One reason why apps work – the user is in control

With Johannesburg and Pretoria currently suffering from power cuts 1/3 of the day on many days, a lot of people can be seen checking various apps (especially one called Eskom se Push) for the latest information about their suburb. The service frequently falls over, in fact. One of its features is information for suburbs that you add to your watchlist.

The point is that the user is in complete control of the notifications that (s)he receives. Contrast this with older technologies like e-mail or SMS alerts. Here the problem is that the user is not really in control of the messages received. This depends, rather, on a central database and we all know those irksome messages that just keep on coming from a company that one might have used or purchased something from in the distant past. The app does not present this problem – you can just uninstall it.

The versatility of mobile apps, to me, seems to guarantee that they will remain an immensely useful tool for the foreseeable future. The reason is simply the control that is vested in the user who knows much better than a (number of) central database(s) what (s)he wants to know. Of course, Google (or Apple, or Facebook) is trying to provide the user with a large set of appropriate notifications but, for now, I think this is too haphazard to really replace the app economy any time soon.


Never choose to pay in 'your' currency

Why do we get asked whether we want to be charged in dollar/dirham/euro or our own currency so often? Well, it is not really a convenience – it is basically a way to charge a hefty fee in exchange for giving a price total that is in your currency but might not be what you actually pay! Why not? Well, the ZAR amount (for example) might anyway be converted into dollars and back to rand again when it goes off on your account. The hefty fee comes in with the exchange rage. In this morning's transaction, Amazon quoted R13,91 per dollar but the headline rate at the time was R13,39 which is quite a big difference. In the end, the amount actually charged to my card (in ZAR) was almost R250 less than the ZAR amount quoted by Amazon. Caveat Emptor.


UX confusion at Emirates

User interface confusion remains a feature of everyday IT usage... and so does the perennial problem of the escaped character (\'). This time on the Emirates website, I think. When the computers start learning how to fix this kind of problem themselves, I shall start getting worried. ;-) :-)