuances such as emotional ups and downs of a user. You can get a similar  feeling to when watching a movie or reading a novel. 

As a UX designer, it’s important to be empathetic to a user.

This sentence and paragraph style of a user journey makes it easier to relate to a user in an empathetic way.

But it’s a bit longer, and it’s harder to visually see the overall flow.

Whichever method you end up choosing, the most important point is that, a user journey allows you and other audience to “live through” a user’s experience. It allows you to feel what it’s like to be a user and go through that specific journey. It allows its audience to be empathetic to a user.

In doing so, a user journey especially in a text format, allows you to remain at a high-level focusing on the core journey and the core values, so that you don’t get distracted by all the UI details.

This will greatly benefit you when you design the actual user experience of that journey in form of wireframes and prototypes later on.


Check out YouTube version too.

#53 User experience of a food packing volunteer work

#66 I love Google Sheets’ tiny improvement

I use Google Sheets mobile app to record my body weight training stats. It has been working pretty well for the most part. But I recently realized that Google made a small change to Google Sheets mobile app.

And I love it!

It’s a very small change.

Google added an “edit” button on the bottom-right of the screen.

Here’s how it looks like.

It’s this edit button that they added.

Before this, I used to select a cell, then tap anywhere in the editing section that mirrors the selected cell.

But this simple interaction caused an annoying problem. The text cursor jumped to random places depending on where you tapped in the first place.

Whenever this happened, I had to hold down my finger on the editing area, then drag around my finger to move the cursor to the end of the text, so that I can enter my training records.

But this is a hassle to do when you want to really focus on your training.

It might be very specific problem to my specific use case. I have my training journal cells pre-filled with the name of an exercise. And I enter the number of reps every time I complete a set in the same cell.

Since this change, clicking on Edit button always activates the text cursor right at the end of the text where it should be, ready for me to enter my new # of reps.

I no longer need to move around the text cursor that appeared in a random place!

As I was experimenting with the new version of Google Sheets mobile app, I discovered other convenient features too. I can also double-tap the editing area to activate it, in addition to tapping on Edit button.

I can also double-tap on the actual cell to activate the editing mode too.

And the double-tap also always positions the text cursor right at the end of the text, which is super helpful.

I also discovered that when you select an empty cell and then tap on the editing area, it activates the text input with a single tap.

In this case, since the cell is empty, there’s no random place for a text cursor to jump to.

This is nice too.

These are small, subtle improvements. But I can see that it’s well thought out.

As a result, it reduced the friction of Google Sheets text input, so that  a user does not need to go through “redundant text cursor repositioning” that was often required before.

I love finding this type of small delightful moment that makes my life easier in some of mundane day to day interactions with products and services.

This type of subtle improvements that makes our daily lives easier are what makes UX designers and an overall larger product team so valuable in my mind.


Check out YouTube version too!

Completely different type of product in a physical world, but here’s another example of a delightful experience created in a boring, outdated product category, an envelope.

#65 Digital drawing comparison: One by Wacom vs. $6 stylus vs. finger

Photos of One by Wacom, $6 stylus on a trackpand, and a finger on a trackpad, with an overlapping image of the author.

I recently got One by Wacom, a very affordable $60 stylus.

A photo of One by Wacom, showing both a tablet and a stylus pen.

I would like to share my take on it by comparing it against $6 stylus on a trackpad, and a finger on a trackpad.

Let me show you how I drew a simple illustration in Photoshop based on a template that I created.


One by Wacom

First let’s take a look at One by Wacom.

Pros of One by Wacom are:

  • Pressure sensitive
  • More precise control
  • Very responsive when repositioning
  • You can rest palm on a tablet when drawing, which is comfortable

Cons are:

  • You need more space to place a tablet, probably in front of your computer
  • Sometimes too sensitive
  • You need to apply the same pressure to maintain the stroke width.

You need to get used to this.


$6 stylus on a trackpad

Second, let’s take a look at a cheap 6 dollar stylus on a trackpad.

Pros for $6 stylus are:

  • Cheap
  • No extra space required since you draw directly on a trackpad

Here are cons:

  • Take more time to register new position
  • Sometimes it doesn’t get recognized by computer right away.
  • Less precision control
  • Cannot rest your palm on a trackpad while drawing, which means you have to float your hand while drawing at all times.

Finger on a trackpad

Lastly, here’s how I drew with my own finger on a trackpad.

Pros are:

  • No extra equipments or devices
  • My finger always gets recognized by computer
  • Faster when switching back and forth between UI controls and drawing

Here are cons:

  • Less precision control
  • My finger and hand get sore and tired with unnatural movements and forced positions
  • Harder to draw a long line stably

Compare all three simultaneously

OK, let’s compare all three in action simultaneously.

Surprisingly, a finger on a trackpad took the shortest to draw the illustration.

But there are some caveats.

This was a simple illustration, and the task was to trace a template.

So it was sort of manageable with my finger drawing if I don’t care details. 

But when it comes to adding details such as changing the stroke width for certain part of the illustration, One by Wacom was the only one capable of this just by applying different pressure when drawing.

This is apparent when we take a closer look at the laptop computer keyboard part drawn with much thinner strokes in the illustration done by One by Wacom.

A comparison of drawings by One by Wacom, $6 stylus + trackpad, and finger + trackpad.

If you are a UX designer, there are many situations where making a quick drawing like this really helps you communicate your idea and concept to others.

An illustration of a UX designer communicating his idea and concept to his audience.

In most cases, you don’t need mastery in your drawings to communicate.

One by Wacom definitely feels much more natural and easier to draw with more precision and control. So $60 price tag seems worth the price.

But at the same time, more precision and control comes with more attention, such as controlling a pen pressure.

Finally it comes down to what is important to you, and you should ask these questions to yourself:

  • How much precision control do I want to have in my drawings?
  • What is my comfort level with my drawings?
  • How important are drawings for me?
  • What is it that I want to achieve with my drawings?

Check out YouTube version too!

Related articles:

#13 Can a $6 stylus + trackpad replace an expensive stylus?

#33 Comparison of stylus on trackpad vs. pen on paper

#64 Waymo One – riding a driverless taxi

A photo of Waymo One car at a destination.

A driverless taxi

I finally I had a chance to take a short ride on Waymo One.

Waymo One is a commercial driverless taxi service owned by Google.

A screenshot of Waymo website.
Waymo website

Currently, the service is available only in Arizona Pheonix area.

A screenshot of Waymo website that describes "Now taking riders in Metro Phoenix".
Waymo website

Mobile app

Waymo has an app that you can download. It works pretty much the same as Uber app. You enter a destination, set up a payment method, then request a car.

A screenshot of Waymo app, where the pickup location and the destination were set, ready to request a car.
Waymo app

I had to do a few trial and error though.

First, I tried to request a service from inside a mall/business complex, and it didn’t work.

An illustration of the author requesting Waymo One from inside a mall/business complex.

Also, my initial destination brought up a message saying Waymo can only get me to a place that is 5 min walk away from the destination.

An illustration showing my initial destination showed that Waymo could only take me to a point which is a 5 minutes walk from the destination.

Waymo did not like my initial payment method, so I had to enter another credit card.

Even after going through all these, I got a message saying “No car available, try again later.”

An illustration showing that Waymo app displaying a message saying "No car available, try again later".

After making several attempts, my request finally went through.


Waymo arrived

After 3-4 minutes, Waymo car arrived.

A photo of Waymo car arriving at my pickup location.

When I opened the door, it greeted me with a welcome message via audio as well as on a touch screen. Once I got in and buckled my seat belt, I pressed “START RIDE” button, which started the autonomous driving.

A photo of Waymo's touch screen showing a welcome screen with Start Ride button.

Riding Waymo

It’s definitely kind of a surreal experience to see a car moving with an empty driver’s seat.

A photo of the interior of Waymo One with an empty seat while it's driving.

As soon as it started moving, the touch screen in front of me started displaying a 3D map.

A photo of a 3D map displayed on Waymo's touch screen.

The 3D map also showed other surrounding cars as Waymo’s sensors detected those.

Waymo's 3D map showing surrounded cars with callouts.

An overall ride was quite smooth.

  • Waymo car stopped at a stop sign, did turns slowly.
  • It even slowed down when driving over a bump on a road.
  • It stopped perfectly at a signal, did smooth lane changes.
  • On a main road, it accelerated up to 45 mph at some point.

A pickup truck blocking the way

When it was getting close to the destination, which was a Starbucks, it slowly pulled in, and tried to get to the front entrance of the store.

As Waymo was maneuvering the parking lot, it detected a large pickup truck blocking the way. Waymo went around and came back again, but the pickup truck was still there.

But this time, Waymo approached closely to the pickup truck and waited.

The driver of the pickup truck noticed Waymo, and moved slightly, but that was still not enough for Waymo to go through.

Then the pickup truck made another slight move.

At the same time, Waymo yielded.

It got very close to the pickup truck, but as the pickup truck adjusted the steering wheel away from Waymo and slowly passed by, Waymo also managed to get through, and stopped right at the front of Starbucks entrance.

I was a bit worried about how Waymo was going to handle the pickup truck situation, but it waited and moved patiently.

A photo of a large pickup truck blocking the way, seen from inside Waymo.

4 Physical buttons

There are 4 physical buttons on the ceiling of the car facing passenger seats. Help, lock/unlock, pull over, and start ride.

A photo of 4 physical buttons on the ceiling of Waymo.

Start ride button was in blue, being treated as a primary button.

There was also an on-screen start ride button, but it’s a good idea to have a physical button too in case a screen does not work.


Waymo took off

Once I got out and closed the door, it slowly took off.

A photo of Waymo taking off after I got off.

That was it!

It was a short ride, 1.8 miles, 7 minutes total.

I have to say, that the ride was quite comfortable.

It’s definitely interesting and weird that no one is sitting on a driver’s seat and the steering wheel is moving on its own at all times throughout the ride.

Psychologically, I felt nervous especially when Waymo speed up to 40-45 miles an hour on a major road.

I also felt a bit uneasy when Waymo was getting really close to the pick up truck blocking the way.


Witnessing the history of transportation

But it’s great to be a witness of a transitional state in the history of transportation system.

A illustration of the author overseeing and witnessing the history of transportation graph, where autonomous cars are rapidly growing while automobile is declining.

Just like when Henry Ford invented his very first automobile, Ford Quadricycle, also known as the horseless carriage in 1896, the very first self-driving car that we now have is called “driverless car” with a driver’s seat.

A picture of Henry Ford's Ford Quadricycle in 1896, with a large text "Horseless carriage" on top.
A photo of inside Waymo with an empty driver seat, with a text "Driverless car" on top.

This is really interesting from a UX perspective, that we always inherit something that we are already familiar with when creating a new thing.

The same thing happened in a computer when a “desktop” metaphor was taken from a physical office, and GUI buttons took queues from physical, mechanical buttons.

A screenshot of the original Apple Macintosh 128K GUI from 1984.

Overtime, a new invention will evolve into something totally different as it gets optimized for a new, better way of performing tasks or achieving goals.

An illustration of various different horse carriages, Ford model T, then more modern automobiles, all lined up horizontally to show an evolution.

Once a driverless car, or an autonomous car advances to the next level, the empty driver’s seat will disappear and the entire space will be dedicated for passengers to fully embrace it.

I’m curious how that experience is going to be.

A futuristic image of autotmated-vehicle interiors. Source: automobilemag.com

How would that change our behaviors and lifestyle?

An illustration of the author relaxing on a reclining chair, looking at futuristic city view on a window.

And I cannot wait to see that future!


Check out YouTube version too!

#63 Always envision the future beyond your current project

A photograph of the author wearing illustrated sunglasses, which beams to envision the future.

It’ important for a UX designer to always envision the future beyond your current project. Let’s say there’s a new upcoming feature that is scheduled to launch next month, and you are a UX designer working on it. It’s worth stepping back and ask yourself these questions.

An illustration of a UX designer working on an upcoming new feature launch.
  • What is it that this new feature is trying to accomplish?
  • What user problem will it solve?
  • Is that the most ideal way to solve that problem?
  • Are there any other design solutions that can solve the problem better?
  • Is the current solution chosen based on a thorough understanding of a user’s pain points?
  • Did the team have a chance to do a user research to find out answers to these questions?
An illustration of a UX designer asking a question to himself, whether the team had a chance to do a user research.

In some cases, these questions might not have been asked during the process.

An illustration of team members saying that  they never asked those questions.

In another case, maybe there wasn’t  enough time and money to conduct user research sessions.

An illustration showing a manager saying that he has no time and money for user research.

In another case, the decision might be purely based on business goals.

Whichever the case might be, there’s always ways to make things better towards the future.

Even though you might be so busy working on today’s project and product, a UX designer should always be thinking beyond what you are working on, and envision the future beyond your current project.

An illustration of a UX designer looking beyond his current project.

Paradoxically, this additional work towards the future gives a UX designer an extraordinary power, energy and motivation, which fuels your creativity.

An illustration of a UX designer gaining x1000 power and getting huge by additional work towards the future.

It helps you get through the current crunch that you are deeply in, even if that’s far from ideal.

Thinking ahead into the future allows a UX designer to focus on user’s problems and user values at a fundamental level, rather than getting caught up in a feature level nitty-gritty details.

An illustration of a UX designer focusing on user's problem and user values at a fundamental level.

And whenever you do, you can always come up with various ideas and concepts beyond what is currently being planned for the next release, which is typically very constrained by practical limitations.

An illustration of a UX designer coming up with various new ideas and concepts.

Then, you can start to paint a picture visually by laying down various ideas and concepts along the timeline towards the future, starting from where you are now.

An illustration of a UX designer putting new ideas and concepts along the timeline to the future.

This exercise forces you to step back and see a bigger picture of achieving an ideal user experience that solves a user’s problem, and how you can get there.

An illustration of a UX designer looking at a bigger picture towards an ideal user experience.

You may not be able to get there right away.

An illustration of a UX designer moving towards ideal user experience slowly on a hover board.

The reality may not progress in the way you laid out.

An illustration of a reality progressing differently from what a UX designer initially laid out as a conceptual path.

A deeper look at the problem may end up redefining the user problem that was defined previously.

An illustration of a UX designer digging deep into the problem which ended up redefining the user's problem.

And that’s totally fine.

In the real world, there’s always various constrains, pushbacks and setbacks.

An illustration of a UX designer being challenged by constrains, pushbacks and setbacks in the real world.

The most important thing is, that you don’t lose sight of “always aspire towards the ideal user experience to solve a user’s problem”.

An illustration of a UX designer not losing sight of aspiring towards ideal user experience.

A strong drive towards what’s ideal will always push the product towards the right direction in the long run. A UX designer can and should be that drive within a product team.

An illustration of a UX designer being a drive to pus things towards the right direction by driving a train.

Always envision the future beyond your current project. This might inspire your team members. And in the long run, you will start to build your credibility as a UX designer within a product team a lot more than when you only work on what you are told to do.

An illustration of a UX designer earning credibility from the team.

Check out YouTube version too!

Highly related article: #47 Visionary vs. incremental approach