Plain Tickets

Alrighty, folks, I will be discussing plain tickets¬†ūüôɬ†today. ¬†As you may notice, my thoughts and questions revolve quite similarly to those regarding –you guessed it, receipts (1 & 2)!

I’ve been flying since the early 90s, and one of the things that has barely changed in the two-and-a-half decades is the paper boarding pass. ¬†It’s usually long, and ends up getting folded to fit into a wallet, pocket, or bag. ¬†There is a dotted line around a third of the length in –so not a great place to fold at, but usually starts getting torn before arriving at the gate anyway. ¬†There is also a lot of cluttered text in clunky fonts. ¬†Some airlines make the gate and boarding time info relatively large and/or bolded so you can distinguish that info from the rest of the text.

For the past 15 years, I have pondered when airlines would revamp their boarding pass. ¬†There have been electronic tickets, kiosks, early check-in –all great things. ¬†But, like paper receipts, paper plane tickets are sticking around. ¬†My thoughts center around two concerns: 1) How can we convey relevant information to the passenger? 2) How can we use less paper for environmental reasons and for ease of handling by the passenger?

Last month, I flew Virgin America for the first time from SFO > ORD. ¬†I’ve heard good things about Virgin and wanted to see what the experience was like, so I approached a kiosk to print out a boarding pass. ¬†To my delight, I received a ticket that was half the size of the usual boarding pass, with clean, organized text.

Virgin America boarding pass, next to a U.S. state ID

This picture illustrates the size of my Virgin plane ticket next to a U.S. state ID, which is standard credit card size. ¬†The bottom-left, under the departure time was the barcode scan for the gate. ¬†Reiterating from my receipts post, a lot of information can fit in that barcode, especially information for the airlines’ eyes only.

It was really exciting to see this boarding pass; my challenge for the Plane Ticket is to up the ante and include the passenger-relevant information on a business card size ticket. ¬†Seems easy, but let’s remember that the paper boarding pass has not seen innovation in over two decades. ¬†Inertia is real.

  • Product: Paper boarding passes (assuming that they will still be around, in conjunction with electronic tickets)
  • Problem: Cluttered info on long pieces of paper > 1) hard to find relevant info immediately 2) wastes paper (not environmentally friendly)
  • Solution: The Virgin ticket has the right idea. ¬†I would say, go even further and make the ticket in the size of a business card.

Sharing Music

In shocking news, the user experience for sharing music via Messages on MacOS is a very broken and segmented journey.

Step #1: Receive music recommendation on Messages.  Click on it.

I normally play music from my iPhone, except for this one time –and I embarked on a curious journey that inspired this post.


Step #2:

After I clicked the¬†link, I¬†landed at¬† in Safari. ¬†Say what? ¬†ūü§ĒūüėĮūü§£ ¬†This action > event¬†was so surprising and confusing that I had to exit out of¬†everything and reproduce¬†those sequence of steps¬†to confirm that this was truly the flow.

  • Problem: Click link > Open iTunes in web browser at, highlighting ¬†recommended song
  • Solution 1 (best scenario): Click link > Open iTunes in the background > Play song
  • Solution 2 (next best scenario): Click link > Open iTunes in foreground > Highlight recommended song


Step #3: So, I click the¬†highlighted song’s link in iTunes in web browser… all I want is to hear this song, please.

  • Problem: Open iTunes > show album¬†ūü§ĒūüėĮūü§£ good luck.
  • Solution 1 (best scenario): Open iTunes to album > Play¬†song of the clicked link
  • Solution 2 (next best¬†scenario): Open iTunes > Highlight¬†song of clicked link


This entire experience was baffling.  I did this flow 3 times to verify what was happening.

I suppose that most people would listen to recommended songs from Messages on their iPhone (great flow there, btw).  However, this experience gave me the impression that this user story (i.e., on MacOS) was not thought through.

Lastly,¬†just for kicks, there is a bug in iOS –i.e., the extra empty bubble above the Apple Music link, when you share music via Apple Music > Messages (from an iPhone 5e to an iPhone 6s)¬†ūüôÉ

iOS bug: extra bubble

Receipts, Part 2

This is a continuation from my first Receipts post… I’m not obsessed with receipts, but they do make me think!

I got this from a Chinese restaurant (highly-recommend), where the wait staff and customers are often Chinese-speaking so it was not surprising that the receipt was bilingual in both Chinese and English. ¬†The¬†interesting observation¬†was to see what was in just English and what was in both languages. ¬†I tried to see everything in English on this receipt as if it were in a language I couldn’t understand, and the Chinese text as the only text I could understand. ¬†Numbers are language-agnostic –how great! ¬†(The context and use of numbers is culture-specific, though.)

  • Sub-total/tax/total are only in English, which is understandable –especially because Total is bolded and the largest numbers at¬†the bottom of the receipt. ¬†All those cues are universally understood to mean <<Pay this Total>>.
  • “Order Changed” is only in English, with a black highlight –not sure if that is because this is an edge case (and they did not account for a Chinese translation) or because black highlighted text indicates a minor, irrelevant change to an order (and not worth translating).
Bilingual receipt, in Chinese & English

Paper Bags

Have you ever wondered about the design of your grocery paper bag?


  • Product: Grocery Paper Bags
  • Problem:¬†Grocery paper bags are often too long with excess space at the top, and wastes paper; groceries never fill up to the top of longer paper bags.
  • Solution:¬†Make longer bags shorter to the length of a Trader Joe’s bag, which often get filled to the top

Since I’ve started grocery shopping in the past 5+ years, I’ve noticed that the length of grocery bags often seem unnecessarily long. ¬†In the image, I compare a Trader Joe’s bag with Jewel-Osco, Whole Foods, and Mariano’s bags. ¬†Their widths are the same (egg carton width), however, the latter three are slightly longer. ¬†Have you tried to fill the longer bags with groceries to the top? ¬†Probably not. ¬†If you have, you would have noticed that the bag handles felt like they would break –or did break.

On the other hand, the TJ’s bag is almost the perfect length. ¬†I have filled it to the brim multiple times and have always been confident of its strength… which leads me to the next part of paper bag design.

Material. ¬†The TJ’s bag wins in terms of durability. ¬†It’s made by¬†O.Dixon, with “at least 40%” post-consumer recycled paper; whereas the other three bags are made by¬†Durobag with 100% post-consumer recycled paper. ¬†Definitely a win on the 100% post-consumer recycled paper, but there is room for improvement on making the paper stiffer and sturdier. ¬†At the least, make the Durobags shorter and use the extra length to strengthen¬†the handles.

Paper bags comparison, with a dozen eggs

Apple Photos

  • Product:¬†Apple Photos
  • Hardware:¬†MBP
  • Problem: It’s impossible to quickly differentiate a regular photo from a Live Photo in the Photos desktop app from a “birds-eye” view.* Note that all the photos here are Live, except for the ones with a time at the bottom-right.
  • Solution: Indicate a Live Photo with the “Live Photos” icon (similar to the time indicator idea for a video) or movement in the photo upon hover over (similar to what happens when you scroll through photos at¬†an individual level on the iPhone) in Photos.

*Why differentiate Live Photos? Personally, I like organizing my photos outside of the Photos app (e.g., Dropbox). ¬†Unfortunately, Live Photos get flattened once they are exported out of Photos, so it’s helpful for me to quickly know which ones are Live to keep in Photos.



Currency exchanges

We’re in 2017–why do we still need to do currency exchanges?

This is similar to my “Future of payments” post. ¬†As I was sorting through my coin jar, I was thinking that it’s ridiculous¬†that we as a society still have¬†to deal with bills and coins from so many¬†currencies. ¬†It felt very 90s, I must admit.

Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, Bitcoin, at some point Amazon I’m sure,… let’s hurry up to the future of travel and payments!